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Michigan library could close after town votes to defund it over LGBTQ-themed books

CBS News 2022-10-05 Elaine Quijano
Books on bookshelves © Johner Images / Getty Images Books on bookshelves

Jamestown Township, Michigan — A small Michigan town is locked in a war over words. The battle in Jamestown Township is over five books with LGBTQ+ themes. 

The books include "The Breakaways," two books from the "Heartstopper" series, "Kiss Number 8" and "Spinning." 

A group called the Jamestown Conservatives recently led a successful drive to essentially defund the town's library and remove the books from shelves. 

"These books and lifestyle choices are destructive and wrong," said one Jamestown resident during a meeting on removing the books.

Library board president Larry Walton says removing the books is censorship. 

"It's heartbreaking to be associated with this situation," Walton said. "I feel like we've kind of stepped back in time, talking about book banning."

Across the country, book banning in libraries and schools is gaining momentum. A recent study found that between July 2021 and June 2022,  more than 1,600 books were banned in more than 5,000 schools across 32 states. 

"What we've seen are citizens calling and filing criminal complaints about books available in libraries," said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at free speech advocacy group PEN America. "And I've seen that in numerous states." 

Jamestown resident Dean Smith is among those who want the books off the shelves. He says his opposition isn't about intolerance or bigotry, but instead about keeping any explicit books away from children. 

"Community standards in Jamestown are not the same as in New York, L.A. or even in Grand Rapids," he said. "We don't want any sexually or violently graphic material on display for kids to see when they come in the library."

Emotions were high at the library board's September meeting on the issue. 

"I appreciate passion. I do," board treasurer Deb Fridsma said at the meeting. "But it is a slippery slope. You cherish your freedom, but what you're doing now is taking other people's freedoms away."

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The final chapter will be written in November, when voters will again be asked to decide on funding and the fate of the library. 

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