Intersections | LGBT Legal Resources: A LibGuide Evolution

Intersections Header

By Emma Wood ( | A few years ago I created a LibGuide on the topic of same-sex marriage.  The online guide presented resources and strategies for finding gay marriage articles and caselaw, with a heavy focus on surveying state legislation.  At the time, several organizations were tracking the legislative process with virtual maps of the U.S., and digitally illuminating each state that passed a marriage equality bill.  My LibGuide linked to these maps which, back then, were a spectrum of color and topographical variance.  In 2015, the Obergefell[1] decision equalized the gay marriage landscape, and all at once the colorful boundaries between right to marry states, domestic partnership states, and traditional marriage states were uniform.  Suddenly the books that my guide highlighted from our print collection (Civil Wars : A Battle for Gay Marriage, Legalizing Gay Marriage, etc.) had historical value rather than cutting edge information. Under the powerful brush of the majority opinion the maps were painted a single color, and my LibGuide was (happily) obsolete. 

Of course the implications of Obergefell are more important than a potential weeding or acquisition project and a LibGuide update, but the symbolism of these tasks is momentous as a librarian.  When a Supreme Court decision has immediate impact on a library collection, it illustrates librarian connectivity to the world at large.   Our social responsibilities are tied to in-person interactions and services, but also to our online presence and the items lining our shelves.  The resolve to monitor events that affect collections and the scope of an area of research is vital because library patrons are best-served to see themselves and the changing world in the resources offered.  If diversity of people and the advancement of rights is mirrored by library materials, the tasks that we undertake to keep current are our duty to social change.  Sometimes that role in the updating process is cathartic. 

I recently reworked my same-sex marriage LibGuide to compliment a new class being offered at UMass Law, Sexuality, Identity, and the Law.  The online library guide format lends itself to social responsibility because it is designed for change.  LibGuides themselves are evidence of a digital shift in librarianship, and they are also poised to capture social and legislative shifts.  Physical library collections have always been viewed as malleable and living, and LibGuides can highlight the pulse of our physical collections.  They are the frontage to our newest and most relevant material.   Just as the national picture evolved, my guide evolved to encompass LGBT legal issues generally.  The guide’s research focus has changed to current LGBT issues such as anti-discrimination legislation and transgender rights.  My revised guide which can be found here: is in some small way, a measure of progress.  It is ever-changing, and I look forward to when this guide is less applicable to current controversy, and more appropriate for the history of civil rights battles won.    

Emma Wood is Assistant Librarian for Public Services at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Law Library

[1] Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2604 (2015)