Okanagan Regional Library says drag story time part making branches welcoming to all

Committed to inclusion

UPDATE: 12:58 p.m.

Okanagan Regional Library says it is committed to supporting and representing all members of its communities.

That statement was issued Monday after news of a Drag Story Time at the Vernon branch went viral on social media, attracting more than 1,000 comments both for and against.

"We believe that access to information, knowledge, and resources is a fundamental right, and we strive to make our library spaces and services inclusive and welcoming for everyone," the library said.

"We are dedicated to providing a diverse collection of materials, programs, and services that reflect our communities' cultural and linguistic diversity and promote understanding, tolerance, and equity for all," ORL said via email.

"We host Drag Story Time to provide a fun and inclusive environment that celebrates diversity and self-expression while promoting literacy and a love of reading. Anyone is welcome to attend Drag Story Time, as it is open to people of all ages and backgrounds."

The Vernon library branch is hosting the event Jan. 27 at 2 p.m.

A Facebook post asking for thoughts on the library hosting such an event has now hit 1,200 comments.

ORIGINAL: 4 a.m.

The Vernon branch of Okanagan Public Library will be holding a Drag Story Time for families.

"Join us for a joyful and inclusive storytime featuring Ella Lamouroux!" reads the library's event page.

"This story time is for all ages and includes songs, rhymes, and stories celebrating the diversity of our communities."

A post asking for thoughts on the upcoming storytime has garnered 934 comments in the private Facebook group Vernon Rant and Rave (uncensored).

A number of the comments on the Facebook post pointed to things like Twisted Sister or Mrs. Doubtfire as past examples of children/young adult content similar to drag story times. Community advocate Dawn Tucker said they want people to understand that the story times are adapted for the audience.

"Robin Williams used to do really adult comedy. And then he got into acting and then he did a lot of children's voice… And people need to realize that people can adapt for the audience," said Tucker.

"I think it's important to understand that this is adapted for the audience. This person going in is adapting their clothing and what they're doing for the audience."

Tucker says people who aren’t interested in the event can simply choose not to attend.

"Ultimately, it's parental choice. If it's not a story time that you're interested in, the library puts on lots of other types of story times," said Tucker.

"This is a special story time, and if people are not interested in going to a drag story time, by all means, do not take your kids to go. If you want to go see a drag story time, please come and see the drag story time."

Drag Story Time has been surrounded by controversy in the past.

In 2019, former CEO of Okanagan Regional Library Don Nettleton circulated an internal memo stating such events could be 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.

Drag Story Time at the library is set to take place in Vernon Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. with Ella Lamouroux.

More drag story times are set to take place throughout the Interior with Freida Whales and in partnership with local art galleries.

More information about the libraries' upcoming events can be found here.

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