Feedback from 'drag queen' event prompts Wichita library to consider programming policy

Published: Dec. 17, 2018 at 10:51 PM CST
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The Wichita Public Library will soon adopt a programming policy following backlash from an event which showcased drag queens reading books.

The Wichita Library Board met Tuesday to discuss the programming policy. They heard arguments from five people during a public comment period, some opposing the event "Say Yaaas to Reading" and others who supported it.

The event was held in September and drew a crowd of more than 200 to the library. It was advertised as an adult event but children were allowed to attend. Some who oppose the event cited concerns over how it would impact children.

"Most little boys and girls seem to understand that they are a boy or a girl. Why would we want to cause confusion? I believe as well as others as more have learned that this is child abuse," said Donna Lippoldt.

Others argued the event promoted equality and parents had a choice whether to bring their children.

"Our kids were there because we wanted them to be there. We are making investments now with our must precious resources in those shared values: literacy, kindness, neighborliness, acceptance," said Jessie Wigdahl, who earned a standing ovation from more than half the crowd.

The board determined it will adopt a programming policy which will help determine which programs they host and why. The board did not vote on a policy during Tuesday's meeting. Members will finalize the policy and bring it to a first reading in January.


When it comes to scheduling programs for the Wichita Public Library, potential policy changes could be coming.

The library board of directors is set to further discuss what the library should offer after an event in September drew a large crowd, but created mixed reactions from the community.

A program designed to promote literacy was hosted by local drag queens who read to a crowd -- mostly consisting of adults -- gathered at the library.

Library officials said the library, in part, was looking to diversify its events with the unique readers. The initial reaction from those who attended was positive, but others in the community were not happy with the event.

Moving forward, considering what people in the city want for Wichita's library, the board wants to decide what's appropriate and what's not for the public space.

Brad Thomison was at September's literacy event called "Say Yaaas to Reading!" He attended dressed as Divinity Masters and was one of the drag queens who read to the crowd.

"Places like libraries and city halls and parks and schools, everywhere the public gathers, everyone should feel welcome," Thomison says. "That's what it means to be part of the public."

Many agree with Thomison, but others do not. Reactions from hundreds showed the community split from September's event. Some challenged the library for putting on the program that featured drag queens.

The president of the board of directors for Wichita Public Libraries, Kevin McWhorter says the library hosts about 3,000 programs a year. Currently, there's no policy that says what type of events the library can and cannot have. But that could change.

Tuesday, the board of directors will discuss whether the library should adopt a programming policy to regulate what type of programs will take place inside each of the library's seven branches.

Thomison hopes Divinity gets the chance to read to a crowd inside the library again.

"Being in that room was unique and something I had never had the chance to feel before," Thomison says.

McWhorter says ultimately, the board will decide what's best for Wichita Public Libraries, but community input is welcome.

"We want to make sure that all voices are heard," McWhorter says. "If you have an opinion of what the library should or should not be, then we want to know what that is."