For Shame

Conservatives harassed this small town library into closing its doors

After 53 years in operation, a small library in upstate New York closed when violence erupted over a Drag Queen Story Hour. Months later, despite intervention from the state, the library has not reopened.

Lake Luzerne, a town of around 1,400 people, had a library that offered twice-weekly readings to children. In April, the library’s board of trustees consulted with the Vermont chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour to host a one-time reading.

“It was going to be a celebration of being who you are, no matter what that looked like,” Amanda Hoffman, the library’s (now former) director of youth services, told The New York Times. “That was the important part for us.”

“We knew it would probably be controversial,” Hoffman added. “We didn’t expect it to be what it became.”

Within days of the announcement, the usually sparsely attended library board meeting was flooded with protestors. Josh Jacquard, minister of the nearby Victory Bible Baptist Church, led the group, villainizing the library as “converting our children to an overly sexualized lifestyle and way of thinking.”

“You have done something that’s insulting the integrity of this library, and are putting our children in danger,” he added, ignoring the fact that no one was forcing his children to attend.

One resident, Jade Eddy, who showed up in support of the library, recalled going home to cry after the meeting. “I heard so many homophobic and bigoted things coming out of people’s mouths, things that I thought in 2023 nobody thought anymore,” she said.

The library put the event on an indefinite hold. Over the ensuing months, the library received a bomb threat, library staff were openly harassed, and a board meeting ended in a fist fight.  “I was called a groomer, a pedophile, a child abuser,” said Hoffman, who identifies as queer but was not publicly out at the time. “Someone prayed for Satan to leave my soul.”

In May, Jacquard won an election to the library board of trustees. His first move was to catalog books the library had bought in the previous years, searching for material that “promoted a gay lifestyle.”

As board meetings grew increasingly combative (including a phone call to the police), board members resigned in droves. By the new school year, there were not enough staff members left to run the library, and it has been closed ever since. All this, and the Drag Queen Story Hour never took place.

Although the reading was never held at the library, residents formed the Upper Hudson Queer Alliance. This group organized Lake Luzerne’s first ever Pride event, which included a Drag Queen Story Hour picnic.

Last month, the state’s Education Department appointed three new board members, opening a path for the library to be reopened at some point in the future. Although the new trustees were not voted on by residents, new board member Rosemarie Gardner said of the reopening, “We need to re-establish trust with our community.”

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