Expanding on the theme of diversity within HLS began by Micah and within the LIS profession by Rebecca, I would like to take a moment to add a queer perspective to this discussion. My identity as a queer person has played a major role in my entry into this wacky world of library and information science. The importance of access to information for queer people, who often cannot turn to the usual sources, such as family and friends, to learn about themselves or form positive self images, is huge. So, from my perspective libraries and queer people are forever linked because libraries have what we need–information! My goal is to make queer materials and queer issues more visible in libraries, and the most obvious place to start is with myself, and right now, here in my first HLS post.
I’ve been able to build queer themes into almost every class I’ve taken at San Jose State SLIS, and I even had the opportunity to take a class last semester devoted entirely to the subject of serving LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer) library users with Ellen Greenblatt. From term papers on censorship to a pathfinder about queer art to a research proposal on library outreach to queer youth, I’ve done my homework. And this semester I feel very lucky to be interning at a queer library, the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center, located within the San Francisco Public Library. The Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center collects, preserves, and promotes queer materials, and gives a very public face to the library’s queer collections. Places like the Hormel Center, the Lavender Library, One Archives and others were created in an attempt to rectify a history of censorship and marginalization of queer materials within libraries and archives.
Thankfully, the ALA has very progressive policies around diversity and access to information, but as Micah’s and Rebecca’s posts on racial diversity point out, creating real live diversity among library staff, library school student bodies, and I would add library collections/programs/services, etc., is not so easy. And as queer people become more assimilated into mainstream culture, I’m not convinced that that necessarily translates into more queer books, programs, services, or necessarily even more out queer staff members, at the library. Seeing Ellen on TV everyday may lead some in the LIS field, or people in general, to think that all the battles for LGBTIQ people have been fought and won. But there is still much work to be done! As libraries aim to be on the cutting edge of technology to remain relevant, why can’t libraries also aim to be on the cutting edge of diversity by creating collections and services that reach beyond the status quo? I’m talking about really investing in it, promoting it–getting innovative about diversity, all kinds of diversity. I think that would be great way for libraries to remain relevant–forever!
But then, how do we actually make this happen? One idea that would put the library’s progressive ideals into action is for more libraries to serve as safe-spaces. I’d love to hear your ideas and comments.