Rockwell Falls librarian, after the drag queen story hour tiff

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

Rockwell Falls Public Library’s planned Drag Queen Story Hour was postponed indefinitely on April 13.

Lake Luzerne’s Rockwell Falls Public Library scheduled Drag Queen Story Hour with Scarlet Sagamore. Support and opposition ensued.

The library said its Board of Trustees voted “to do additional research into the performer and the content of the show.”

It came on the heels of a heated Library meeting on April 11, originally scheduled to elect a new Board President.

Rockwell Falls Public Library Director Courtney Keir told The Chronicle she was surprised at the scale of the opposition.

“I did expect a reaction. I’m not going to lie,” she said. “It’s not uncommon that libraries around the country that do this type of programming have gotten some backlash. I did not expect it to go to the extreme that it was.”

She said every Saturday a staff member reads books to children at the library’s story hour. At the planned April 15 Drag Queen Story Hour, the presenter who goes by the name Scarlet Sagamore was to have been the reader.

Ms. Keir said two library employees planned the event, and booked the performer through a Vermont-based agency.

She said the agency advised the library not to advertise the event until a week before it was to take place.

“That was not to hide anything,” Ms. Keir said. “They said sometimes if you advertise, like two weeks, it does give people if they’re really adamant against it time to mobilize and possibly do something dangerous….Maybe not dangerous, but something to try and make a bigger stink about it.”

Ms. Keir said the library board was aware of the event since December.

She said she believes if the Library had gone ahead with the event, “it would have blown over.”

She said, “I felt that maybe the board should have protected all of its employees. But we don’t feel very protected at this point.”

She said ordinarily, the Library Director and Department heads “would choose programming for the library. They do not, as far as I know, ever have to glean background checks from anybody.”

Why was there such a reaction to Drag Queen Story Hour?

Ms. Keir said, “I think that you have a lot of people in this community who have fear. People are afraid of things they may not know or understand.”

“As a public library, this is a great opportunity for us to fully recognize that there is obviously some division within the community, that’s glaringly clear at this point,” she said.

“And as a public library, the best thing we can do for it, and what we owe to everyone is to do our best to continue to try and educate them by continuing to host you know, culturally diverse programs.”

There’s an election coming up on May 16 when voters will choose two trustees.

Ms. Keir says, “I’m scared that there’s going to be people that end up on this library board that are literally going to start dictating what books we hold in this library. I do not think that that’s far off.”

Trustee candidate: ‘Drag queen reader is undeniably meant to push an agenda’

Joshua Jacquard was one of the people at the April 11 Rockwell Falls Public Library board meeting who spoke in opposition to its planned April 15 Drag Queen Story Hour with ‘Scarlet Sagamore.’

The board subsequently voted to postpone the event indefinitely.

Mr. Jacquard is one of four candidates who filed by Monday’s deadline to run for two available library board seats in the May 16 election.

Mr. Jacquard told The Chronicle Tuesday: “If you look at the content of the books that were scheduled to be read you get further clarity about the objectives. One of the books is ‘Red, A Crayon’s Story.’ A book about a blue crayon born in a red crayon wrapper.

“The message of the book in conjunction with the drag queen reader is undeniably meant to push an agenda.

“Exposing children to a gender fluid culture and indoctrinating children with a gender bending philosophy is not the job of a library and should never be taxpayer funded.

“My motivation is to do everything I can to prevent the indoctrination and sexualization of the children of my community through taxpayer funding.

“If parents make the choice to allow their children to be exposed to this type of philosophy then that is their prerogative and they should use their own funds to pay for it.

“The library should be a place that brings our community together, not a place that tears us apart.

“A library should be a politically neutral place that is safe for all children. We pay taxes that fund the library to assure that fact…

“The library is not living up to their responsibilities to this community and they are acting irresponsibly with the funds we as taxpayers entrust to them. We as a community are standing up to say, not our children and not with our tax dollars.”

4 will vie for 2 seats on Luzerne Library board, May 16 vote

Voters in the Hadley-Luzerne School District on May 16 will elect two trustees to the five-person board that oversees Rockwell Falls Public Library.

Monday was the deadline to enter the race. Four candidates filed.

In alphabetical order they are:
• Robin Cammarata
• Jade Eddy
• Joshua Jacquard
• Kathleen Jones

The library trustee election is conducted as part of the Hadley-Luzerne school budget vote.

School Superintendent Burgess N. Ovitt explained in an e-mail in response to a Chronicle inquiry:

“In June 2019, voters approved the Hadley Luzerne Public Library’s request to change its charter from a ‘municipal library’ — funded only by the towns of Hadley and Lake Luzerne — to a ‘school district library’ that would expand the tax base to the same geographical area as the Hadley-Luzerne Central School District. The vote was 241 votes for and 199 against.”

The school district encompasses the Towns of Day and Stony Creek, as well as Hadley and Lake Luzerne.

Mr. Ovitt noted, “‘School District Public Libraries’ are totally independent of the school district….Tax money collected for the library is kept separate from the school district budget, and any increases to the library budget would face approval by popular vote of school district constituents. The library board of trustees are elected to three-year terms rather than appointed.”

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