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IDAHOBIT Day at the Library- what did we learn

The team at my library prepared an inclusive International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia & Transphobia (IDAHOBIT Day) program for Friday May 17th 2019. IDAHOBIT was launched globally in 2004 to celebrate LGBTQI people.

Libraries do champion inclusion and tolerance of all people and celebrating IDAHOBIT Day is one way to help build increased understanding and inclusion of LGBTQI people in our communities. With over 75% of our Australian young LGBTQI people experiencing some form of discrimination it is important that we as a library service champion inclusion for LGBTQI people in our community. Our Library Service had a mixed program of events with a rainbow theme across a number of our branch libraries and the three Councils that we deliver library services for also had some of their own rainbow events on the day and were supportive of the program.

At our smallest branch, Whittlesea Library, we presented a Rainbow Storytime where a local drag queen joined our librarians to read to parents and their children. After announcing this on our branch Facebook page there was a furious backlash led by a ‘Political Posting Mumma’ Facebook page. There was also a nasty backlash directly aimed at the online social media of Drag Queen Annie who had agreed to perform at the library. Immediately major news outlets took up the story and the library service’s Drag Queen Storytime was suddenly on the 7pm news and the breakfast news shows the following morning.

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Media response to Drag Queen Storytime

So what did we learn.

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So what happened?

No protesters showed up and the close to 100 audience had a lovely story time and made a rainbow mask at the end. Only local media attended as another major story took over the airways and a small library’s storytime no longer featured. One formal complaint was made to the local Council and this was referred to the Library Service for a response. A formal response was made to the complaint and no further correspondence has yet been received. One complainant made three threatening telephone calls to different branches and in each encounter the caller’s behavior was so bad that staff were forced to hang up. The audience came from a much wider region than just the local community and there was a really positive response from the local community in support of the library. Residents and the local community rallied around the library and came in just to support staff and to wish the library well and to let us all know that we were doing the right thing in promoting tolerance and inclusion.

Our community’s response was mostly positive and I am thankful to every one of the library’s supporters who posted lovely positive messages to the library for the program we delivered to promote inclusion and tolerance. The Library Service also received lots of supportive messages from other Library Managers around the State. I am also immensely grateful to the library staff who developed , delivered and defended a values based program in the face of online public condemnation.

Written by

Librarian, interested in libraries, digital disruption, startups, Australian politics

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