No One is “The Other”

No One is “The Other”

2 min read

| By Gale Staff |

Your library’s role in supporting LGBTQ members in your community starts by establishing a climate of trust. This is is a crucial aspect of what libraries do best: provide a sanctuary where all people can feel they belong and no one is “the other.”

Author Camille Perri told Publishers Weekly, “When I was coming to terms with my sexuality, I often felt like I needed to seek out sanctuary outside of my house, and the library was the first place I went. It was a place that I could go to seek out information and look for answers to questions that maybe I was afraid to ask another person.”

The safety of the library is crucial to the tens of thousands of LGBTQ youth who are homeless. By some estimates, as many as 320,000 to 400,000 young people face homelessness each year, and 40 percent of them are LGBTQ. Many of those teens turn to the library for a safe space, attempting to blend in, although sometimes that means not going to the library everyday. A homeless gay teen, Cedar, who says he loves the library, explains: “That’s my biggest thing, but if you see me on a day-to-day basis, it’s hard because I wear the same thing. So I try not to come here (the library) every day, and so I would be surprised if anybody here knew I was homeless.”

Why are teens like Cedar drawn to the library? Because of the people who work there. Julie Ann Winkelstein, of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who documented Cedar’s struggle, observes, “Caring adults like librarians who welcome and affirm who they (homeless LGBTQ teens) are can make a significant difference in their lives and their ability to move beyond their current situations.”

While her comments address homeless youth, they can apply to the entire LGBTQ population. And the library’s impact can be profound, both inside and outside its walls. Jamie Campbell Naidoo, of the University of Alabama, who is conducting research into personal narratives about LGBTQ life, reports hearing the same sentence over and over: “The library saved my life.”

Recently, we partnered with Booklist to produce a piece on the ways libraries can acquire, provide, and promote the appropriate services and resources needed to support LGBTQ persons while providing safe spaces and effecting change in their broader communities—and we’re very excited to share it with you. Download the full white paper >> 

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