Respect Equality

Romance novelist Nora Roberts donates $50k to Michigan library defunded over LGBTQ+ books

Author Nora Roberts arrives to attend the 139th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 4, 2013, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Story at a glance

  • The award-winning romance novelist Nora Roberts has donated $50,000 to a public library in Western Michigan that was defunded earlier this summer over its inclusion of books with LGBTQ+ themes and characters.

  • More than 60 percent of voters in Jamestown Township, Michigan last month rejected a proposal that would have renewed a property tax millage that accounts for most of the Patmos Library’s annual budget.

  • As of Friday, an online fundraising campaign had collected more than $260,000 in donations, enough to keep the library open for an entire year.

The romance writer Nora Roberts has donated $50,000 to a Michigan library that was defunded in August after it refused to remove a number of LGBTQ+ books from its shelves.

Roberts, an award-winning author of more than 225 romance novels, made the contribution late last month via an online fundraising campaign for the Patmos Library in Jamestown Township, Michigan.

In early August, voters in the Western Michigan town rejected a proposal to renew a property tax millage that funds most of the public library’s yearly budget, putting Jamestown Township’s only library in jeopardy of closing.

“I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” Larry Walton, the library board’s president, told Bridge Michigan after the vote. “The library is the center of the community.”

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The Aug. 2 vote was the culmination of a months-long pressure campaign spearheaded by a conservative Christian group that accused Patmos Library of “grooming children for sexual exploitation” by allowing young readers to access a slate of LGBTQ+ books, including Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel “Gender Queer: A Memoir” that topped the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books last year.

More than 62 percent of Jamestown Township residents voted to reject the millage, according to county records.

Free speech and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups rallied around the library almost immediately, and a GoFundMe campaign to keep Patmos Library’s doors open for another year racked up nearly $100,000 in donations in just a single week.

“I love Jamestown and the people who make up its community,” resident Jesse Dillman, who organized the GoFundMe, wrote in an Aug. 6 update on the site. “They are the reason I am here doing this.”

With the help of Roberts’ $50,000 donation – and close to 5,000 smaller ones – Dillman’s fundraiser has collected more than $260,000 for the library, surpassing its fundraising goal by nearly $20,000.

In a statement to Bridge Michigan, Roberts said it was “an honor for me to stand up for the Patmos Library and its staff.”

“Libraries are treasures, opening the door to books and stories for all,” Roberts told the outlet. “Librarians, to me, are the guardians of those stories. I find the idea of librarians — who offer community services beyond reading — facing threats and attacks, a community library facing defunding both appalling and sad.”

In an Aug. 28 update posted to his GoFundMe page, Dillman wrote that Roberts had his and the town’s “greatest thanks.”

“Nora Roberts, I can’t express how much your exceptionally generous support means to Jamestown and me personally,” he wrote. “You have truly made a difference for everyone in Jamestown and shown that hate will not win in our library.”

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