A library’s print, eBook, and digital resource collection will always be the bedrock upon which service to a particular community is built. Developing a robust LGBTQ collection draws on the same core principles that define all aspects of collection development:
1. A collection plan/selection policy tailored to the needs of the community (both the larger community and all the smaller communities the library serves). A collection development plan can be as simple as a few generally worded paragraphs or as detailed as a section-by-section overview of what’s collected and why.
2. An ongoing mechanism for working with the communities your collections serve in order to assess what the current collection is lacking and what kind of materials need to be added. Work with LGBTQ groups in the community to refine the collection development plan for LGBTQ materials and create a patron request system specific to the LGBTQ collection.
3. A weeding plan that follows best practices of weeding nonfiction and fiction, such as the one outlined in Rebecca Vnuk’s The Weeding Handbook (ALA Editions).
There are also collection building principles that apply specifically to the LGBTQ collection, which we will be discussing below.
DIGITAL RESOURCES ARE ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT IN ANY LGBTQ COLLECTION.
For gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals concerned about privacy, online products can become “invisible” resources in a way print materials can’t, at least when circulated. Deb Sica, chair of ALA’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) comments: “Now, with improved access to e-materials, it is much easier to obtain copies of quality GLBTQIA+ items and uphold patron privacy.” (GLBTQIA+ is often defined as including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual individuals.) This is valuable to patrons searching for the kind of historical and scientific information that can be found in digital resources such as Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender and Gale eBooks on GVRL. Primary sources are important because, as aptly stated on the Library of Congress website, they “provide a window into the past—unfiltered access to the record of artistic, social, scientific and political thought and achievement during the specific period under study, produced by people who lived during that period.”
Sica notes, “I recall working in Texas libraries and being astounded when e-materials first became available for mass download. The demand for heterosexual, gender-normative romances skyrocketed. Once a ‘taboo’ genre, often shamefully or quickly checked out, romances quickly became the library’s highest circulating e-titles with the longest hold queues. The same freeing experience felt by e-romance readers at that time is now being felt by GLBTQIA+ patrons with open access to our virtual collections. No matter our best efforts to be welcoming, the physical library may be a fear-generating experience. Physical materials can become contraband to those in sensitive, judgmental situations. Physical items could potentially out a patron inadvertently. The privacy provided in a virtual world is far more expansive and exploratory, a welcomed dynamic and entry point for many. The least we can do is make such virtual library spaces and collections fully available and accessible for all.”
A VARIED AND WELL-CURATED SELECTION OF LGBTQ FICTION AND NONFICTION IS ALSO CRUCIAL TO ANY STRONG LGBTQ MATERIALS COLLECTION.
These resources show real and/or realistic characters whose lives mirror those of LGBTQ teens, assuring them they are not alone. Novels and short stories can educate readers’ minds and hearts, giving straight teens essential information about their LGBTQ peers while inviting empathy for their life circumstances.
Now that you know how to build your collection, read about how to develop a strong “reconsideration” policy >>