The history of the book awards mirrors the growth of the GLBT publishing industry. Although in the first years of the award the committee had only a handful of books from which to choose, by 1995 they had to select the winners from a list of over 800 eligible titles.
Originally a grassroots acknowledgment honoring hallmark works in GLBT publishing, the Gay Book Award (as it was originally known) became an official American Library Association award in 1986. The next year, its name was changed to the Gay and Lesbian Book Award. Beginning in 1990, the Book Award expanded into two categories: nonfiction and literature. In 1994, the name changed once more to the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Book Award. In 1999, when the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Task Force became the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table, the name changed yet again to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Book Award. In 2002, the name changed to the Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award and the Stonewall Book Award-Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award. In 2010, the Stonewall Book Awards was expanded again to add a Children and Young Adult Literature Award. In 2012, the Children's and Young Adult Literature Award was renamed the Stonewall Book Award-Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award in honor of the couple's gift to the endowment.
The committee that surveys these multitudes of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender publications is made up of equal numbers of female- and male-identified members from various types of libraries across the United States. Ultimately, the committee must review the books under consideration and select five finalists each in the three award categories. The winners are chosen from among these five finalists.