Halifax, Nova Scotia, CA – On July 8, 2019, a resident of the Halifax Regional Municipality emailed Halifax Public Libraries to inquire about the criminal background and/or vulnerable records checks being conducted for drag queens performing in “Drag Queen Story Time” at various Halifax Public Library locations. The resident sought reassurance that the library was taking steps “to prevent predators from accessing children in their spaces”.
The chief librarian, Åsa Kachan, responded that the library does not “undertake criminal records checks for (guest speakers, performers, and the community members who participate in the programs), as they are under the supervision of event hosts, and are not engaging with members of the public one-on-one”.
The librarian also informed the resident that the library stands “as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, recognizing that members of the community still face discrimination regularly, despite their protection under the Human Rights Act”. Ms Kachan did not specify the connection between support for the LGBTQ+ community, and the library’s policy of not undertaking background checks for its Drag Queen Story Time performers.
Additionally, the librarian noted that “the show is not sexual. It is stories and singing in a safe space that invites everyone to celebrate their individuality and have fun.”
In response, the resident questioned whether library staff have appropriate training on how to respond to inappropriate sexual behaviour. The resident noted that, at one of the Halifax libraries, a man had been watching pornography on a computer in a large, open area and in front of a small child. The only action from library staff was to inform the man that he could not watch porn there; security was not called and the man was able to remain in the library.
The resident also pointed the librarian to news reports of the Houston Public Library having to publicly apologize following revelations that a sex offender participated in a drag queen story time, as a result of the library foregoing criminal background checks.
The resident also expressed concern over the physical contact with children at the Halifax libraries.
Thanks Chris Catherine Cochrane for reading I Am Jazz to some of our tiniest listeners yesterday in support of gender creative and transgender students across Nova Scotia.
Posted by Simply Good Form on Friday, March 1, 2019
The chief librarian has not responded.
Update: Shortly after this article was posted, an individual contacted Women Are Human to relay a similar experience:
“Hey there just saw your article about Halifax library. I called and asked the very same question in light of the Houston shenanigans and the first person I spoke with accused me of homophobia. After inquiring their name and requesting to speak to someone who wasn’t quite as volatile, they patched me through to the head librarian of the children’s library who mysteriously wasn’t answering their phone that day. After a little research I found another number that linked me with administration and they reassured me that all of their volunteers were CRC’ed after I expressed my concern. According to this link https://www.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/support/volunteer/ you are required to have the CRC but not the vulnerable sector check. Frankly, I’m confused.”
Those wishing to contact the library about its policy can contact:
Åsa Kachan, Chief Librarian & CEO, Halifax Public Libraries:
Phone: (902) 490-3991