A Library Under Siege: How Can We Protect Them?

The Patmos Library in Michigan faces backlash over books that include LGBTQ+ representation. Let’s discuss why this ban hurts communities more than it helps.

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Patmos library in Jamestown Township, Michigan

The Issue

Just this past month, the Patmos Library in Jamestown Township, Michigan faced fears of being defunded over the inclusion of 5 LGBTQ+ books. The calls for the books to be taken off the shelves came from a group called the Jamestown Conservatives. Their goal? To essentially defund and close the library to ensure that books with any type of LGBTQ+ representation will not be read by the public, specifically, children.

The banned books in question are The Breakaways, two books from the popular Heartstopper series, Kiss Number 8, and Spinning.

Members of Jamestown Conservatives and other residents argue that this isn’t about anti-LGBTQ+ views or bigotry, it’s about not wanting their children to see, “explicit content.”

Library banned book reasons

However, what other reasoning would they have? There is no uproar for books that feature straight couples getting together or kissing. Books that feature cis-gendered characters still live on the shelves in peace. The only reason why inclusive books are being tossed away from groups like these is that they’re scared of what children could learn from them.

The group and others also pushed back against any criticism over their desire to ban the books,

“These books and lifestyle choices are destructive and wrong.”

Jamestown Resident, CBS

The Jamestown local library board disagrees with the group’s view. Larry Walter, library board president told CBS,

It’s heartbreaking to be associated with this situation.” “I feel like we’ve kind of stepped back in time, talking about book banning.”

Larry Walter, CBS

The Numbers

This isn’t the only place where we’re seeing libraries face defunding over seemingly harmless literature. In a report from PEN America, there have been 1,600 complaints of books that should be banned in local districts. In total, 1,100 books have been targeted because of the book-banning buzz.

Library banned books statistics

These numbers only increase when we look at public school book bans. From July 2021 to June 2022, there were 2,532 complaints of “inappropriate” books. This translates to 1,648 individual book titles being thrown out.

Library banned books statistics

The Consequences

While many strive to get books of any “progressive” representation tossed off the shelves, this could spell disaster for libraries across the country, and the people who depend on them.

Libraries are a haven for many low-income families and families of color in the United States. With the promise of free Wi-Fi, accessible electronics, and many interactive programs for youth in the community, libraries provide endless free resources that are valuable for communities to learn and grow.

Library censorship information

Additionally, libraries are a place where people are meant to feel safe. There isn’t supposed to be judgment when you step into a library to find your favorite genre. But now, if the genre covers “suggestive” themes, it may be harder to find. It truly is a shame that the one free resource for everyone to use is being touted as a pathway to explicitness and destructive choices.

The Hopeful Solution

The Patmos Library hasn’t given up just yet. In response to the possible closure of the building, the community banded together to create a GoFundMe page to help fund the library for the upcoming year. In a stunning response, people from across the country donated over $260,000 to the library. If you’d like to know more about their GoFundMe page, click here!

For now, the small library in Michigan still stands, but an upcoming vote in November of this year could determine the amount of local/state funding the library gets.

The main takeaway from all this? Don’t take your local library for granted. Go get a library card, take advantage of the free programs they have, and most importantly, help support your library in whatever way you can.  

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