As librarians, we are accustomed to celebrating many months. February is African American History Month. March is Women’s History Month. And April is School Library Month, Poetry Month, and Math Awareness Month. I am sure you have displays for all them, just as you do for the holidays in November and December.
June is GLBT Book Month. Have you done anything to highlight it? I can hear a dead silence (crickets chirping) as I write these words. Many of you won’t do anything. Some of you have reason to believe you can’t do anything. But what about library ethics?
Back in April I did a blog post on the “Many Layers of Diversity.” I was bringing ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee’s draft of the Library Bill of Rights Interpretation – Equity, Diversity, to your attention. I dealt with all the aspects of the interpretation including meeting the needs of everyone in the school including LGBTQ students. (I am more familiar with LGBTQ rather than GLBT.)
In June, these young people take center stage. Are you up to the challenge? Have you been avoiding books having LGBTQ characters? I am not here to preach to those of you who are in untenable positions on the topic. I know some of you work and live in communities where you would be vilified and possibly fired for purchasing these books. And you would not likely be hired anywhere else since the people in the surrounding towns hold the same views.
If you are sufficiently courageous, you might purchase some titles with your own funds. Keep them in your office. Your LGBTQ students in these communities are more isolated and fearful than in other more tolerant areas. When you have identified one of these kids, let them read the books you have in the library. Taking them home could constitute a danger to you and possibly to them. But you want your library to be a safe, welcoming environment for all your users. And these students need to feel safe someplace.
How far you go in marking this month is up to you. If you are one step up from the most restrictive communities, consider an annotated booklist. In a more tolerant area you can put the titles on display and post it to your website.
Helen Adams, an active member in AASL and the Freedom to Read Foundation just did a blog for Knowledge Quest entitled “June is GLBQ Book Month.” In it she gives example of how to build a rainbow collection. She encourages you to include GLBT titles among others when you give a book talk, and offers suggestions for educating teachers.
Adams points out, “Of the 323 book challenges reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom for 2016, five of the top 10 challenged books for 2016 included titles that LGBT characters including two with transgender children.” She reminds librarians if they are facing a book challenge, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom is ready and able to offer confidential support.
Do check out the resources and links she provides in the article. Some of you might be surprised by the experiences of one New England middle school librarian who reported, “LGBTQ inclusion has become a normal part of the everyday activities in the library, and I think this has had a positive impact. This year, I’ve had an eighth-grade student ask me a couple times for good coming out stories, and earlier this year a sixth-grade student came to me to ask about pronoun etiquette.”
GLBT kids can be found in every school in the country. Some are more obvious about it—when they feel safe. Others are desperately trying to hide who they are. They all deserve to know they aren’t alone and your library is a safe place for them. If you think you have a challenge – can you even begin to imagine theirs?
What are you doing for your GLBT students this month – and every month? How much of a challenge is this for you?