Letter: ‘Drag Queen Story Hours are special storytimes featuring age-appropriate books from the library’s collection being read by a paid performer’

Fort Vancouver Regional Library Executive Director Amelia Shelley shares her thoughts over Drag Queen Story Hour events

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author alone and do not reflect the editorial position of ClarkCountyToday.com.

FVRL Executive Director Amelia Shelley listens to public testimony at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting. Photo by Chris Brown
FVRL Executive Director Amelia Shelley listens to public testimony at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting. Photo by Chris Brown

Amelia Shelley, executive director
Fort Vancouver Regional Library

Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries (FVRL) is a trusted institution with nearly 70 years of service to residents in southwest Washington. Despite what some would have you believe, our recent Drag Queen Story Hour programs are not adult entertainment nor are they based on an agenda to sexualize or harm children. 

Drag Queen Story Hours are special storytimes featuring age-appropriate books from the library’s collection being read by a paid performer in the presence of parents, library staff and other caring adults. These programs also represent an effort by the library to be inclusive to members of the LGBTQ+ community and are something that parents can choose to attend with their children if the opportunity fits with their family’s values. 

FVRL’s mission is to strengthen our communities through knowledge, experience, and creativity. One of our three strategic priorities is to support student success and that includes kindergarten readiness. According to WaKIDS, 30 percent of the children in Clark County enter kindergarten without the skills they need to be successful learners. 

Area residents attended a Drag Queen Story Hour event held in July in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park. Photo courtesy of Amelia Shelley
Area residents attended a Drag Queen Story Hour event held in July in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park. Photo courtesy of Amelia Shelley

To support these children and families, FVRL offers 40 early literacy “storytime” programs every week during the school year at 12 of our libraries and at other locations such as schools and childcare centers. Between January and June of 2019, we presented 1,041 preschool storytime programs with 27,033 people in attendance. If we are coming for your children, it’s to ensure they love books and reading, and so they can excel in school. 

To date, the Vancouver Community Library has hosted two Drag Queen Story Hours. One in February and one in July. At Saturday in the Park Pride, our booth was behind the stage at Esther Short Park and no stage performances were visible from our location. FVRL was one of more than a dozen organizations at Pride that day, including several churches, with many hosting activities for kids. Calling into question a parent’s choices for their children may be a person’s right, but I am confused as to how it becomes the library’s responsibility when our staff was not directly involved in those activities. 

I appreciated the story of how tolerance for others was the most important value on which to base our lives (https://www.clarkcountytoday.com/opinion/editorial-i-just-cant-support-adult-themed-events-that-target-children/). 

FVRL believes that much like the church in that story, public libraries are for everyone and everyone is welcome. Public libraries are institutions that are vibrant, happy (and sometimes noisy) places that serve as hubs for the community and welcome everyone from all walks of life. We offer materials, resources, services, and events that appeal to a broad range of interests and needs. Individuals make their own choices based on who they are and what they believe. Not every book is for every reader and the same can be said of the library’s programs. 

Our support of an individual’s intellectual freedom means that everyone has a voice, even if it is in opposition to others. Protesters and supporters alike are welcome to attend Library Board meetings to share their views. Everyone is also welcome to share theirs with me at ashelley@fvrl.org.

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