IDAHOBIT 2023 at the Library: You are Welcome here
“If you make places safer for people who don’t feel safe, you make it safe for everyone.”
After 4 years of successfully holding an inclusive rainbow themed IDAHOBIT Day across my group of libraries that included a Drag Queen storytime event each year we thought we were prepared for our 2023 program. As a wave of violent protesters shut down drag queen storytime events across Victoria however it became very clear that this year the opposition was more coordinated and prepared to threaten violence against any person, library staff member, performer, Councilor or family who advocated for a Rainbow storytime event. It was also very evident that there would be an in person protest. So in 2023 celebrating our queer community needed to be very different.
Find your community partners and allys: we were joined by the Rainbow Community Angels who bolstered our courage, supported staff with life affirming messages of the importance of celebrating our rainbow families and our LBTQIA+ community and who turned up on the day to create a festival of kindness and love. Plus daggy dancing!
Maintain your Courage to live the library values in the face of hate: to do this we prepared as if we were facing a natural disaster: Do not think you can do this on your own. Councils, Police and the Rainbow Community Angels came together with the library staff to support our rainbow families and communities on the day. Other allys also turned up: Victorian Trades Hall Council and the Australian Services Union called on their members to turn up at our library to protect our rainbow community. Local politicians also turned up to support the library and brought cake! We also received amazing emails of support and love to counter the hate.
Knowledge is power: ensure all library staff know their rights, who to reach out to for support, and how to report an offence — in Australia it is a criminal offence to use a carriage service (social media, email or phone) to threaten serious harm and to menace/harass/offend. Be prepared to report this offence. Strengthen your Conditions of Entry to prohibit filming without permission as this is a tactic of harassment that is being used by protesters against library staff and collections they disagree with.
Endurance is not a strength: Library Management need to be on the floor to support front of house staff and to relieve staff who are facing regular abuse. We faced a coordinated phone attack with all lines taken up with abusive calls so we turned off the phones and only allowed contact via email for the two weeks of protest. Ensure staff are offered a professional debrief after the event and support staff to take some leave to allow time to heal.
Start an appreciation wall in the libraries to counter the hate: We did get a lot of love and unless you highlight this for all staff it can be drowned out by the hateful messages. Here is one we received for our Appreciation wall:
Thank you for all you do to make this world a kinder and more inclusive place. Thank you for hosting events for rainbow families to show our kids that they matter and that they are seen, lived and celebrated. As a young LGBTQI kid, I always found solace in libraries and with librarians, who opened the door to thousands of amazing stories and provided a safe space. I am so sorry about the hate you have received simply for providing a safe space for kids to know they matter and their families matter. Just know you have thousands of us rallying around you and sending you so much love and support.
See you in 2024 when we celebrate IDAHOBIT Day 2024 bigger and better!