Diversity

Drag Queen Story Hour

Everyone is welcome at the library. There is no disputing that, but it does not stop with open doors. In seeking to foster an environment that celebrates diversity, we need proactive programming that reflects and reinforces our values. Drag Queen Story Hour is exactly the sort of program that drives an inclusive initiative. It is exciting, drawing large and enthusiastic family audiences, and fun. It is a storytime, yes, but one presented by a human being who is glamorous, unique, and fabulous. While these adjectives also apply to any fantastic children’s librarian, it is also true of drag queens who represent the LGBTQ population.

I learned of Drag Queen Story Hour from a wonderful patron of the Park Slope branch of Brooklyn (NY) Public Library. She in turn introduced me to Rachel Aimee, who spearheads the project. My interest was piqued, and my endorsement secured after attending the East Coast debut of the program at Greenlight Bookstore in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. I dashed off a message to my supervisor, who in turn gave it the enthusiastic green light. We scheduled the first storytime at Park Slope in September 2016.

Many people ask me exactly what happens at a Drag Queen Story Hour. It’s no great mystery! The performer will read books and sing songs for about 20-30 minutes. This is generally followed by a simple craft, like paper crowns or wands. Our attendees have consisted of fairly young people, up to about age five, and their families. As parent Michael Mathewson says, “We want to have her experience all in the world as much as she can, so she can see and know that everybody in the world needs equality, needs love, and needs respect.”

Queens who perform at Drag Queen Story Hour are trained in storytelling techniques by experienced librarians. Book selection skews toward titles that celebrate diversity and question gender normativity, as well as sure-fire read-alouds. Suggested books include Worm Loves Worm by J. J. Austrian and Mike Curato; The Family Book by Todd Parr, 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert, and Not Every Princess by Jeffrey Bone.

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There is one challenge that is persistent and cannot be ignored, even in this brief blog post, and that is negativity and harassment. I have often found myself steaming while washing the dishes, away from my computer and doing my best to rise above and not respond to negative comments that appear online in the wake of press coverage. As I scrub, I remember that the LGBTQ community has faced immense hate and negativity, psychically and physically. I remember that I  have not personally faced such a challenge. I hope instead that children who are raised as loving and thoughtful humans will in turn make our planet a more positive and beautiful place. The library is open to all. To those who may remain opposed to the idea of Drag Queen Story Hour, all I can do is offer the following: if this program does not mesh with your family’s beliefs, we respect your choice and hope that you will attend a program that is in line with your own values. Your library undoubtedly offers engaging programs several times each week. We look forward to welcoming you through our doors.

Drag Queen Story Hour is currently seeking a nonprofit status. In New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, the organization does the legwork of preparing and booking performers. Librarians and others who seek to host a Drag Queen Story Hour would be well served by contacting the organization for advice and partnering with a local LGBTQ organization.

For more information, visit www.dragqueenstoryhour.org and https://www.facebook.com/dragqueenstoryhour.

Watch: https://www.facebook.com/NowThisNews/videos/1382011505222303/ and https://apnews.com/6b9a9e0574794ec9974364bd7ae023af

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Head shot of guest blogger, Kat Savage
Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Today’s guest blogger is Kat Savage. Kat is a children’s librarian in Red Hook, Brooklyn. She brought Drag Queen Story Hour to the Brooklyn Public Library after learning about the initiative from a community member.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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