Drag Story Time event a 'reset' for Okanagan Regional Library after past controversy

Support for drag event

Madison Erhardt

The Okanagan Regional Library and city councillor Loyal Wooldridge are standing behind the return of Drag Story Time to the downtown library.

On Sunday, Kelowna resident Laurie Baird started a petition on change.org against the event. In the petition, which has since been taken down, Baird called drag events inappropriate for children.

Drag Story Time is back at the Kelowna library for the first time since 2019.

Library CEO Danielle Hubbard says the perception that the event is inappropriate for children in related to the fact that drag performers can have sexualized aspect to their work and performances elsewhere in the community.

"But when they come to a library setting and do a story time, it really is not a sexualized performance, it is more a diversity performance," said Hubbard.

Councillor Loyal Wooldridge has a simple message for parents opposed to the event. Just don't bring your kids.

"The community readers program is open to anyone to read to kids in the library, and applications are actually open right now. So the drag queen that is reading this story is a volunteer — there is no cost to the library system and is simply just wanting to provide some entertainment."

"Philosophically, libraries are a place of discovery and learning and freedom of information," he continued. "So from my perspective it is offering something diverse and inclusive to the community, especially the littles."

Back in 2019, controversy surrounded the Okanagan Regional Library after the former CEO Don Nettleton circulated an internal memo stating the event was controversial and potentially divisive.

"The announced program, while claiming to be promoting diversity and acceptance, will be offensive to a significant segment of our society," Nettleton wrote at the time.

Nettleton was later asked to attend diversity and inclusivity training after the comments he made.

"This story time is an opportunity for us as the Okanagan Regional Library to do a bit of a reset and say we really do support our gender diverse communities and our gender diverse families, and this is something that we as an organization are very supportive of," Hubbard said.

On Saturday, a group of protesters was met by hundreds of counter-protesters at the Coquitlam public library for a Drag Queen Story Time event for kids. RCMP officers had to be called to keep the peace.

The Kelowna RCMP tell Castanet a team will be ready to attend the event if they are required.

A new petition in support of Drag Story time has been added to change.org with close to 500 signatures.

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