Veteran librarian ‘regrets every day’ moving to Michigan town at the center of book banning wars
A veteran librarian in western Michigan has seen her place of work become a lightening rod for a group of radical conservatives seeking to ban books they believe promote pornography or LGBTQ causes.
Jean Reicher, who became a librarian at Patmos Library in the Jamestown Township two and a half years ago, went viral in December 2022 following her appearance at a library board meeting.
She said in her impassioned speech that in recent months signs have been erected in the town calling her a ‘pedophile.’ Reicher added that she has been photographed by strangers and received threatening phone calls.
Reicher told the board, ‘I moved to this town 2½ years ago, and I regret it every day for the last year. This has been horrible.’
Jean Reicher, who became a librarian at Patmos Library in the Jamestown Township two and a half years ago, went viral in December 2022 following her appearance at a library board meeting
The library historically relied upon the millage, the number of dollars of tax assessed for each $1,000 of property value. Donald Trump won 60 percent of the vote in Ottawa County, where Jamestown is located, in 2016 and 2020
Peter Bromberg, a board member for the library resource center EveryLibrary, told the Los Angeles Times this week that librarians nationwide are under a great degree of stress amid the book banning furor as ‘neighbors talk about them being an arm of Satan.’
A 2021 national survey found that 27 percent of public libraries have let staff go due to budget cuts.
In November, a group known as the Jamestown Conservatives won a victory when the library lost 84 percent of its $245,000 annual budget after the millage renewal was defeated in a general election with 55 percent of voters polling against the proposal.
The library historically relied upon the millage, the number of dollars of tax assessed for each $1,000 of property value. Donald Trump won 60 percent of the vote in Ottawa County, where Jamestown is located, in 2016 and 2020.
Reicher said at the meeting in December, ‘We have been threatened. We have been cursed. How dare you people. You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. You have said I’ve sexualized your children. I’m grooming your children.’
According to her LinkedIn page, Reicher previously worked at the Woodridge Public Library in Woodridge, Illinois.
She told the board, ‘I wasn’t raised this way. I believe in God. I’m a Catholic. I’m a Christian. I’m everything you are.’
Reicher is far from alone.
The anti-censorship group PEN America says censors have been busy in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Georgia
The banned books were often young adult novels dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer themes or featuring queer protagonists
PEN America, a non-profit writers’ group, says books dealing with LGBTQ and racial issues are most frequently targeted
Conservative attacks against schools and libraries have proliferated nationwide over the past two years, and librarians themselves have been harassed and even driven out of their jobs.
A middle school librarian in Denham Springs, Louisiana, has filed a legal complaint against a Facebook page which labeled her a ‘criminal and a pedophile.’
At the time when the Patmos Library’s budget was cut, the Board of Trustees President Larry Walton said about 90 of its 67,000 materials in circulation ‘could be relative to LGBTQ.’
While the Jamestown Conservatives maintained that the library was ‘grooming’ children with books containing explicit material and LGBTQ themes.
A local teacher, Jay Milkamp, told WOOD-TV in November, ‘We’re very upset that our community doesn’t want to support the library. We’re Americans. We recognize freedom of speech.
‘There’s 67,000 books in this library, I read. Ninety of them are objectionable. I think that’s no reason to vote down the millage.’
America’s 5 most banned titles:
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe was banned by 41 school districts. The illustrated text charts the author’s ‘journey of self-identity’ and ‘what it means to be nonbinary and asexual’, according to promotional material.
All Boys Aren’t Blue, a series of personal essays by George M. Johnson, was banned in 29 districts. The ‘memoir-manifesto’ narrates the childhood, adolescence, and college years of its black, queer author
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez is a novel about teen love between a Mexican-American girl and a black boy in Texas in the 1930s. It was banned in 24 districts.
The Bluest Eye was banned in 22 districts. The first novel by celebrated author Toni Morrison tells the story of a black girl growing up in the 1940s, and her sense of inferiority due to her skin color.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was banned in 17 districts. It was inspired by the Black Lives Matter protest movement, deals with the police violence against minorities, and was turned into a 2018 movie.
Following the loss of funding, a GoFundMe page for the library raised $12,000, author Nora Roberts donated $50,000 and a private family gave $100,000, according to the Huffington Post.
The American Library Association documented 681 challenges to books through the first eight months of 2022, involving 1,651 different titles.
In all of 2021, the ALA listed 729 challenges, directed at 1,579 books. Because the ALA relies on media accounts and reports from libraries, the actual number of challenges is likely far higher, the library association believes.
The number of books banned in the first nine months of 2022 was higher than the amount of books banned during 2021, which was the highest number in decades.
Texas accounted for the most bans, with 801 in 22 districts, followed by Florida and Pennsylvania.
Just this week, a Florida school board made headlines when it became the latest to remove a book by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison from its classrooms and libraries after a mom slammed it for ‘exposing kids to pedophilia’ and running ‘Marxist indoctrination camps’.
Michelle Stille blasted the Pinellas County school board for including Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’ in her child’s advanced literature course.
Stille, a teacher at a Christian school in the district, said she was ‘shocked any adult would expose 15-year-olds’ to the book’s ‘explicit descriptions of illegal activities’.
Jessica Brassington of Mama Bears Rising, a group that says they’re fighting for more oversight in education, told the LA Times that they’re not seeking to harm librarians or to shut down libraries.
She said, ‘We want to protect our children. We’ve seen the dark side of what can happen beyond the book. Suicide. Alienation.’
Brassington added, ‘We want to know what books are available to our children. … The parents are being bypassed.’