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Library staff caught in the crossfire over program controversy

The Downtown Library of St. Joseph's 'Celebrating All of Us: Drag Queen Story Hour,' has sparked many reactions in support and against. Unfortunately for library staff at the other three libraries in town, people are calling whatever number comes up first, making them the target for misdirected aggression.

Posted: Aug 28, 2019 9:29 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)— The Downtown Library of St. Joseph's 'Celebrating All of Us: Drag Queen Story Hour,' has sparked many reactions in support and against. Unfortunately for library staff at the other three libraries in town, people are calling whatever number comes up first, making them the target for misdirected aggression.  

"We've had a lot of phone calls and emails about people who've been expressing their displeasure," said St. Joseph Library Director Mary Beth Revels. "It sometimes makes it hard to get work done because of how many calls we're getting."

Some comments have been so bad, certain staff has been cleared not to answer phone calls and let other employees take them instead.

"There have been things said that I don't think would be okay to say ever to anyone," said Mark Zvolanek, a 12-year-veteran librarian at the East Hills Library. "After badmouthing about the drag queen thing, she wanted to make sure to end the conversation with 'I hope you don't have children'. I don't know a world where that's okay to say to somebody." 

Drag Queen Story Hour will only be at the Downtown location, but that hasn't stopped people from voicing their opinions at any of the locations. 

"We had a guy come in and he just cut a card and threw it on the table and said 'this is what we think about you and your library,'" said Zvolanek. "It's been really strange having to remove the humanity out of yourself when you are being attacked over something that has nothing to do with you."

Despite the negative comments, staff says they have received a lot of positive phone calls supporting the program focused on inclusivity.

"Hearing what people go through really just strengthens my resolve that we are doing the right thing," said Revels. "We want to welcome and celebrate people in our community, we want to take away the shame and fear of being different and we want to teach tolerance and acceptance."

Staff says the Drag Queen Story Hour is designed for children and accompanying adults. It will be at the Downtown Library on September 10th at 6 pm.

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