Out in the Library: Materials, Displays and Services for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community

In the last 30 years, the number of Americans who think books about homosexuality should stay in the library has risen from 55% to 73% (General Social Survey, 1972-2004). This does not mean that library materials, events, and displays related to sexual orientation and gender identity are without controversy. These issues can still be some of the most contentious in libraries, causing some librarians to be deterred from including materials or services for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. Here are some resources to help you understand the importance of having inclusive collections and programs, and to provide assistance in the event of complaints.

ALA Policy Statements

Access to Library Resources and Services Regardless of Sex, Gender Identity, or Sexual Orientation: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

Intellectual Freedom Principles for Academic Libraries: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

Resolution on Threats to Library Materials Related to Sex, Gender Identity, or Sexual Orientation

From Core Values of Librarianship

DIVERSITY: We value our nation's diversity and strive to reflect that diversity by providing a full spectrum of resources and services to the communities we serve.— Core Values of Librarianship

Strategies for Before, During, and After a Challenge

  • Contact the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom if materials, events or displays in your library are challenged. OIF can help you locate book reviews and other supportive materials as well as connect you with other librarians who have faced challenges to those titles. OIF can also discuss strategies for navigating the current challenge.
  • Encourage other libraries in your area to purchase these titles or be open to supporting these events and communities. If they're worth having at your library, then they should be widely available.
  • Some libraries create a "parenting" collection to house books on sensitive topics, including homosexuality. Access is best preserved when such collections are shelved in the same area as other age-appropriate books, or if these titles are duplicated in the regular children's collection.


Homophobia and Its Impact on Students

Adelman, Madelaine, and Kathryn Woods. "Identification Without Intervention: Transforming the Anti-LGBTQ School Climate." Journal of Poverty 10, no. 2 (2006): 5 -26.

Blackburn, Mollie V. "Combating Heterosexism and Homophobia." Language Arts 84, no. 2 (2006): 172 -173.

Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. "2005 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation's Schools." (2006). (PDF)

Goodenow, Carol, Szalacha, Laura, and Kim Westheimer. "School support groups, other school factors, and the safety of sexual minority adolescents." Psychology in the Schools 43, no. 5 (2006): 573-589.

Herbeck, Joyce. "Creating a Safe Learning Environment." Book Links 14, no. 3 (2005): 30 -30.

"Homophobia 'as unacceptable as racism' in schools." Education (14637073) (2006): 5 -5.

Mayberry, Maralee. "School Reform Efforts for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Students." Clearing House 79, no. 6 (2006): 262 -264.

Samuels, Christina A. "Gay and Lesbian Students." Education Week 25, no. 34 (2006): 18 -18.

GLBT Literature in Schools

Meixner, Emily. "Teacher Agency and Access to LGBTQ Young Adult Literature." Radical Teacher (2006): 13-19.

Swartz, Patti Capel. "It's Elementary in Appalachia: Helping Prospective Teachers and Their Students Understand Sexuality and Gender." Journal of Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education 1, no. 1 (2003): 51.

Taylor, Jami. "The library collection and transgender individuals." Versed: Bulletin of the Office for Diversity, American Library Association, January (2006).

Taylor, Jami. "Information seeking and information use in the transgender community." Current Studies in Librarianship 26, no. 1&2 (2002): 85 -109.

Whelan, Debra Lau. "OUT and Ignored." School Library Journal 52, no. 1 (2006): 46 -50.


From the American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table, these annotated bibliographies will help you identify materials for your collections:

Bibliography for Gay Teens

Classification Schemes for Lesbian/Gay Materials

Evaluating the Treatment of Gay Themes in Books for Children and Younger Adults


Hate Crimes Pathfinder to Selected Resources

Religion and Spirituality, 1950-2000

Religion and Spirituality, 2000-2005

Religion and Spirituality, 2006-


For a useful explanation of how to evaluate books with GLBT themes, see Evaluating the Treatment of Gay Themes in Books for Children and Younger Adults: What to Do Until Utopia Arrives.

More Resources Are Listed in This Article

Treat, Alena R., and Becky Whittenburg. "Gifted Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Annotated Bibliography: A Resource for Educators of Gifted Secondary GLBT Students." Journal of Secondary Gifted Education 17, no. 4 (2006): 230-243.


Have you faced a challenge to materials, events or displays dealing with sexual orientation? Would you like to share your experiences with what worked and what didn't? Please contact the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom to add your suggestions to this toolkit.