Chemung Co. Library defends programming choice following criticism
ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) -- The Chemung County Library District is defending an upcoming event after receiving criticism from a Chemung County legislator earlier this week.
Next Thursday, November 14th, the Steele Memorial Library in Elmira will hold its 2nd 'Drag Queen Story Time.' The event is now met with some controversy following a Chemung County Budget Committee Meeting on Monday, after 7th district legislator Joe Brennan voiced concern about the choice in programming.
Jeffrey Mathews works as a Library Clerk in the Children's Department and also organizes story times, which typically occur weekly on Friday mornings.
"So a Drag Queen Story Time is just a story time led by a performer who is impersonating another gender. It's all the same things that are in a regular story time. We sing hello songs, goodbye songs. We do our ABCs in sign language and we sing them. We usually perform a few extra songs. For this one, well you can't do Frozen without doing 'Let It Go,'" says Mathews.
Brennan went to social media to urge Chemung County voters to vote "no" on the funding item for the library district on Election Day, after learning of the event. The funding did get approved by voters by more than 70%, which goes to fund all library operations annually.
"We purchase materials such as books, DVDs, E-books, all sorts of different materials and we do programming. And last year we had 2,600 programs that were attended by over 73,000 people," says Chemung County Library District Director, Ronald Shaw.
Legislator Joe Brennan was not available for an interview but did send a statement, which reads as follows:
"My number one concern is always for the safety and wellbeing of our children. Before "Miss Vanessa" was identified as a library clerk, my concern was that we may have unvetted individuals providing unsanctioned content to impressionable children.My focus going forward will be to submit resolutions to hold any employees, volunteers, or contractors who may be instructing children, to the same or higher standard as anyone who teaches in a public school. This may include collecting resumes with references, conducting criminal background checks and performing random drug screening. I also want to ensure that the content is deemed age appropriate by both the State Board of Education and Local School Boards."
The Steele Memorial Library continues to plan to host the Drag Queen Story Time, as planned on Thursday, November 14th at 6:00 p.m. The event is free and open to everyone.
"I would invite people who are skeptical to come too. Maybe don't bring your family if you're concerned but I think once you see what we're doing it's not something to be scared of. It's not something to be concerned about," Mathews says.
Additional information about the event can be found here: Frozen Themed Drag Story Time at Steele