Austin library board listens to comments about upcoming Drag Queen Story Time

Published 11:32 am Tuesday, June 13, 2023

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A crowd of about 85 people showed up to the Austin Public Library regular meeting as the board listened to community comments from both sides of the argument about the upcoming Drag Queen Story Time, which was approved during the meeting.

Austin Public Library Director Julie Klinefelter stated that the Drag Queen Story Time with Roxi Manacoochi fills the promotion of literacy and community, which are goals of the library. Roxi is a local drag performer who has held shows throughout Austin in recent years.

“Through the years, we’ve been part of pride events, we’ve had social justice book clubs and the drag queen story time was kind of a natural lead into those things,” she said. “We’ve been at events with him and they’ve gone very well. He participated in our 2019 drag time story hour and it went really well.”

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Klinefelter went on to highlight the need of the library to serve the entire community and provide it with diverse ideas. She noted that the funding for Drag Queen Story Time comes from donations.

“Our programming policy acknowledges that our programming may be controversial and any given program may offend some library users,” Klinefelter said.

“Decisions to provide programs will not be on the basis of any anticipated approval or disapproval (from library users).” Connie Rose spoke out against the decision to keep the program as she argued that Drag Queen Story Time can be harmful to children.

“You’ve given (Roxi) free range to expose innocent children with this very unnecessary and detrimental perversion,” Rose said. “This is perversion and everyone on this board knows it. Every human knows that this is wrong and shameful. Drag queening has absolutely nothing to do with the library directive.”

Rose went on to say that she did not see the educational value in having Drag Queen Story Time at the Austin Public Library.

“Their goal is to confuse, manipulate and indoctrinate our children for their community’s ultimate perverted purposes,” Rose said. “Your responsibility is to protect our children and help them be further educated.”

Darya Gemmel, who was a speech teacher at AHS for 23 years, spoke in support of Roxi, who is played by Austin grad Dylan Kaercher. “This is my home and I’m here to advocate for Dylan (Kaercher). We know Dylan and he’s been entertaining us for over 20 years. He has been educating our children through music and theater with all of the skills that he has,” Gemmel said. “My own daughter went to his camp and I would contend that we do not respond in fear to Dylan, because he is a known quantity. He is not a threat to our children. I’m so proud of our community for embracing Roxi. You can’t get a ticket to her shows because they’re sold out.”

Austin Public Library board Treasurer Ted Hinchcliffe said he avoided the thought of whether he approved or disapproved of the program and focused more on the purpose of the library.

“There are going to be things that we find offensive. If we had somebody who gave a presentation on World War II, which is near and dear to my heart, there may be some people who are Quakers or pacifists, who would be offended,” Hinchcliffe said. “As long as we follow the process, I don’t think it’s our job to say what people can or cannot see at the library.”