The Impact of Library Access in Queer Communities
Libraries fight to be safe, affirming LGBTQIIA+ gathering spaces.
It’s officially Pride Month! It’s time to talk about LGTBQIIA+ literature and the impact of access to books on queer communities. There are many ways to celebrate Pride! Maybe that means reading the classic, groundbreaking LGBTQIIA+ literature like James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room or more contemporary novels like Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop. In the face of the spike in book challenges, libraries continue to advocate for accessible LGBTQIIA+ literature for everyone.
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Libraries Are Safe Spaces
Libraries have always striven to be safe spaces for all community members. Libraries house essential information, LGBTQIIA+ topics, and educational materials for people within the community or those interested in allyship. In an article posted by Publishers Weekly, author Camille Perri said, “when I was coming to terms with my sexuality, I often felt like I needed to seek sanctuary outside of my house, and the library was the first place I went.”
The Important History of LGBTQIIA+ Representation in Libraries
Libraries have gained significant ground in increasing LGBTQIIA+ representation in their stacks. Library activists began advocating for increased expression in 1969. In 1970, the American Library Association (ALA) formed a group known as the Task Force on Gay Liberation. This task force would later become the Rainbow Round Table, one of the earliest LGBTQIIA+ professional organizations in the United States.
However, the Rainbow Round Table formation didn’t resolve everything, and efforts for safe, affirming LGBTQIIA+ representation continue to be essential today. When the Rainbow Round Table formed, the group worked hard to create bibliographies, revise classifications, and fight against job discrimination. Much of their early efforts are still implemented and reinforced in libraries today.
Creating Affirming Spaces for Children
Many school librarians and educators are working hard to create LGBTQIIA+ affirming spaces in schools and public libraries. For example, instead of separating literature and books featuring LGBTQIIA+ characters by section, libraries advocate that users should find these materials in all library areas.
A nationwide program called Drag Queen Story Hour invites drag queens to read children’s literature in public libraries, schools, and bookstores.
Librarians around the country are seeking feedback from the community and diversifying book displays. Speak to your local librarians about what you would like to see happening in your library.
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Fostering a Sense of Community
According to ALA, “gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people can benefit from the access to information that libraries provide and the sense of community that library programs can help foster.” They also provide a general list of actions libraries should take and resources they should use to welcome their community members. Although the queer community faces challenges, libraries combat this through positive representation, supportive allyship, and educational literature.
Libraries Actively Fight Book Challenging
Unfortunately, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom reported that LGBTQIIA+ topics were the most commonly cited reasons for US book challenges in 2020. However, librarians are actively fighting against the challenge of LGBTQIIA+ literature. In conjunction with the Library Bill of Rights, access to library resources is considered a first amendment right. Thus, libraries across the country are doing everything they can to increase inclusivity and promote intellectual freedom.
LGBTQIIA+ Books Are Important
Representation matters. All diverse literature matters. Reading positive depictions of diverse characters helps people feel seen. LGBTQIIA+ literature is essential for everyone.
In an article posted on Book Riot, librarian Ingrid Conley-Abrams stated that “a school library devoid of queer characters and narratives is not a library.“ As LGBTQIIA+ book challenges continue to rise, this enables a harmful idea of shame and marginalization. In reality, LGTBQIA+ literature validates life experiences, helps community members feel welcomed, and prevents discrimination.