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“Hard to find”: information barriers among LGBT college students

Brenton Stewart (School of Library & Information Science, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA)
Kaetrena Davis Kendrick (Medford Library, University of South Carolina Lancaster, Lancaster, South Carolina, USA)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 30 July 2019

Issue publication date: 18 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to examine collegiate information barriers and perceptions of academic library climate among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) college students in the USA.


The primary method used for this investigation was an online crowdsourced survey of 105 participants who attended two and four-year colleges in the USA. The questionnaire used free word association where participants shared information barriers encountered on colleges’ campuses. Responses from each questionnaire were interpreted using open coding.


Information barriers around sexuality continue to be a challenge for non- heteronormative information seekers on college campuses. One-third of students had distinctive information needs around their sexuality and experienced information barriers from both the institution and social stigma. The study reveals an evolution in sexual minority students’ sense of self, which has moved beyond the binary identity of gay/lesbian explored in previous studies; students identified bisexuality as a salient information need, and described a campus environment that often erased bisexuality. The academic library was described as an information barrier due to inadequate sexual minority-related resources.

Practical implications

Academic librarians as well as higher education professionals, such as recruitment/admissions officers, student counseling services, student health and student affairs, can leverage the results of this study to help establish a more inclusive and welcoming information environment that empowers students for academic and personal success.


A limited number of studies in information science have focused on sexual minority college students’ information behaviors and even fewer on information barriers. This study presents new insight and deeper understanding of the collegiate information environment of LGBT identified students in the USA.



This research was supported by funds from the primary author’s Russell Long Professorship in Library & Information Science.


Stewart, B. and Kendrick, K.D. (2019), "“Hard to find”: information barriers among LGBT college students", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 71 No. 5, pp. 601-617.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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