It’s June, faithful HLS readers, and, for many of us, that means one thing – Pride Month! Beyond colorful parades and fabulous parties, there is a serious meaning behind this month. June is important to the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer-plus) community as it marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a riot led by trans women and people of color that is considered one of the seminal moments in the birth of the modern queer rights movement. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising so now is a good time to remember and reflect on this important event and its impact on American society.
Now, you may be wondering, what does Pride have to do me and my MLS? To that I say, everything! Ideally, our degrees are preparing us to work in diverse and inclusive spaces, doing work that advances equality through knowledge. The LGBTQ+ community has many of the same concerns as any set of patrons, but there are some unique issues that face this community and will come to bear on our work as information professionals. These issues include censorship of LGBTQ+ material, lack of representation in books on the shelves, and the need for privacy when accessing sexuality and gender-identity specific information. We need to be ready to help and assist the LGBTQ+ community. We need to have PRIDE in all that we do – here’s how we can do that:
If you are reading this and are currently enrolled in an MLS or MLIS program, now is the ideal time to prepare yourself to assist the LGBTQ+ community. I was lucky in that my program at Emporia State University offered an entire course in LGBTQ+ needs in the library. If your program doesn’t offer such a course, find a social justice or diversity focused course and discover ways to emphasize LGBTQ+ content. There are also tons of free resources online to help prepare yourself including information about personal pronouns, lots of amazing TED Talks, and the ALA GLBT Round Table. Use those information literacy skills and seek out what you need to know. Of course, your library of choice is also going to be an excellent resource.
I know, I know. Grad school is already throwing lots of reading your way. But in so many ways, nothing can replicate the experience of learning more through a great read. The diversity of the LGBTQ+ community lends itself to a diversity within reading choices. ALA’s Rainbow Book List and Lambda Literary are both good jumping off points for finding quality LGBTQ+ literature. Some personal recommendations I might make are Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan and Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin for fiction and How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Scientists Tamed AIDS by David France and The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle by Lillian Faderman for non-fiction.
What would the perfect library for LGBTQ+ patrons look like? How can libraries position themselves at the forefront of supporting LGBTQ+ people? These are big, overarching questions that don’t have one good answer. However, it never hurts to ask these questions. In doing so, you may uncover issues and problems. In doing so, you might be able to affect real change. Imaging a better world for all is important, and especially so for the LGBTQ+ community.
I don’t just mean money here, though that is good. I also mean your time. Find LGBTQ+ events and charities in your area and give of your time. For me, this took the form of volunteering at this year’s Kansas City Pride. By putting yourself out there you will learn about the LGBTQ+ community and grow in ways that you couldn’t imagine. It will make you a more powerful resource when you are working in an information center or a library and a patron starts asking about LGBTQ+ resources. Not only will you have the background that reading and other forms of education give you, but you will also have some hands-on ideas derived from involvement, something that is especially important if you don’t happen to be LGBTQ+.
Don’t just let your newfound knowledge go stale. You didn’t take that class, read that book, and donate your time just to sit there content, full of your new knowledge. Pass it on! Recommend books, keep an eye on how policies (both institutional and broader) are affecting LGBTQ+ people, and speak out when you feel able. Perhaps even find a way to present to your colleagues in a professional development setting, like a conference. You never know who might need the information or who might appreciate seeing you advocate.
Libraries play a crucial role in ensuring a thriving, pluralistic society. Ensuring that we, as the next generation of information professional, know as much about our patrons and our communities is vital. This Pride Month go above, go beyond, and be excellent in how you serve the LGBTQ+ community.
Nick Dean is a first-year master’s student in the School of Library and Information Management (SLIM) at Emporia State University. Nick currently works as an academic advisor at a medical school in Kansas City.