The following is an interview with AMELIA VANDER HEIDE, Supervising Librarian at Solano (CA) County Library.
What is the title of your program?
Drag Queen Storytime
Program or outreach description:
A special storytime for families with children featuring drag performer Apple Adams and done in collaboration with the Solano Pride Center.
Describe the planning and promotion you did to bring this program or outreach from an idea to reality.
The Solano Pride Center reached out to me in early 2019 about hosting a Drag Queen Storytime at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) branch of the Solano County Library system. I was excited and immediately agreed, as I have heard from both staff and the community that they would like to see this type of event at JFK. I worked closely with the Solano Pride Center to create buzz about the event. My staff worked to promote the event on social media and spent time interacting with customers on that format.
Who were your stakeholders and how did you create buy-in?
The JFK branch is focused on providing inclusive events that celebrate all the diverse members of the Vallejo community, and has featured LGBTQ+ programs for adults during Pride month for the last few years. Hosting a Drag Queen Storytime was an extension of our programming focus. While working with staff, we focused on promoting talking points about inclusion, the importance of dress-up and make believe play for young children, and answering the needs of our community.
What was your program/event/outreach budget? Was funding a help or a hindrance?
I am thankful to the Solano Pride Center for working with Apple Adams to allow us to host the event free of charge.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in putting your event together?
The greatest challenge for this event was learning there would be protesters at the event only about an hour before. It was hard to know beforehand how large the protest group would be, but in the end it was a small and manageable size. The response from supporters was great and we had 139 customers attend the event and leave overwhelmingly positive reviews. I also had the help of library administration, who made it a point to be there at the event in case there was any press or customers who wanted to discuss the event.
What’s next for you? Do you have anything new in the works?
Ideally we would like to host a Drag Queen Storytime at JFK annually as a special event. There are other branches in the system, who are thinking of hosting their own.
What advice do you have for those seeking to start GLBTQ+ programming/advocacy in their libraries?
I would start by making contact with your local LGBTQ+ organizations and start relationship building; they can help you to see what are the needs and wants of your local community. Create staff buy-in early through lots of conversation and making them feel that you have their support. The administration at Solano County Library was wonderful about supporting this event and helping staff feel at ease. I think making sure that you have the support of your administration is vital to a successful event.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
This has to be one of my favorite programs I have ever done and I hope more libraries continue to have and support this type of programming.