Not long ago, I asked a room full of about 30 queer youth, most in their early twenties, to raise their hand if they were bullied at school. Almost everyone did.I then asked those who had been bullied if they had taken refuge in their school library. About 75% of the room raised their hand.
If 10% of your library’s user demographic were from a non-English speaking background, you would tailor your services to that demographic, by having books in other languages, English as a second language resources and classes, and employing staff which can speak a range of secondary languages.
The LGBTQ Community is no different. Research shows that approximately 9-11% of people are not exclusively heterosexual (as determined by La Trobe’s 3rd National Survey into Secondary Students and Sexual Health, 2002). However, as this demographic isn’t something that can collected from local census information, or from your annual user survey, it is often forgotten when revising collection management policies, or youth services.
There are a number of ways a school or public library can address this:
• Collection management: Make sure you have titles in your collection that are LGBTQ inclusive. This includes adult, YA, and junior areas. There is a huge array of picture books which are ‘family friendly’, and are more than suitable to place in your Junior Kindergarten section. A simple Google search can provide you with many book lists.
• Most public libraries have a number of posters decorating the walls. Make sure you have some that are inclusive. The Freedom Centre in WA can provide you with some fantastic ones that state “This is a safe space in which everyone is welcomed and respected”. Perfect for your YA section.
• Inclusive StoryTime! Try including some LGBTQ friendly picture books every once in a while. Many parents will thank you for explaining to their kids why their Uncle Frank and Uncle Bill live together. Not to mention the fact that LGBTQ parents will be thrilled, and will quite possibly spread the word within your local Community that your StoryTime is awesome.
• Spine labels: it may seem simple, but having an inverted pink triangle, or a small rainbow sticker as a genre label can do a lot. To people who have an interest in LGBTQ literature, this is a flashing neon sign. To everyone else, it is just another book. For LGBTQ youth who may be still in the closet, or live in a country area, you are showing them the way to connect with the wider Community, and proving to the most lonely, frightened teenager that they are not alone.
• Pride is commonly referred to as Gay Christmas. Most major cities will set aside three or four weeks of the year for events, lectures, Fair Day and celebrations, cumulating in the epic Pride Parade. So why should your library miss out on the fun? Set up a display, host an LGBTQ themed movie night,invite queer authors in for books talks, or have a special Pride-themed StoryTime. Do anything you like for Pride, so long as you have fun!
No matter what you choose to do, by making sure your library is LGBTQ inclusive, you are making a positive difference to your community. If you want to find out more, join the ALIA LGBTQ e-list (http://alia.org.au/alianet/e-lists/). You do not need to identify as LGBTQ, or even be an ALIA member to join.
Visit Suzie Day’s blog at: http://cataloguethis.com/