A new addition to Monroe County Public Library’s children’s programming has sparked heated public debate on the Herald Times’ website.
On July 21st, the library is scheduled to host two local drag queens, as they read stories to children and sing songs while dressed in drag. The event was planned by the children’s librarians at the Monroe County Public Library.
Reactions within the comments section of a Herald-Times article about the drag queen’s reading of children’s books revealed a divided public opinion.
One commenter called the event a “display of sexual perversion”. Another called librarian staff members sick.
Library Associate Director Jane Cronkhite says the intentions of the librarians planning the event were innocent and that the event itself is also harmless.
Cronkhite says librarians worked with drag queens to select age-appropriate books and discuss how the performances would go.
Cronkhite said that, even in regular Story Time events, readers usually dress up, sing, and incorporate other elements of theater and entertainment into their reading.
“There’s definitely a performance element to story time that librarians do in reading stories and singing songs, there’s a little bit of entertainment to that and storytelling in what Children librarians do. And so, I think for people who probably are familiar with story time they could understand that drag queens as performers, there’s a more of a natural fit there than to someone who is less familiar with that format” says Cronkhite.
Both of the drag queens are locals who perform at the Back Door regularly. But Cronkhite said their official drag names aren’t the ones they’ll be using when they meet the children and perform for them, and they’re not currently listed on the library’s website.
Sara Dillon is a community member whose mother works for the library. She says when she learned about drag queen story time, she was excited that she knew both of the drag queens leading it.
Dillon says she believes Drag Queen Story Time is beneficial for children who may already be familiar with drag through watching shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race.
She said that by bringing the drag queens to the library, children will have a chance to see drag queens as people in a way which they would not be able to normally do, since many local performances take place at the 21-and-over Back Door bar.
Dillon says she believes the library is supposed to be open to the needs of all community members, and that while some may take issue with the event, the drag queens are members of the community and deserve representation as well.
“There are many conservative people that live in this town and in this county. And I do understand their concerns. But at the same time, we have to be inclusive of the rest of the county. It’s not just about east side, west side, north side, south side. The library itself has to be inclusive of everybody – that’s part of their mission” Dillon says.
Cronkhite says she believes part of the library’s strength is the diversity of its programming. For those who disagree with the event or do not feel comfortable with it, she recommends taking advantage of other library programming that may be more suited to their needs.
Drag Queen Story Time, which required pre-registration with the library, is currently booked to capacity.