By Kate Kitchens | An idea struck me last summer to do a compilation zine where queer people could submit their stories and images related to their experiences with libraries or information seeking in general. My call for submissions on Twitter got hundreds of retweets and I thought, “Dang, how am I going to have time to read through all the submissions?!” And then I received zero submissions, so I had plenty of time.
While I still think a queer library experience compilation zine would be stellar--I decided to make a zine myself in the meantime. In “Librarian Field Notes” I reflect upon the things I’ve learned in my various queer outreach capacities at a small public library in Northern Louisiana, at the University of Dubuque where I am currently working, and in the greater Dubuque community. I also go on a five-page tangent about the desexualization of queer people in our culture and why libraries should buy more queer erotica. Librarian Field Notes is a guide for librarians who want to provide services to support their queer patrons but don’t know where to start or find it too daunting of a task. It is also for librarians who are seeking to better understand queer communities and their unique needs.
I presented the zine at the Iowa Library Association conference this past October. Much like a church service--participants held their booklets/zines and followed along. My only regret is that I didn’t include any hymns.
In the presentation I walked through each page. I talked about the functions queer communities serve for individuals who identify somewhere along the LGBTQ+ spectrums. The cultural stigmatization, violence, and discrimination built into our culture and institutions, and the refuge that queer communities provide. Queer communities provide affirmations and validation to individuals who have not received support from their families and peers. They provide platforms for people to ask the questions that gender and sexual minorities have to ask (i.e. How do I come out to my best friend? Where do I go for hormone replacement therapy? How do I know for sure if I’m gay, lesbian, bisexual, or otherwise?). Queer and questioning people often step into queer communities for support and validation.
Librarians are in a prime position to support queer communities. The work directly aligns with the ALA’s 2017 Strategic Plan which states, “Within the Association and in the services and operations of libraries, efforts to include diversity in programs, activities, services, professional literature, products and continuing education must be ongoing and encouraged.” The key word in this statement is effort. Not all patrons assume that libraries are safe and welcoming spaces for them without having any tangible evidence. For queer people the default thinking is that not everyone will immediately accept our gender identity or sexual orientation because that has not been the lived experience for many of us. We must make an effort through programming, collection development, drafting of just policies and strategic plans, and finding ways to convey allyship in order to make our libraries welcoming to queer communities.
At the end of the talk we opened to page 17-18 to map out the queer resources available in our communities in order to identify any deficits. If resources already exist in the community, the library can act as a conduit to get information out via resource guides, handouts, having groups use the library space for a program. Librarians can contact these organizations and see what they can offer. Participants pulled out their phones and found LGBTQ+ resources in their communities that they hadn’t known existed. This is a way to gauge what resources already exist for your queer patrons and identify what you can do to help, which is a great place to start.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like a physical copy of the zine, since zines are better read in paper format in my opinion. Also contact me if you have any questions and/or are interested in teaming up to pull together a queer compilation zine!
Kate Kitchens is a Reference and Instruction Librarian and Liaison for the Natural, Applied, and Health Sciences at the University of Dubuque. Prior to her current position she worked as an Information Specialist for the Shreve Memorial Library System in Shreveport, LA. She earned her BA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, with her first two years at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and a year of studying Japanese language and culture at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Japan. She earned an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she worked as a Graduate Reference Assistant at the Ebling Library for the Health Sciences and volunteered in the Dane County Jails providing books to inmates. Kate has varied experience providing LGBTQ outreach in public and academic libraries and advises the PROUD student organization at UD.