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Hartland community shows support for local library, literacy, and inclusion

By Leah Craig

The monthly meeting at Hartland’s Cromaine Library drew a record-breaking crowd in response to recent criticisms of the library’s promoted literature.

The Livingston chapter of Moms for Liberty had expressed disapproval over what was perceived to be a promotion of LGBTQ+ content. The community, on the other hand, disagreed, with an overwhelming majority of public comments supporting the library’s inclusion of the literature.

Nicole Matthews-Creech, a Hartland resident and parent, is also the President of the Livingston Diversity Council. She described the library as a “treasure to have in our community,” elaborating on the dedication to the community, families, and literacy.

This turnout and positive feedback is especially notable due to a similar phenomenon on the Western side of the state.  A millage to fund the Patmos Library in Ottawa County’s Jamestown Township was rejected in the August election, meaning that the smalltown library now faces closure. The Patmos Library previously garnered criticism from community members due to its inclusion of LGBTQ+ literature, which the library board refused to remove.

The crowd at Thursday’s meeting spoke to ensure that the Cromaine Library would not have a similar fate. One woman noted that “libraries are starting to have to choose between serving the entire community– fostering love and information for everybody…. or bowing to individual opinions.” She went on to say that to comply with requests for the removal of LGBTQ+ displays is not only an act of censorship but that the restriction of such books would only serve to hurt an already fragile community.

The books in question are among the recommended reads in the library’s teen section. The sole speaker who opposed the inclusion of LGBTQ+ literature detailed her research into these books: of the library’s promoted teen books, she found that seven out of the eleven featured books in the Teen section included a “gay or lesbian storyline.” This, she asserted, suggests that the library is “promoting an agenda, or at least catering to a special interest.”

Upon further investigation, it would appear that the vast majority of books in the Cromaine Library don’t feature LGBTQ+ content, debunking the claims of agenda promotion.

The one thing the Cromaine Library does aim to promote is childhood literacy. Marta-Kate Jackson, the library’s youth services manager, reported that participation in the children’s summer reading challenge increased by 41% from last year. The program seeks to encourage a love of reading, as well as maintain their reading and comprehension skills over the summer. Between the implementation of new software to facilitate online reading and outreach at the elementary school level, over 9,000 hours of reading were logged by children throughout the community in the months of June and July.

Barbara Gazda, a veteran teacher at Hartland High School, expressed her gratitude for the library’s dedication to literacy and education, thanking the staff for providing “varied, diverse, and rich opportunities for students”.

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