LGBTQ+ Librarianship in the 21st Century: Emerging Directions of Advocacy and Community Engagement in Diverse Information Environments: Volume 45

Cover of LGBTQ+ Librarianship in the 21st Century: Emerging Directions of Advocacy and Community Engagement in Diverse Information Environments

Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Part I Emerging Scope


The chapter introduces the reader to select language of human sexuality and the definitions and characteristics of some key terms related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning/queer (LGBTQ+), identifies different theoretical perspectives of human sexuality and sexual orientation, and discusses select LGBTQ+ theories and concepts in a historical context that library and information science (LIS) professionals should consider while performing their roles related to information creation–organization–management–dissemination–research processes. It helps better understand the scope of what is LGBTQ+ information and traces its interdisciplinary connections to reflect on its place within the LIS professions. The chapter discusses these implications with the expectation of the LIS professional to take concrete actions in changing the conditions that lack fairness, equality/equity, justice, and/or human rights for LGBTQ+ people via the use of information. Important considerations in this regard include the need for an integrative interdisciplinary LGBTQ+ information model, growth of a diversified LGBTQ+ knowledge base and experiences, holistic LGBTQ+ information representations, LGBTQ+ activism, and participatory engagement and inclusion of LGBTQ+ users.


The chapter compiles a glossary of key lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) terms and concepts relevant in the twenty-first century that a progressive librarian and information professional should be aware of. These are categorized based on gender, sex, and gender identity; sexual and romantic orientation; LGBTQ+ rights and social justice; and outdated and offensive terms. It also briefly explores support for LGBTQ+ patrons through library-based scenarios and provides the contemporary professional important questions to consider in response to the difficult situations represented. Finally, the chapter provides a listing of 25 American LGBTQ+ web-based resources with annotations for librarians to become LGBTQ+ allies. These are categorized according to LGBTQ+ advocacy, youth, legal issues, policy and research, and libraries and archives.

Part II New Roles And New Technologies For The 21st Century Librarian


Health science librarians occupy a unique place in librarianship, guiding healthcare professionals and the public to quality sources of medical research and consumer health information in order to improve patient outcomes and quality of life. A broader impact of health sciences librarianship is its advocacy for improvements in public health. In recent years, health science librarians have been actively involved in advocating for adequate, responsive, and culturally competent health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals. Health sciences librarians have advocated for LGBTQ+ individuals through a variety of specialized outreach projects to address health disparities found in the LGBTQ+ community such as HIV/AIDS, women’s health, or substance abuse, have collaborated with public health agencies and community-based organizations to identify health disparities and needs, and have implemented outreach to address these needs.

This chapter maps the landscape of health sciences librarian outreach to LGBTQ+ people. The authors develop this theme through case studies of health science librarians providing health information to the LGBTQ+ community and healthcare professionals. Following an overview of advocacy for LGBTQ+ health by the US National Network of Libraries of Medicine and professional information organizations, they conclude the chapter by discussing the “pioneering” nature of these projects and the common threads uniting them, and by identifying the next steps for continued successful outreach through the development of an evidence base and tailoring of outreach and resources to address other demographic aspects of the members of the LGBTQ+ community.


A lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer+ (LGBTQ+) community’s hunger for its history became an arena for creative, unorthodox work involving a library and information science (LIS) educator, librarians and other educators, and even a university library. The result was fundamentally collaborative, involving community and educational organizations; all inspired by social responsibility and community engagement goals, some of which can be found in a university mission statement. The story of these individuals and organizations begins with a drive toward a greater awareness of LGBTQ+ history, a goal that led to creating inclusive high school history curricula. Along the way, these efforts generated information resources such as a community-generated database, a temporary history exhibit, a conference, and a workshop geared to gay straight alliance (GSA) organizations in high schools. GSAs and their statewide supporting organization, the Illinois Safe School Alliance, were also the part of this work. While the larger goal of this work was to help diverse constituencies understand the importance of their history by developing, curating, and utilizing information resources that fulfill overlooked community information needs, this chapter comes to focus on a piece of that work, the development of Illinois’s first LGBTQ+ history elective. Consequently, this chapter can show how librarians and libraries can actualize social justice aims and thereby expand traditional library practices through sustained efforts that may lead to smaller specific goals, some of which may develop in unforeseen ways. The key is to expand the existing aims of libraries into sustained community engagement while remaining open to the opportunities that arise along the way.


This chapter addresses the current state of librarian participation in the global lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer+ (LGBTQ+) Wikipedia engagement efforts and proposes an extended librarian advocacy to advance LGBTQ+ rights and concerns. The author provides a brief history of global LGBTQ+ Wikipedia engagement, librarian involvement in Wikipedia, and librarian participation in global LGBTQ+ Wikipedia initiatives. In the process, the author examines the underrepresentation and invisibility of librarians in global LGBTQ+ Wikipedia engagement efforts and Wikipedia initiatives in general, as well as the barriers that librarians face in becoming active Wikipedian librarians. Based on a review of the literature, the analysis of data gathered from Wikipedia, and the author’s own experiences as an LGBTQ+ Wikipedian librarian, the author recommends strategies for librarians to advocate for and include global LGBTQ+ Wikipedia engagement in their professional practice.

Part III Recognizing The Needs Of Emerging Communities


This chapter focuses on ways libraries can ensure the services and collections they provide do not exclude bisexual people and indulge in the “bi erasure” that is otherwise so prevalent in society. The authors share best practices for public, academic, and school libraries to add bisexual/pansexual titles to their collections, as well as provide programmatic tips that include the larger bisexual/pansexual community. Most importantly, the authors highlight community partners, advocacy organizations, or non-profits that can serve as potential collaborators as librarians brainstorm programming for bisexual/pansexual patrons. This chapter also contains staff training guidelines and resources for creating a more welcoming environment for bisexual/pansexual patrons. The chapter concludes with a list of resources that will help librarians make more inclusive collections’ decisions and resource guides. It’s purpose is to help libraries better serve bisexual/pansexual patrons who are undoubtedly already library users.


Possibilities for self-representation for transgender (trans) and gender non-conforming (GNC) youth must be conceptualized in relation to youths’ placement within frames of power. Powerful institutional forces in youths’ lives include schools and policing and, as is evidenced by youths’ statements, extend to mass media portrayals. Library approaches that reify the inclusion of representative texts do not adequately meet the needs of trans and GNC youth. As a profession, librarianship must reflect on ideological approaches to gendered embodiment to push against an ongoing repetition of institutional harms done to trans and GNC youth.

This chapter offers examinations of information needs, complex online worlds, and incorporation of histories made invisible by power alongside critical literacy skills as crucial aspects of providing services to all possibly or actually trans and GNC youth. It critically situates the circumstances of trans youths’ lives in relation to the effect that adult perceptions have on trans and GNC youths’ ability to access resources. It provides a framework for reflection on how young adult librarians often unconsciously limit library access by enacting gendered expectations that do not always match the possibility or actuality of youths’ experiences or self-conceptions. The chapter outlines modes of communication – through library materials, programs, community resources and partnerships – that convey deeper understandings of trans and GNC experiences to possibly or actually trans and GNC youth.


Drawn from a case study of a public library in a large urban area, this chapter offers insights into the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) youth experiencing homelessness and the potential intersection of public libraries and their lives. To gain insight, the author conducted one focus group with five youth, as well as 22 one-on-one interviews with public librarians, service providers who work with the youth, and the young people themselves. The chapter offers specific examples of the challenges the youth face on the streets, as well as concrete steps libraries can take to address these challenges. These findings and strategies will help public librarians and those who support public libraries to understand and take action to address the ongoing needs of a group that falls outside what libraries may consider typical service expectations.

Part IV Creating Communities Coming Together


Books serve as important information resources and provide space for reflection and identity-building for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) people. Many in this community have experienced reduced feelings of isolation through engagement with the writings of others. Providing a safe space for such engagement is vital. Library and information science (LIS) professionals are in an optimal position to meet such needs, particularly when efforts are made to implement changes based on explicitly expressed concerns.

This chapter provides a case study of the LGBTQ Center of Durham, North Carolina, to illustrate how the organization is integrating the local LGBTQ+ community into its library by using the community’s own vocabulary and interests to inform the center’s practices and policies. The chapter also offers a guide to the locally responsive, LGBTQ+-specific classification system created for the LGBTQ Center of Durham’s library collection. This classification system was designed to represent library materials for its Durham and surrounding-area users in a useful, accessible, and respectful manner – a feat that the library committee did not feel could be accomplished using existing classification systems.

Building on the case study for applicability, the author makes recommendations for how LIS professionals who wish to better serve LGBTQ+ users can incorporate the community into their library and/or collection. The author provides additional suggestions for action, with varying levels of commitment, for library professionals and volunteers. Through resource development, training, collection development, and classification revision, libraries can more closely align their practices with the needs of users of all gender identities and sexual orientations.


Public libraries in the twenty-first century are facing the challenges of being relevant in the face of new technologies, neoliberal cost cutting, and changing social realities. One of the fastest growing and changing social realities is associated with the trans community. We may be able to talk about the transgender tipping point; but in Spain, positive representations, access to information, and dialogue between local communities and the trans collective have traditionally been notable for its absence. In order to address these shortcomings in the public library system in Catalonia (Spain), a group of staff at the Biblioteca Nou Barris in Barcelona created the “Trans Identities and Gender” project.

The project envisioned creating a collection of materials aimed at the trans and gender-variant community as well as to all those who might be interested. In addition to the collection, activities were planned to use the library as a communal meeting point between the local and the trans communities as well as a means of promoting the collection and its use. The chapter focuses on the development of the project, on the growing relationship between the library, trans authors, trans community, and general public, and how new possible futures are being forged.

Part V Looking Ahead: Emerging Questions


This chapter considers the current state of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ+) librarianship in the United Kingdom. It begins with a question: at the time of writing, there seems to be more of a focus on LGBTQ+ issues in museums and archives than there is in libraries. Why is this so? To answer this, the chapter focuses briefly on the wider social setting; looks at current library provision; discusses what “queer librarianship” might involve; considers whether LGBTQ+ library staff’s and LGBTQ+ library users’ voices are heard; and then looks at the question of mainstreaming provision, and considers whether this would be a positive step forward.

Cover of LGBTQ+ Librarianship in the 21st Century: Emerging Directions of Advocacy and Community Engagement in Diverse Information Environments
Publication date
Book series
Advances in Librarianship
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN