This West Is OUR West

Top US library group colludes with local librarians to 'sneak' LGBT content to kids

Oksana Mizina / Shutterstock.com

Doug Mainwaring | June 18, 2019

LEXINGTON PARK, Maryland, June 18, 2019, LifeSiteNews — The American Library Association (ALA) website has scrubbed the author’s name from an article in which a Maryland librarian describes ways children’s librarians can sneak LGBT content and activities into libraries located in conservative rural areas.

Librarian Tess Goldwasser’s name apparently was recently removed from her ALA article after national pressure began to build against a Drag Queen Story Hour planned next week for a local branch within the St. Mary’s County library system, where Goldwasser works as an assistant branch manager of youth services.

When Personhood Alliance’s Maryland affiliate, local activist Georgia Kijesky, submitted a letter to the editor of The Enterprise about the upcoming Drag Queen Story Hour to be held in the Lexington Park library near her home, she cited the June 2017 ALA article by Goldwasser.

The editor replied that there was no way to prove that Goldwasser had authored the piece. Kijesky revisited the online ALA article and soon discovered that Goldwasser’s name had been deleted within the last few days. Enterprise editor Donnie Morgan spoke with Tess Goldwasser, but she would neither confirm nor deny writing the blog for the ALA site.

Kijesky believes that the redaction of the author’s name is the result of increasing public pressure against not only the planned Drag Queen Story Hour, but also the LGBT infiltrating tactics used by children’s librarians revealed in Goldwasser’s article.

Original version, displaying author Tess Goldwasser’s name. Source: ALA screenshot

 

Recently scrubbed version, with author’s name deleted. Source: ALA screenshot

 

ALA article suggests children’s librarians “sneakily” include LGBT library materials

Goldwasser’s article begins, “Do you work for a library in a small, rural, conservative community? ... Do you wish you could do more to make your library inclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community, but meet with resistance?” 

The LGBT-advocating librarian then offered “tips and tricks to being a secret librarian advocate operative,” with the clearly stated ultimate goal of introducing Drag Queen Story Hours in currently resistant communities. Those tactics include:

  • “Sneakily fit stuff into current programs: So you’re not doing Drag Queen Storytime (yet), but you’re probably doing Regular Old Storytime, right? Try to ‘sneak’ inclusive messages into your current programs. For instance, if you’re reading a book about a Mama bear and a Papa bear, maybe when you read it you just change it to be about 2 Papa bears!”

     

  • “Creatively encourage inclusive collection development” and “firmly defend LGBT items in your collection.” Goldwasser suggested, “Find out the best way to reach your library’s acquisitions specialists, and then request LGBT books, movies, and music — anything that’s received positive reviews, or been listed on top 100 lists, or won awards,” in order to more easily justify the presence of LGBT materials on library shelves.

     

  • “Invite LGBT community partners: [Your local library branch] may not be ready for any kind of LGBT programming yet. But that doesn’t mean those programs can’t still be held in your library. If your library has meeting space, reach out to groups like your local PFLAG chapter, or local schools’ LGBT student groups, and let them know that they can hold meetings and host programs at your library.

According to the local newspaper, that last suggestion is the precise tactic employed to get Drag Queen Story Hour into the Lexington Park Library.

“Though the event will be held at the library, Michael Blackwell, director of the library system, has said that the group known as Southern Maryland Area Secular Humanists (SMASH) is sponsoring the event using its non-profit status,” reported St. Mary’s County Times.

“Blackwell said the library system is only providing the room per its rules and standards for leaving its meeting rooms open for public use,” continues the report.  “The event is being sponsored by SMASH along with PFLAG of Leonardtown.”

Over 100 children are currently signed up by their parents to attend the Drag Queen Story Hour event, according to the same report.

Kijesky told LifeSiteNews that the library director has been insisting since 2017 that the library has nothing to do with these events and that the library is just opening its meeting rooms to them.

Kijesky believes that the ALA article proves that there is more to the story — that there are forces within the library system acting in tacit cooperation with groups like SMASH and PFLAG to get Drag Queen Story Hours into local libraries. 

The ALA article “proves that not only is it their intention to get Drag Queen Story Hour, but it’s also their goal,” said Kijesky.

Resisting Drag Queen Story Hour

A petition launched last week as a joint effort between the Personhood Alliance and LifeSiteNews against the Drag Queen Story Hour planned for a Lexington Park public library next week went viral and has now garnered nearly 30,000 signatures.

As a consequence, pressure from the local community is being brought to bear on the library and staff.

A prayer vigil followed by the praying of the rosary will occur outside the Lexington Park library on Sunday, June 23, as a Drag Queen Story Hour is held inside.

This article has been updated.

# # #

Intersections | GLBT Book Month: Dispatch from a Small Town Librarian

 

Do you work for a library in a small, rural, conservative community? Are you a frontline staff member there, with no managerial or administrative authority? Do you wish you could do more to make your library more inclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community, but meet with resistance?

I hope it’s not just me! I’ve been working as a frontline staff member at a small town library for nearly a decade. I have struggled with trying to affect positive change at my library in the area of inclusivity. It can be disheartening to feel you’re not supported by your library, and by extension the community that library serves. You feel like you should just give up on advocacy. But you shouldn’t.

There all small things you can do to welcome LGBT folks into your library, small steps you can take to move your library and community progressively forward. Here are a few things I’ve done, that will hopefully inspire those in similar positions and locales to keep fighting the good fight.

Tips and tricks to being a secret librarian advocate operative:

Don’t give up. This is the most important lesson I can impart upon you. For instance, when you ask “Can I do a GLBT Book Month display in June?” And your supervisor says “No.” Or “Think of the children.” Or “Customers will complain.” Or “Why? There are no gay people here our town.” You could very easily be discouraged. (And angry.) (And confused. Don’t they know every Thursday is gay night at the town pub?) But don’t stop asking. Ask next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. One year they might say yes. And the year after that they might say “Sure you can do that again.” And it might become a tradition, and every year you can put up more rainbow flags than the year before. The only way you’ll find out is if you continue to be persistent. And if you’re thinking a display is a trivial example, it’s not really: A warm and friendly display can be welcoming to the LGBT folks in your community, who probably currently feel unwelcome, and it’s a simple thing to start with. Sure, you want to eventually get to Drag Queen Storytime, but you should start with something simple!

Invite LGBT community partners. Like I said, your library isn’t ready for Drag Queen Storytime. They may not be ready for any kind of LGBT programming yet. But that doesn’t mean those programs can’t still be held in your library. If your library has meeting space, reach out to groups like your local PFLAG chapter, or local schools’ LGBT student groups, and let them know that they can hold meetings and host programs at your library.

Sneakily fit stuff into current programs. So you’re not doing Drag Queen Storytime (yet), but you’re probably doing Regular Old Storytime, right? Try to “sneak” inclusive messages into your current programs. For instance, if you’re reading a book about a Mama bear and a Papa bear, maybe when you read it you just change it to be about 2 Papa bears! Or if you’re reading a book about a rabbit who likes to get dirty and play sports, maybe when you read it you pointedly say it’s a girl rabbit. If there are characters in a book where the gender is unidentified or irrelevant, feel free to play and change it up! Chances are kids and families won’t even notice, but for that same-sex family or gender-nonconforming child who does, it will really mean a lot to them to know their librarian has their back.

Creatively encourage inclusive collection development. It’s likely if your library is resistant to letting you do a display or program, they may be resistant to purchasing materials with LGBT themes. Find out the best way to reach your library’s acquisitions specialists, and then request LGBT books, movies, and music – anything that’s received positive reviews, or been listed on top 100 lists, or won awards. Because that will help you…

Firmly defend LGBT items in your collection. If something is challenged, be ready to listen to the complaint, and respond in a calm matter stating that your library purchases items for ALL the members of your community, and that you’d be happy to help them find other items more to their tastes. Often in these situations people just want to be heard, and are satisfied to move on when they’re sure that they have been.

Be a walking, talking safe space. It’s probably not likely that your library is ready to declare itself a “Safe Space” where LGBT folks, particularly young folks, can be completely safe from bullying. Even if you could get your whole staff on board, you can’t control who comes into your building, and you probably can’t monitor your entire building at all times, even if it is small. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t identify yourself as a safe person to talk to. You could wear a “Safe Space” button or, if that’s against your library’s dress code, even something as simple as a rainbow colored lanyard or bracelet might help to identify you, to people who are looking for you, as a safe person to turn to in times of need.

These are just a few ideas I’ve had and lessons I’ve learned over the years. Hopefully they encourage you, my fellow small town librarians, to keep advocating, despite adversity. It is worth it!

Happy GLBT Book Month everybody!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of our employers.