Miss Freida Whales

The Okanagan Regional Library is looking at a policy that would end Miss Freida Whales’ Drag Queen Story Time after its second instalment on Nov. 16.

It looks like the downtown Kelowna library is pulling the plug on Drag Queen Story Time.

At Wednesday’s Okanagan Regional Library board meeting, a new policy was discussed that would effectively put a stop to anything as controversial and edgy as stories, songs and crafts with a man flamboyantly dressed as a woman.

The board didn’t make a final decision, passing the issue to the policy and planning committee to make a recommendation that will come back to the board in a couple of months.

The first program with Kelowna-based queen Miss Freida Whales went ahead Saturday at the downtown library branch at 1380 Ellis St. after some controversy and calls to cancel it.

The Drag Queen Story Time scheduled for Nov. 16 at the downtown branch will proceed as planned, but after that it’s likely a new policy would block such sessions.

Concern seems to centre on the fact the storytime is targeted at three- to six-year-olds.

Drag Queen Story Time is inappropriate for their age, needlessly divisive to the community and deviates from the library’s main purpose of early literacy encouragement in a safe and neutral environment that everybody in the community will find acceptable, reads part of the report written by Okanagan Regional Library CEO Don Nettleton in relation to the feeling of some of the library leadership team.

The list of concerns by some of the library leadership includes that discussions related to sexual orientation, gender selection, religious teachings, politics and other divisive issues should be promoted and debated in adult or age-appropriate settings and not necessarily within the setting of Okanagan Regional Library branches.

Until now, the 29 libraries in the system had a lot of free rein in programming.

The downtown Kelowna branch is the biggest and arguably the most progressive, because it set up Drag Queen Story Time as a fun program to celebrate diversity and freedom of expression, and to help children develop empathy, learn about gender diversity and difference and tap into their own creativity.

Kids were also encouraged to come dressed to impress in costume.

The board felt the need to get involved with a new children’s programming policy so staff and the public have a clear direction for what the library is focusing on and what it will and won’t do.

The policy drafted by Nettleton reads in part: “Programming choices should be made on the basis of being suitable and safe for the ages of the children attending and include a wide range of topics that are of interest and appropriateness to the age of the audience while avoiding controversial and/or potentially divisive community issues as these may detract from our main focus and restrict our audience and community support.”

Drag Queen Story Time started in San Francisco as part of the LGBTQ2+ movement and has since expanded to several public libraries in the United States and Canada to promote the message of gender diversity, sexual choice and community acceptance.

The goal is also to push the boundaries of what is traditionally accepted in North American society in these areas.