The Rainbow Round Table (RRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) was founded in 1970 as ALA's Task Force on Gay Liberation. It is the nation's first gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender professional organization.
A Brief History of the GLBTRT
Most of the information listed below comes from Cal Gough’s chronology found in the conference publication for the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Task Force : 25th anniversary, 1970-1995 gala.
On July 1st at the ALA Annual Conference in Detroit, MI, the Task Force on Gay Liberation meets for the first time. Israel Fishman serves as the first coordinator of the group. A social and “consciousness-raising event” was held with members of the Detroit Gay Liberation Front. Initial goals of the group included: the creation of bibliographies, revision of library classification schemes and subject headings, building and improving access to collections, and fighting job discrimination. Barbara Gittings puts together a list of 37 gay-positive books, magazine articles, and pamphlets - the first version of a resource that would become known as “A Gay Bibliography.”
In June at the ALA Annual Conference in Dallas, TX, the Task Force announces the first winner of the Gay Book Award: A Place for Us by Isabel Miller (published by McGraw Hill as Patience and Sarah, ISBN: 9780070420359) and holds its first program “Sex and the Single Cataloger: New Thoughts on Some Unthinkable Subjects” with panelists Joan Marshall and Steve Wolf. The Task Force has a “Hug-a-Homosexual” booth in the exhibit hall. The Task Force comes out in support of J. Michael McConnell after his job offer from the University of Minnesota Library was rescinded after he filed a marriage application with his partner.
Barbara Gittings joins ALA and becomes Task Force coordinator.
At the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco, over 400 people attend a panel on gay and lesbian characters in YA novels. ALA’s Task Force on Gay Liberation changes its name to the “Gay Task Force.”
In response to Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade, the Task Force submits a successful resolution to ALA Council reaffirming ALA’s support of equal employment opportunity.
The sixth and final edition of “A Gay Bibliography” was printed. It had 563 entries. 38,000 copies of the six edition were distributed.
The Task Force’s Gay Book Award is recognized as an official ALA award. The Task Force changes its name to the “Gay and Lesbian Task Force.”
The Task Force begins a regular quarterly newsletter. Before 1988, newsletters were published sporadically. Though undergoing many name changes, the newsletter ran until fall 2013 (Round Table news is now distributed via the GLBT News blog). To see back issues of the newsletter, check the GLBTRT Newsletter Back Issues & Index.
The Task Force sponsors its first ALA pre-conference, a half day session titled “When Sex is the Question, Who Answers?” Task Force members marching in the San Francisco pride parade are featured on the front cover of the July/August issue of American Libraries.
The Task Force changes its name to the “Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Task Force.” On June 24th at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, IL, the GLBTF celebrated its 25th anniversary with a gala event.
On June 30th, the GLBTF was promoted to round table status and became the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association. ALA Council voted unanimously in favor of the Task Force becoming the Round Table.