The ALA’s Rainbow Round Table

Did you know that the Rainbow Round Table is the oldest professional LGBTQIA+ organization?

The United States’ first and oldest professional LGTBQIA+ organization continues to advocate for diverse, affirming, and inclusive literature.

June is Pride Month in the United States, a time to celebrate progress while acknowledging what still needs to change. Several professional organizations advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights nationwide, but one primarily focuses on free and accessible education. This is the ALA’s Rainbow Round Table, which has been supporting LGTBQIA+ rights for over fifty years.

About the Rainbow Round Table

The Rainbow Round Table (RRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) was the first professional LGTBQIA+ organization in the United States. Still advocating today, the RRT aims to educate and provide free resources to all communities nationwide, particularly amongst the LGTBQ+ community.

Partnering with the ALA, the RRT allows members to access various free LGTBQ+ resources, including ideas for advocacy involvement. According to its website’s purpose statement, the RRT promotes “the improved quality, quantity, and accessibility of library materials and services of particular interest or usefulness to LGBTQIA+ people of all ages.”

Together, the ALA and the RRT meet the needs of the LGTBQ+ community and educate people about underrepresented communities nationwide.


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History of the RRT


On July 1, 1970, Israel Fishman coordinated the first meeting of the Task Force on Gay Liberation at the ALA Annual Conference in Detroit, Michigan. The organization’s first goals were to create bibliographies, fight job discrimination, improve access to library materials, and revise library classification schemes. Barbara Gittings created a list of thirty-seven LGBTQIA+-affirming books, pamphlets, and magazine articles, the first of what would become known as a “gay bibliography.”

In June of 1971, at another ALA conference in Dallas, Texas, the Task Force announced A Place For Us by Isabel Miller as the first winner of the Gay Book Award. They also held their first program, “Sex and the Single Cataloger: New Thoughts on Some Unthinkable Subjects,” with panelists Steve Wolf and Joan Marshall. It was here that they debuted their “Hug-a-Homosexual” booth in the exhibit hall.

After their groundbreaking actions in Dallas, the Task Force continued to advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights. They began by supporting J. Michael McConnell when his job offer for the University of Minnesota Library was declined upon filling a marriage application with his partner. In 1972, Barbara Gittings joined the ALA and entered her role as Task Force coordinator.

By 1975, over four hundred people attended a panel discussion of LGBTQ+ characters in young adult novels at the San Francisco ALA Annual Conference. The group also formally changed its name to the “Gay Task Force.”


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In 1977, US musician Anita Bryant led a regressive anti-LGTBQ+ campaign. In response, the Task Force successfully submitted a resolution reaffirming ALA’s support for equal employment. In 1980, the sixth and final edition of A Gay Bibliography, containing 563 entries, was printed and distributed in 38,000 copies.

Six years after the bibliography’s release, the Task Force’s Gay Book Award was formally recognized as an official ALA prize. Two years later, the Task Force initiated a consistent quarterly newsletter until Fall 2013. This was replaced by today’s GLBT blog, accessible through their website.

The Task Force sponsored its first ALA preconference in 1992, a half-day session called “When Sex is the Question, Who Answers?” That same year, the Task Force attended the San Francisco parade, featured on the front cover of American Libraries magazine’s July/August issues.


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1995 – Present

The Task Force changed their name to the “Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Task Force” in 1995. Later that year, on June 24, the GLBTF threw a twenty-fifth anniversary gala at the ALA conference in Chicago, Illinois. On June 30, 1999, the ALA council unanimously voted to promote the GLBTF to Round Table status. This became the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association.

The organization wasn’t renamed for two decades before becoming the Rainbow Round Table in 2019. One year after its current name was declared, the RRT celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2020, making it the first and oldest professional LGBTQIA+ organization in the US.

Advocating for Inclusive Literacy

Although the Rainbow Round Table’s name has changed several times over fifty decades, its primary goals have not. The RRT still aims to make LGTBQIA+ resources accessible, especially for community members. Modern initiatives to share LGTBQ+ literature include Rainbow Book Month in June alongside Pride Month.

Even so, the organization’s advocacy efforts go far beyond book recommendations, as crucial as those are. The RRT continually pays attention to anti-LGTBQIA+ campaigns in the US, particularly those centered around book censorship. The group also rewards publications that uplift LGTBQ+ voices with accolades, grants, and scholarships, such as the Stonewall Book Awards.

For over fifty years, the Rainbow Round Table has advocated for easy, free access to LGTBQIA+ education. EveryLibrary supports its mission and aims to assist US public libraries during Pride Month. Visit the RRT’s website to learn more about how it supports LGTBQIA+ rights.



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