It’s clear something major has happened this Summer. There has been widespread and vocal protests, and counter-protests, outside libraries hosting drag queen story-times. This has received huge media attention and it’s too heated and immediate for me to write more on it. Just see the multitude of articles below, in a separate section below the national and international news sections.

Changes by local authority

National news

“In 1989, two-thousand people demonstrated against Satanic Verses and marched on the Central Library. Copies were burned in the streets. Later and to their eternal credit the then MP for Halifax, Alice Mahon and the controversial Judge James Pickles read out passages from the book outside the library to emphasise free speech. Waiting lists to read the public library copies went up significantly.”

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International news

  • Afghanistan – The librarian who defied the Taliban – BBC. “Wahida Amiri worked as an ordinary librarian before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August. But when the militants started to strip women of their rights, she became one of the leading voices against them. She told the BBC’s Sodaba Haidare how protesting against Taliban rule led to her arrest and why she decided to leave her country.”
  • Australia – Scripturient: Interview with Trish Hepworth – Mechanical Dolphin. “ven a developed country like Australia with a world-class education system has significant levels of low functional literacy. It’s increasingly difficult for people to function in society without those skills, and when they need help, the place they turn to is the public library.”
  • Global – World’s best new public library found – Systematic. “The building stands out for its beautiful architecture that pays homage to the surrounding landscape while functioning as a library with a wealth of offers and possibilities that also serves as a meeting place for the local community. The library therefore scores highly against all the award’s criteria. It’s a library that you would relish having in your own local area. It’s a library built for the future.””
  • Ireland – Over €3m in funding to extend opening hours of libraries nationwide – Breaking News. “Funding of more than €3 million is set to be invested in 46 library branches across the country, extending the opening hours of many nationwide. The investment announced by Minister for Community Development Heather Humphreys on Tuesday comes as the World Library Congress opens in Dublin, hosting approximately 1,700 delegates from 100 countries. Some €2.2 million of the funding will deliver longer opening hours in 17 of the libraries through the extension of the ‘My Open Library’ initiative, which provides library access to members from 8am to 10pm, 365 days a year.”
  • Shush 199 – Stuart Hamilton Takeover – Shush. “Today we did a special takeover show. I was very happy and lucky to be able to do a takeover show with Stuart Hamilton (Head of Libraries Development at Local Government Management Agency) Stuart chose the music. In the show we chatted about his music selection, Libraries, his work and role. We also spoke about the International Federation of Library Associations World Library and Information Congress which is taking place next week in Dublin.”
  • New Zealand – Fines discontinued at district libraries – Otago Daily Times. “A lot of people felt embarrassed or ashamed about fines, and often stopped using the library as a result, Ms Bean said. “They end up not wanting to bring the book back at all, so we actually lose the book, but more than that we actually lose our library members.””
  • Poland – Supermarket Chain Will Act as Library to Skirt Sunday Trade Ban – Bloomberg. “Biedronka — known for its eponymous ladybug logo — will convert sections of some stores into libraries, retail industry news website Wiadomoscihandlowe.pl reported on Thursday, citing a company document. Customers will be able to borrow from a selection of 140 books using loyalty cards. “
  • UAE – Mohammed Bin Rashid Library attracts over 40,000 visitors – Zawya. New library. “During this period, the Library issued more than 34,000 visitors tickets, and more than 3,000 other tickets to visit the Treasures of the Library Exhibition. The Library’s avant-garde auto-store received around 1,000 requests for borrowing books by Library members.  According to the latest statistics, visitors spent between 2 and 5 hours in the various sections of the library, while visitors’ ages ranged between 5 and 60 years old from different nationalities.

“”It’s really easy to think about the future as exclusively technological. And I think a lot of libraries are keeping pace with that. At the same time, I think we’re starting to see that there’s a really great future for these institutions as place – the value of having an open, public place in your city, in your neighborhood.””

  • Ukraine – How Ukraine’s librarians mobilised to fight the Russian culture war – Scotsman. “Within days, libraries across the country had set up initiatives to supply books to citizens sheltering in underground Metro stations, had created centres for refugees displaced within Ukraine in library buildings and diversified to set up to act as hubs to supply military equipment and essentials to the hastily-formed army. “Crazy Ukrainian librarians,” says Oksana Boiarynova, a member of the Ukrainian Library Association Board, who is on a visit to Scotland – planned and funded before the war – to share ideas about how libraries can support democracy. “They are very creative.””
  • USA – Welcome to the library of the 21st century – CBS. “these are no longer warehouses of books, these are marketplaces of ideas”. West Virginia new library: ” a brand-new cafe, a tool-lending library, and an “idea lab” full of the latest technology. From podcasting booths to computerized sewing machines to augmented reality screens, the facility has been updated for the modern age. “. 21% cut in overall USA library usage from 2009 to 2018.
    • Every Library Card a Miracle: Rural and Small-Town Libraries Are a Boon to Society – Daily Yonder. “Libraries do a lot of the heavy lifting for society. They not only circulate books, but also provide crucial Internet access for job seekers and students and entertain with videos and music. They offer a place where people can find shelter from the weather and while away lonely hours. The work of libraries is doubly important in small towns and rural areas, where miles of distance and the lack of reliable Internet connections can make learning hard and make life seem very isolated.”
    • Small town library defunded after anti-LGBTQ+ backlash. Residents stepped up to save it – Pink News. “Patmos Library in Hudsonville, Michigan had 84 per cent of its annual budget – amounting to $245,000 – slashed in a vote following an anti-LGBTQ+ backlash. According to NBC News, the library came under fire when a group of local parents protested over the availability of LGBTQ+ books”
    • The right in the US has a new bogeyman: libraries – Guardian. “Neo-Nazis and Proud Boys are targeting libraries, as legislators and conservative lobby groups are trying to remove books from shelves and change how library board members are appointed” … “The ALA has been tracking bans for two decades and reported that 2021 was the worst year for attempted censorship yet, with 1,597 books challenged” … “the censorship frequently pushed by conservative groups is linked to wealthy rightwing donors even as they masquerade as grassroots efforts, with names like “Moms for Liberty” and “Parents Defending Education”. ” … “Libraries help us to think. That is why they are powerful, and that is why they are under attack. That is also why we must protect them.”

Drag Queen Story Hour

  • ‘Alpha Men’ wage war on school library storytime read by drag queens – Times. Partial paywall. “Leading antivax conspiracists have shifted their attention to LGBT issues, protesting against a drag queen reading tour for children that they falsely claim is a vehicle for paedophilia.”
  • Angry protester is arrested in clashes at library hosting Drag Queen Story Hours – Mail. “The event attracted large groups protesting and supporting the show – around 15 people staged a demonstration against it and claimed the performer was ‘illegally grooming children’. One protestor even said they planned to put Aida under citizen’s arrest. Counter-protestors branded the group ‘fascists’ and said they were standing up for ‘parents, children and drag queens’.”. Anti-DQSH protester says “‘A library with toddlers is is not the time or the place – if you want to see a drag queen go to a nightclub” while a parent who attended the storytime said it “was ‘pleasant’ and ‘lovely’. She said: ‘Ada is an author and I can assure you none of the content in the stories are sexualised. They are light-hearted and entertaining.”
  • Anti-racists to counter far-right protests against Drag Queen Story Hour events – Morning Star. “Stand Up to Racism national co-convener Weyman Bennett said the group will be hosting “solidarity protests” in several cities this month to oppose “attempts to intimidate children, parents and LGBT+ people.”
  • Bristol Drag queen children’s story hour disrupted by protests – BBC News. “An event where a drag queen was due to read to children in Bristol has been postponed after protests outside. The event at Henleaze Library, Bristol, went ahead without the host and a librarian read to children instead. Bristol City Council said the group “needed lessons in tolerance and difference,” and said it would not tolerate discrimination.”

These library protests have not come out of the blue. They’ve been planned on social media by known groups who have switched from anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protests to evidence-free claims that these events are being hosted by “paedophiles” and “child groomers”.

The personalities behind the demonstrations in Bristol and Reading are well known figures on conspiracy theory-based social media groups. Many of them are known for attending protests outside Covid vaccination centres, attempting to shut them down with baseless claims that vaccines are killing people.

Among them are Alpha Men Assemble, a group of so-called Sovereign Citizens who believe they have the right to opt out of laws to which they do not consent, and swear in members as “Common Law Constables.” Others represent a far-right group known as Independent Nationalist Network, which includes former members of the BNP and Patriotic Alternative.

Figures such as Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) and Jayda Fransen of Britain First, who recently polled 23 votes in the Wakefield by-election, have thrown their weight behind the protests.

BBC Monitoring

“They should be utterly ashamed of themselves, they let those children down. I get told that I am a danger to children. But what is dangerous to children is language like paedophile and groomer, but the only people who used words like that in front of children today, is them.”

Sab Samuel
  • Drag queen fights back at attempts to stop him reading to children in Cornwall – Cornwall Live. “A resident of the one of the towns contacted CornwallLive after seeing a leaflet which is being distributed in the areas hosting the drag queen. The leaflets, produced by British far-right white nationalist group Patriotic Alternative, suggest that Drag Queen Story Hour should be stopped as it’s “another attempt to sexualise children” by the “Marxist establishment”. The resident called the content “homophobic” and “hate-fuelled”.”
  • Drag queen reading tour comes to Greater Manchester after previous shows hit by protests – Manchester Evening News. ” “I think although we were aware, we weren’t expecting the hatred to be manifested so strongly. We’ve found out that the majority of people who have protested at any event, were not actually from that area and lots of them aren’t even parents themselves – I think the protesters are actually victims themselves, victims of misinformation.”
  • Drag Queen Story Hour in Reading disrupted by protestors – Reading Chronicle. “Videos circulating on social media appear to show two people inside the Central Library shouting obscenities in front of families attending the event.” … “They had megaphones and attempted to shout into the windows from the ground floor outside” … ““The drag queen, after finishing the story hour, then had to be escorted out of the library by the police to the next story hour show in Tilehurst Library.””
  • Drag Queen Story Hour set to visit Hampshire with Portsmouth libraries event – Hampshire Live. “Drag Queen Story Hour is set to visit three Portsmouth libraries as part of a national tour. The group provides fun and interactive kids shows with drag performers, hoping to “show the world that being different is not a bad thing”.” … “However, recent events in Bristol and Cornwall have led to sparked protests from people hoping to prevent the performance” … “The extreme nature of some of the protesters’ signs, which linked drag queens with paedophilia and child-grooming, sparked fury among hundreds of commenters” …”It’s not really much different from taking your kids to pantomime where they normally have a drag queen in? Or do they oppose that as well?””
  • Drag Queen Story Hour protesters are the real problem – not the queens – Independent. “Aida H. Dee aka Sab Samuel has been threatened with crucifixion for the crime of reading to children while looking fabulous” Partial paywall.
  • Drag Queen Story Hour UK comes to Reading this week – Reading Chronicle. Risk assessment described in detail, with Covid described as the greatest risk.
  • Drag Queen Story Hour UK comes to Wokingham – Bracknell News. ““We absolutely share the principles that this company stands for: to promote diversity and inclusion, to encourage children and young people to read books and for families to visit their local library. Through our fantastic libraries, we always aim to offer a varied and diverse programme of events and activities.””
See the comments to the article for the range of views the public has on this
  • Drag Queen Story Hour UK tour returns to Bristol – Bristol Post. “Aida H Dee describes themselves as an ADHD and autistic 27 year old, who has been patron of Autistic Inclusive Meets London for over two years. She is a published author of two children’s books, has appeared as an official act for The British Museum during The Queen’s Jubilee, has a five star Edinburgh Fringe act, has been featured on Forbes Magazine for being an activist for neurodivergence, and has recently been shortlisted as Local Leader Of The Year 2022 by PinkNews for the nationally acclaimed PinkNews Awards.”
  • Drag queen storytime in England promotes compassion and inclusion. British far-right extremists are importing US hate against them – 7 News Boston. “Recent angry confrontations around events involving drag queens in the United Kingdom follow a disturbing precedent from the United States, where right-wing extremist groups ambush similar events and conservative politicians have pledged to criminalize adults taking children to drag shows. It has coincided with a wider movement to curtail rights ​related to bodily autonomy, ranging from abortion access to gender affirming care​, punctuated by a wave of anti-LGBTQ bills and Justice Clarence Thomas questioning marriage equality as the US Supreme Court overturned the ​federal right to abortion ​in the United States.”
  • Drag queen storytime – Video: Libraries Northern Ireland praises practice of drag performers reading to children – News Letter. “The body which runs Northern Ireland’s libraries has spoken warmly of the ‘drag queen storytime’ movement, saying such events aim to foster “positivity, diversity, and inclusion” among children. It comes amid renewed focus on the practice of having drag performers read to youngsters, after objections were raised to one such event in Belfast’s MAC theatre.”
  • Drag Queen who read to children in Cornwall hits back at ‘aggressors’ who disrupt his events – Cornwall Live. “despite protesters voicing their opposition to the events outside the Cornish libraries and claiming they ‘sexualise children’, the readings have proven extremely popular. Some of them, including in Bude and Torpoint, sold out with people asking Sab to come back.”
  • Far-right protests over drag queen storytime at Bexleyheath and Crayford libraries – Kent Online. “A far-right nationalist group held protests outside Kent libraries over events where drag queens were due to read to children. There was a sizeable police presence outside Bexleyheath library where members of Patriotic Alternative had gathered on Saturday afternoon.”
  • Furious parents storm first Drag Queen Story Hour UK for three to 11-year-olds – Express. “The event was derailed when two mothers, one of whom Mr Samuel claims used her disabled child as a “trojan horse” to gain entry, confronted the event’s host and labelled it “disgusting”.” … “Mr Samuel, who clarified that the shows included no sexual language nor were children exposed to sexual situations, told the BBC: “What is confusing is that these groups are attempting to create a sexual focus here where none exists by drawing attention to sex and sexuality.””
  • ‘I’m just trying to make the world a little brighter’: how the culture wars hijacked Drag Queen Story Hour – Guardian. ” Drag Queen Story Hour has recently been hauled into a culture war. This summer, groups including the far-right and conspiracy theorists calling themselves “sovereign citizens” have been holding up signs saying “Welcome groomers” and “Nonce upon a time” outside libraries in places from Bexleyheath to Reading when Drag Queen Story Hour events were due to take place. Parents entering the libraries had questions shouted at them about why they were taking their children to see a paedophile. Videos of the protests in Reading were posted online and looked terrifying. It was a scene you might expect to see in the US, where homophobic Christian groups have long maligned large parts of the LGBTQ+ movement and their allies as “groomers”. But in Reading?”
  • Letter- Why are Drag Queen’s telling children’s stories? – County Times. Questions why councils are funding “inappropriate” events.
  • North Walsham drag queen story hour disrupted by protests – BBC. “Titania Trust had been due to read a story to children at North Walsham Library on Tuesday. Norfolk County Council said it decided to postpone the event following safety concerns. The county’s police force said officers “engaged with two people who were protesting peacefully” at the New Road library.”
  • One person arrested at Drag Queen Story Time protest – Bristol Post. “It was at Hillfields that one of the counter-protesters was arrested. Avon and Somerset police confirmed she was later de-arrested after giving her details to officers on the ground, and the incident she was arrested for will now be investigated.”
  • Police officers pose with drag queen amid protests at library story hour in Cornwall – ITV. Bodmin “Yesterday (2 August), supporters waved the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag while protesters in Bodmin held signs stating “We are against grooming”, “Leave our kids alone”, “Let kids be kids” and “We are not transphobes”. The protest was a quiet affair, with the protesters leaving before families and Aida H Dee exited the building.”
  • Powys drag queen storytime event a hit, but protesters criticised – Powys County Times. “Powys County Council, however, confirmed they did draft in security staff for the Newtown stop after around 15-20 protesters turned up and stood outside the library, unhappy about it being held, while Dyfed Powys Police confirmed they also sent officers to the scene to make sure the event ran smoothly.”… ““Obviously, the protesters’ parents never taught them to judge other people by how they treat you rather than their appearance.”
  • Protesters and counter-protesters clash over library drag queen hour for kids – Rolling Out. “The group of around 15 protesting against the storytelling say Dee is “illegally grooming children.””
  • Protests and counter-protests at Cornwall libraries as drag queen reads to kids – Cornwall Live. “With police officers and council security present, the protest was actually a quiet affair, with the protesters leaving before families and Aida H Dee exited the building.”
  • Protests outside drag queen story event sees police called in – Norwich Evening Post. “Hundreds of people gathered outside the Forum either to show support for – or protest – a story time event held by a drag queen on Wednesday. Joseph Ballard, also known as ‘Auntie’ Titania Trust, has been targeted by people who do not think it is right for drag queens to interact with children. “
  • Protesters storm first drag queen storytime for primary school children – Telegraph. “Mothers infiltrate library event, saying: ‘We’re here to protect children’”. Paywall.
  • Rochdale Council criticised over drag queen book reading postponements – BBC. “A council has been accused of “pandering to bullies” after it postponed three drag queen book reading events at its libraries.” … “Rochdale Council said it had postponed the shows, which have seen protests in other areas, due to a risk assessment.” … “the decision to postpone the shows would cause “long lasting damage” to “an already marginalised community”, adding: “If these libraries across the country can host [the readings], so can Rochdale.””
  • Storming Drag Queen Story Hour – Scout. Protesters listed in details are anti-vaxxers, extreme right-wing groups … and a Satanic ritual abuse conspiracy theorist. Protester borrowers children from friend so she can gain entry. “Many anti-vaxxers also come from leftish backgrounds, and it’s weird to see the curdling of their hippie ideals.”
  • The storytellers facing violent threats: what’s going on with drag queens in libraries? – Times. Partial paywall.
  • They say it’s harmless fun, but some parents think it’s inappropriate indoctrination… So why are our councils spending taxpayers’ cash on getting drag queens to read stories to children? – Mail. Long anti-Drag Queen article, using DQSH’s social media to suggest inappropriateness, quoting protesters. ” ‘Drag is being romanticised as something positive and fun for kids to engage with, but behind the rainbow flags and unicorns there is an agenda at play. We are at the thin end of a wedge and down the line we will find ourselves wondering how on earth we got into it.'”

Suffolk Libraries celebrates tenth birthday on 1 August

“Monday 1 August will mark ten years since Suffolk Libraries was launched as an independent charity to run Suffolk’s library service. During this time Suffolk Libraries has kept all 44 libraries open, saved Suffolk taxpayers £25m and worked hard to develop new and innovative services and activities at the heart of the community, all with the aim of making an impact on people’s wellbeing.

Many libraries have been encouraged to change their opening hours to suit local need with some even increasing them. Suffolk Libraries also played a vital role during the darkest days of the pandemic, running library activities online, reaching out to isolated customers with befriending calls, lending laptops and delivering food parcels. Latest figures also show that overall lending was higher in 2021/22 compared with 2019/20, thanks in part to a huge rise in eLibrary use over the past few years.

Suffolk Libraries will also be opening Suffolk’s 45th library at Moreton Hall near Bury St Edmunds on 1 August. The organisation will also be sharing messages and feedback on social media throughout August including this recent award-winning video which shows the many ways in which Suffolk Libraries helps people in the community. 

Bruce Leeke, CEO of Suffolk Libraries, said: “We want to use our ten-year birthday to remind everyone of everything Suffolk Libraries does to make Suffolk a better place to live. I hear heart-warming examples of what we mean to people almost every day and we’re all very proud of what Suffolk Libraries has achieved over the past ten years. “These achievements speak for themselves but it’s our impact on people’s lives across Suffolk that really counts. It’s not just about the stories that people borrow from us, it’s about the ones we help them create. It’s the stories about how Suffolk Libraries has reached people, supported them and changed their lives for the better.

 “Suffolk Libraries is run by the community for the benefit of the community and that’s why almost everything we do is down to the amazing people who work and volunteer for our charity. This celebration is also about paying tribute to everyone who has played a role in our story; our staff, community groups and the many people who’ve supported our journey over the past ten years.”

In a video message to Suffolk Libraries Nick Poole, CEO of CILIP said: “Over the last 10 years Suffolk Libraries has emerged as something of a beacon for libraries everywhere. You’re known for throughout the profession for fresh thinking innovative ideas and really impactful advocacy. That reputation is down to the hard work and dedication of every member of staff across Suffolk Libraries and I know how much of a difference that that hard work and dedication makes to the communities that you support and serve.”

Local news by authority

At Leeds Central Library