Will there be more protests and counter protests this weekend in Sonoma County?
County library officials say they hope not. A small controversy arose recently when a group of parents picketed the idea of the Petaluma library hosting a drag story hour.
Part of Pride Month programming at public libraries across the county, the event will feature a performer reading books to an all-ages crowd at one of four hour-long story hours planned for Saturday and Sunday.
“This has been an ongoing thing that we've been working on. We only found out maybe about a week and a half to two weeks before Pride Month began that there would be possible protestors," Erika Thibault, director of Sonoma County Libraries, told KRCB News Thursday.
She said she and colleagues recently attended a California Library Association conference in Sacramento, where cultural flashpoints are explored.
“There were several workshops and panels on this particular issue, so we were able to quickly connect with other libraries in the state of California who had encountered protestors, and they were able to give us advice on how to approach things,” Thibault said.
Thibault said the Sonoma County library system has both a staff committee that does the programming for summer reading and Pride Month…and a queer advisory team.
These days public libraries are striving to be more inclusive, Thibault said, Instead of equality of service, they are focusing on equity and what that truly means.
"Because from our perspective, equity and equality are not the same thing...we want to reach out to underserved and underrepresented communities that have typically not been included in library programs and services," Thibault said.
As for the group vocalizing their opposition to such library offerings, Thibault said she welcomes the dialog…
"These groups who are protesting, you know, we are more than happy to work with them and help identify what we could do. We want them to tell us what we can provide for them...that doesn't involve taking something away from someone else," Thibault said. "I hope, and this is what I would encourage...people to come themselves and see what it's all about, draw their own conclusions."