Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 2022 May 31

The following  post is one in a regular series on issues of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility, compiled by Jay Weitz.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month, June 2022

Public activism in what we now know as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community (LGBTQ) in the United States dates back at least to the late 1940s and early 1950s, and with the founding in 1950 of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles and in 1955 of the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco.  But it was the 28 June 1969 uprising against police harassment at Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn that was the defining moment of the nascent movement then generally called “gay liberation.” Because the Stonewall Rebellion occurred on the last weekend of June 1969, the last Sunday in June early on became the most commonly celebrated “Gay Pride Day” around the United States.  Soon, the commemoration of the impact of the LGBTQ community on society grew to encompass the entire month of June. The Library of Congress makes available an extensive site about Pride Month, related research guides and other resources, and audio and video materials.

Established as National Lesbian and Gay Book Month in the early 1990s by The Publishing Triangle, Rainbow Book Month has been administered since 2015 by the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services and what is now the Rainbow Round Table (formerly the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table).  Going back to 1971, the GLBTRT had granted the Stonewall Book Awards “for exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.”  In fact, the awards have evolved over the years to where there are now three Stonewall awards:  the Barbara Gittings Literature Award for adult literature, the Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award, and the Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award.  The full list of honored books, mostly including links to their records, can be found at Stonewall Book Awards List.

The Publishing Triangle, The Association of LGBTQ People in Publishing, gives no fewer than ten awards in various nonfiction, fiction, poetry, play-writing, and related categories.  It also maintains its own pair of lists, the first listing the “Best Lesbian and Gay Novels” up to the late 1990s, supplemented by an additional 88 books suggested by visitors to the website.

Leslie M. Van Veen McRoberts of Michigan State University (OCLC Symbol: EEM) writes “A Legacy of Life, Love, and Hope in Special Collections: The Papers of LGBTQ+ Anthropologist Stephen O. Murray” in the May/June 2022 issue of Archival Outlook (pages 8-9) from the Society of American Archivists. The Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections, donated by Dr. Hong after the 2019 death of his husband Murray, comprised the largest cash gift ever to the MSU library and will include the materials of Murray, “one of the earliest LGBTQ-focused sociologists.”

Consequences of banning books

From banning books to blocking library databases

“Republican lawmakers across the country are proposing legislation that would target online library databases and library management technology — tools built by a half-dozen large companies that catalogue millions of books, journals and articles that students peruse for assignments,” writes Washington Post education reporter Hannah Natanson. In her article “The next book ban: States aim to limit titles students can search for,” Natanson warns that, in contrast to the headline-grabbing disputes over school library book bans in the United States, these attempts to regulate library databases have received relatively little attention.

Book bans and Advanced Placement

The American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) reminds us that the growing efforts to ban materials and “divisive concepts” threaten considerably more than what is already obvious. On the Intellectual Freedom Blog, Gretchen Corsillo, Director of New Jersey’s Rutherford Public Library (OCLC Symbol: QYD), writes “Book Challenges Could Affect AP Course Designation.” The College Board, the not-for-profit organization “dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education” and which administers the SAT and the Advanced Placement (AP) Program, reiterates the principles on which AP is based in What AP Stands For. “These principles are not new; they are, rather, a reminder of how AP already works in classrooms nationwide. The following principles are designed to ensure that teachers’ expertise is respected, required course content is understood, and that students are academically challenged and free to make up their own minds.” Among the seven enumerated principles are “foster[ing] an open-minded approach to the histories and cultures of different peoples” and opposition to censorship and to indoctrination. As Corsillo concludes, “If enough titles are removed from a school’s curriculum that it ceases to adhere to the AP framework, the students will ultimately suffer through no fault of their own.”

Serving students with special needs

Library services for children with special needs and their caregivers is the focus of “A Sense of Support: Libraries curate accessibility collections for young patrons and their caregivers,” by Annemarie Mannion. Among the programs highlighted are the Youth Accessibility Support Collection of Bloomfield Township Public Library (OCLC Symbol: EVX) in Michigan, USA; the Sensory Toy Collection of Sunderland Public Library (WorldCat Registry ID: 11352) in Massachusetts; and the Accessibility Support Collection of Arlington Heights Memorial Library (OCLC Symbol: JBL) in Illinois. Starting small and paying close attention to the needs of the community are key points to keep in mind when trying to build such vital services.

Peer mentoring for librarians of color

Two librarians of color who met as academic library staff members and mentored each other through the process of earning their MLIS degrees write about the value of peer mentorship, especially in a profession that remains overwhelmingly white, in “Pairing Up.” Taylor Healey-Brooks, African American collections and community engagement librarian at the Douglass-Truth Branch of Seattle Public Library (OCLC Symbol: UOK) in Washington, USA; and Michelle Lee, research and instruction librarian at Clayton State University (OCLC Symbol: GMJ) in Morrow, Georgia, say that institutions need to prioritize, study, and support such mentoring also in order to increase both the diversity of the profession and the retention of librarians of color.