The following is an interview with DAVID LOPEZ, Senior Librarian at Santa Ana Public Library.
What is the title of your program?
Forest of the Enchanted Drag Queens: All Ages Storytime and LGBTQ+ Youth Resource Fair
Program or Outreach Description
A special event featuring two local drag queens who read bilingual stories and performed for all ages. The library also offered community resources for the LGBTQ+ youth.
Describe the planning and promotion you did to bring this program or outreach from an idea to reality.
Planning of this event began six months prior to the event by identifying a key community partner. Once we identified the Frida Cinema (independent cinema) we identified the drag performers who would be the focal point of the program. We met frequently throughout six months to plan stories, figure out logistics, and rehearse. The Frida Cinema was responsible for putting together the primary promotional logo with the agreed upon theme of “Forest of the Enchanted Drag Queens”. In-house staff members worked on flyers and social media promotion from that point. Flyers were sent out to local organizations, the school district, and posted on various online platforms.
Who were your stakeholders and how did you create buy-in?
Community families in Santa Ana and the surrounding Orange County area. We created buy-in by making this an all ages program that would bring families with children of all ages as well as welcome teens and adults who hadn’t experienced this type of programming before. This is the first drag queen storytime program to take place in Orange County, CA so that was also emphasized.
What was your program/event/outreach budget? Was funding a help or a hindrance?
Our budget for this program was $500, funded by an LSTA Pitch-an-Idea grant “Youth Know Community Social Innovation Project”. This budget was used for pay our performers for their generous time and our community partner The Frida Cinema provided in-kind contributions as well as sought out other sponsors to provide a red carpet and AV equipment.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in putting your event together?
The biggest challenge we faced in putting this event together is that through our online promotion, several religious groups began creating some push back that generated some attention. There were threats that people were going to rally at a city council meeting, but many individuals who were in favor of the event showed up to demonstrate their desire for these types of programs. On the day of the event a group of about 20 individuals with signs began to form outside of the library in preparation to protest our event. Because we were open to all ages, it was a curve ball we had to catch. Prior to any disturbance, the police department was called to try to mediate the situation and informed them that no disruptions could be made. Several of the individuals infiltrated the event to sneak photos of the performers and the families and put them on social media to smear the library and the city’s program. They called staff ‘perverted’ and said we were ‘corrupting the youth’ and called the drag performers ‘things’. Nevertheless, The event was a success with over 200 attendees, but it was more heartbreaking to see that people with such negative perspectives are among the community we are meant to serve.
What’s next for you? Do you have anything new in the works?
Currently the library has no plans to put together another drag queen storytime type program because of the tension this created and the attention it got from our council. However, independently I am currently working with a local used bookstore to bring a drag storytime to the community. I feel that it might be easier to circumvent the ‘tax paying bible thumpers’ by using other community spaces to provide this type of programming. Although it is essential to have programs like this in every public library.
What advice do you have for those seeking to start GLBTQ+ programming/advocacy in their libraries?
It is absolutely crucial that you try every which way to get it done. There will be a lot of naysayers and hesitation, but a true advocate finds a way. If nothing else, change the climate in your work environment. Make your colleagues see that inclusion is the answer and diverse programming, services, and collections will follow.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
I love to learn about the different types of LGBTQ+ programming and services libraries provide! Keep them coming so we can all work together on raising awareness, building equity, and spreading love for all.