I wrote a guest blog for Gay YA, which posted today:
I’m not a young adult librarian, but I’m a longtime reader of young adult fiction, particularly stories that feature lesbian characters. As a reader, I can confirm that we’ve come a long way since the days of having to (as recently described by Mary at Queer Books Please) scour mainstream books for some hint of queer content. My coming of age and coming out was largely done in pre-internet days, when often the best you could do was manufacture your own subtext. Although it’s still inconsistent and problematic, YA fiction is increasingly diverse. According to the book Serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens, five to six percent of American teens identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and eighty percent of teens know someone who does. For questioning teens, the public library should be a safe space in which they can to find stories and resources to help them articulate their identities.
Unfortunately, librarians have not always made it easy to find information. Censorship–in the form of simply not purchasing materials that might be considered “controversial”–has always been a problem. People often take it upon themselves to challenge books with any queer content in the name of protecting “the children,” which can bring negative publicity to a library. In addition, catalogers have the option to make items more or less discoverable in a library catalog, depending on the subject headings they choose to add to an item’s record. For teens, who are among the least likely to approach a librarian, being able to find books for themselves is extremely important. Items having to do with sex and sexuality are often among those that are used (not to mention stolen) anonymously at the library–read clandestinely and not necessarily checked out.
I don’t mean to sound as if the situation is dire and there are no LGBTQ resources to be found in most libraries. However, I do believe that there is more that librarians AND library patrons can do to improve the quantity and visibility of these materials in library collections.
Use your local library!
Request materials. Let your librarians know–through purchase requests, in-person recommendations, or even through the items that you are getting via interlibrary loan–that there is a demand for these materials.
Donate your old, unwanted, and duplicate copies of LGBTQ fiction and other materials.
Give someone a gift by donating a book to the library in their name. A friend of mine donated a copy of Leah Petersen’s book Fighting Gravity to my library to thank me for something I had helped her with. You can support both the library and worthy authors this way.
Participate in library events, such as the summer reading program.
Support your library if and when it becomes involved in a public book challenge. Write an editorial to your local newspaper, if you have to!
Order those materials! There are plenty of well-reviewed, award-winning books that you can purchase for the library. Purchase items to meet a variety of needs and interests, even if you haven’t seen any evidence of them. These teens may not speak up, but they exist in your community, and the materials should be there when they look for them.
Create displays that showcase the items in your collection, making it clear that the library is a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQ teens. Actively solicit suggestions for purchases of new materials.
Read some of these books! If you don’t have the time to read, check out reviews here at Gay YA or at other sites like I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I Read?, Queer YA, and Rainbow Books. Be prepared to offer recommendations.
Have your policies and your Request for Reconsideration form ready to meet any challenges. Train your staff on how to respond to complaints. Preparation and justification is the best defense in a challenge situation.
Public librarians have a professional responsibility to make these materials available to everyone, not just the at-risk teens who need them the most. Community members with an interest in having these materials available to teens have a responsibility to let the library know that they’re wanted and needed in the library. Together we can make it happen!
Found while weeding. I think there are a few of us here in the tumblarian community who can make this our own.
This is the second of four recommended reading lists of queer and queer-ish books, organized by Hogwarts houses! Gryffindor can be found here. ENJOY.
Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
This collection of short works on identity, community and authenticity covers a lot of territory - “passing” as related to gender, race, disability, work, nationality, sexuality, and more. Pick it up if you’re itching for more complex perspectives on social justice.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Besides being an absolute masterpiece of the comics format, Bechdel’s memoir about her cold and inscrutable father earns major Ravenclaw appeal with its highbrow literary allusions. If psychology is more your thing, try her other memoir, Are You My Mother?
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This book tells the story of two Mexican-American teens - Ari, an angry loner, and Dante, a quirky intellectual - who form a transformative bond and ponder over poetry, philosophy and life’s many mysteries. I haven’t gotten my hands on this one yet, but I’ve been told it’s one of those rare transcendent young adult books, emotionally resonant and masterfully crafted.
Israel/Palestine and the Queer International by Sarah Schulman
This latest work from the prolific author and longtime activist chronicles her travels through Tel Aviv and the West Bank and her growing consciousness of the occupation of Palestine. Read it for a knowledgeable queer perspective on a divisive topic.
Adaptation by Malinda Lo
There’s not much on this list for science aficionados, but hopefully some science fiction will suit you. Did you know Malinda Lo did graduate work on The X-Files? This novel, the first in a forthcoming series, has flavors of the 90s TV show and should delight fans of Mulder and Scully, creepy conspiracies, and queer representation in sci-fi lit.
Transgender History by Susan Stryker
For the history buffs - this concise text on transgender people in America between the mid twentieth century and early twenty-first puts trans communities and movements in historical context and offers a compact but comprehensive chronicle of our stories.
Solid book recommendations, even if you weren’t sorted into Ravenclaw.
It really came as no surprise to me to learn that at the time she was writing Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh had been a butch known within the lesbian community as Willie. When she came into a large inheritance, she bought men’s clothes and had them tailored for her, vowing never again to wear women’s clothes. I don’t know if she consciously thought of Harriet as cross-dresser, but I am certainly not the only one to have recognized her as a kindred spirit.
God this is glorious.
Holla! Our sister magazine, The Horn Book, is nonstop awesome.
With all the excitement, here’s just a note on the history of librarianship and the gay rights movement:
While I did know a bit about librarian activist Barbara Gittings (pictured above and featured here in My Daguerreotype Librarian) and I knew about the American Library Association’s GLBT Round Table, I did not realize the GLBTRT was founded as the very first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender professional organization:
In 1970, the ALA founded the first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender professional organization, called the “Task Force on Gay Liberation”, now known as the GLBT Round Table. In the early 1970s, the Task Force on Gay Liberation campaigned to have books about the gay liberation movement at the Library of Congress reclassified from HQ 71–471 (“Abnormal Sexual Relations, Including Sexual Crimes”). In 1972, after receiving a letter requesting the reclassification, the Library of Congress agreed to make the shift, reclassifying those books into a newly created category, HQ 76.5 (“Homosexuality, Lesbianism—Gay Liberation Movement, Homophile Movement”).”
Today, from ALA:
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) Round Table of the American Library Association is committed to serving the information needs of the GLBT professional library community, and the GLBT information and access needs of individuals at large. We are committed to encouraging and supporting the free and necessary access to all information, as reflected by the missions of the American Library Association.
I’m feeling pretty decent about being a librarian today. And a member of ALA, at that. Let’s keep being allies. Let’s keep trying. Let’s try harder. OK?
(And h/t to John Chrastka over at EveryLibrary for enlightening me to all this good stuff.)
Inspired by thispost and the general lack of awareness about some things among the community here are some books to read if you want to partake in reading diversely!
That is literally a list of books written by Queer People of Color. I’ve read a lot of them being a QPOC myself and they’re quite good.
This is another good list of books about perspectives that do not fit the hegemony.
And I’m not sure if it’s on those lists but Racism Without Racists is a must read.
That is the link to the pdf online.
This is basically my favorite kind of Tumblr post.
In the library after school, I looked for a picture of Audre Lorde, this poet I assumed was a white woman because all of the poems we read in class were by dead white men and women. Oh, and Langston Hughes. Then I found Audre Lorde’s “Love Poem.”
“And I knew when I entered her I was / High wind in her forests hollow / Fingers whispering sound / Honey flowed.”
This poem is about a black woman having sex with a woman she loves. This poem is about the fact that we can write poems like this poem.
This is a recent post on the Hack Library School blog, written by Sarah Alexander. I really, really love this article because it speaks to a number of challenges faced by LGBT2Q librarians (but the same challenges faced by other professionals, too). I’ve been very fortunate in my short career to have been hired by, and work alongside, LGBT professionals, and their allies. I’ve never encountered discrimination (to my knowledge, anyway), and frankly, I’ve learned that being gay has been a strength in my own professional career.
When I began job hunting, I organized an informational interview with a hiring manager at a large library, and I wanted feedback on my CV and interview skills. One of the things that they pointed out was that on my CV, I provided a link to my personal/professional website (a Wordpress site that I run, not my tumblr). My wordpress site is a space where I post professionally-related accomplishments, thoughts and ideas, and much more text/written content. In one of the posts they had read, it mentioned that my boyfriend and I had visited New York, and had a tour of the New York Public Library, etc. The individual cautioned that I shouldn’t post about my sexual orientation because it could have negative implications on my job hunt. At this moment I was a bit confused, because I knew that the individual with whom I was speaking was gay. From their perspective, they felt that my being open about being gay might be a bad idea, but I respectfully disagreed. I mean, I wouldn’t want to work for a library or organization that had a problem with my sexuality, so I would rather be upfront about it from the start. If they don’t want to interview me because they read that I tour libraries with my boyfriend, then it’s their loss.
For me now, in the workplace and in interviews, I present myself just as I am, and being gay is only part of me. Sarah mentions in the article that she finds it hard to balance personal and professional personas, and I do share this challenge (e.g. with Twitter, Tumblr, etc.). I think in the end though, it’s best to just be yourself.