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Vanessa Carr, right, and Blazen Haven read to children during Drag Queen Story Time Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, at the Alvar Library in New Orleans. Children and parents and caregivers packed into the library to hear stories and sing songs during the event.

The controversy over a planned drag queen story time at the Lafayette Public Library has us wishing for a simpler era when libraries didn’t inspire such fuss over their offerings. Even so, we know our nostalgia is misplaced. Truth be told, public libraries have always attracted critics upset about what’s available inside.

Libraries provide a forum for a huge number of ideas, and not all of them are going to please everyone. These public institutions are meant to inspire debate and discussion, not silence it. By that measure, the Lafayette Public Library is fulfilling its mission. The reaction to its drag queen story hour has, after all, been anything but silent. Detractors find the concept, in which male college students plan to dress as women and read children’s stories aloud, inappropriate. Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux weighed in by asking library officials to cancel the event. Joseph Gordon-Wiltz, a Robideaux appointee who chairs the library’s governing board, didn’t see eye-to-eye with the mayor on the issue and resigned.

Is drag queen story time our cup of tea? Maybe not. But such questions involve choices best left to parents, not politicians. Those who don’t care for the program can opt not to attend, just as patrons who dislike a book can decide not to read it. Drag queen story times have been held in other cities, and as far as we know, no one was harmed. The larger threat, we suspect, is creating a precedent for politicians to decide what ideas a library can or cannot make a home for. That doesn’t seem very American to us, nor is it in keeping with the best traditions of Louisiana, where live-and-let-live often defines our civic creed.

This dispute has citizens talking about their library. In Louisiana, where one in five residents can't read, maybe that’s not a bad thing.