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Fired EVPL trustee says she was bullied over Drag Queen Story Hour

The EVPL North Park Branch that will host the Drag Queen Story Hour on Feb. 23. (Photo via EVPL website)
Former EVPL trustee Barbara Williams
(Photo from EVPL website.)

EVANSVILLE — Barbara Williams, the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library (EVPL) trustee who was removed from her position, has told the local newspaper that she was “lied to, bullied, intimidated and threatened” by a county council member.

Williams told the Evansville Courier & Press that she felt bullied and intimidated by constant calls from District 2 County Councilman Tom Shetler Jr. about the Drag Queen Story Hour set for Feb. 23 at the EVPL.

From the Courier & Press:

“It went from concerned citizen to ‘this is not going to happen in this community.’ He said, ‘If you don’t do something, you’re probably not going to be reappointed to the library board.'”

Shetler said he didn’t intimidate Williams but rather called out of “courtesy.” He said he nominated Williams to join the EVPL board four years ago.

“I felt that I owed it to her — based on conversations I had with other members of Council who were equally upset as I was — that we were not representing the taxpayers in the proper way,” he said. “I don’t take that as bullying. I think that was a good, honest conversation that I had with someone who was representing my values and the Council’s values. We (Council members) all stood (Wednesday) with what our values are, and we had someone there that wasn’t representing those values.”

Shetler said the EVPL board was given a less than 48 hours notice that Drag Queen Story Hour would be on their agenda in December’s meeting. He said EVPL administration had planned this event for over 18 months.

He encouraged Williams to ask for a postponement of the event for a few months until the Trustees had time to “study and look at it.”

Williams told the newspaper that she supports the Story Hour and likes the dialogue taking place. She said that other library board trustees haven’t been contacted by appointing authorities. As recently as November, the county council had asked if she wanted to be reappointed to the board. She had told them she did.

“All indications were that I would be reappointed,” Williams told the Courier & Press. “And then this (Drag Queen Story Hour) came up. This is all Tom Shetler’s doing. I think it’s very scary and wrong to use one’s political position to try and move their personal religious views forward.”

Shelter told the newspaper that the Story Hour has “opened a can of worms” and that the library board hadn’t been doing its job.

Williams said that the board doesn’t micromanage programs at the library.

Library board trustees are appointed by the local school district, the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation, the Vanderburgh County Commissioners and the county council. The commissioners have gotten calls to replace their board member. School board president Karen Ragland told the newspaper they will not remove their appointees to the library board during their meeting earlier this month.

This is just the latest in the controversy that has been hitting this city over Drag Queen Story Hour, with protests for and against. Usually the Story Hour goes on with no problems, as happen with Illinois readings. But there have been pushback in other areas, including an armed man going to a Houston, Tex. library holding a story hour, even after being barred from the building.

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