By Peter Coyl
The Importance of GLBT Book Month
As a teenager, I was such an avid library user I got a job shelving books at the library in the Children’s section. On my breaks, I would roam the stacks of the second floor adult fiction area looking for something new to read. One day, a book caught my eye, and I started flipping through it. It was about gay people. Young and scared, I put the book away and quickly checked to see if someone had seen me looking at this book. I then went back to work, my brain reeling.
A week or so later, I realized that if I accidentally found a book with gay people in it, maybe I could “on purpose” find one. So I looked in the library catalog and voila: we had some. In fact, we had a book in the Young Adult section that had gay characters in it.
So at age 15, that is how I came to read Entries from a Hot Pink Notebook by Todd Brown. This was the first book to show me that I was normal. That yes, other teenagers felt like I did. Despite it being on the shelf and being accessible, I was scared to read it and scared others would find out I was reading it.
This is why GLBT Book Month is important.
GLBT Book Month is important because it gives readers exposure to the works of authors and topics they may not have known existed.
The GLBTRT Executive Board often is contacted (collectively and individually) by library staff or librarians about problems at their library relating to GLBT materials: books cataloged so kids can’t find them, displays that are not allowed to be put up, programs that are cancelled, and the numerous other issues that come up when librarians try to provide equitable service.
This past week, a library an 75 miles away from me made headlines because of a cancelled author appearance (the author has written a book about coming out as a Christian) and the removal of a PFLAG display that had been constructed to coincide with the visit. In the end, the appearance was reinstated and the display put back up. Things like this shouldn’t happen. But they will continue to happen as long as we do not speak up and promote what we do.
I am not encouraging civil disobedience or actions that would put employment in peril. I am encouraging promoting of GLBT Book Month in whatever way you can in your institution. We have a book month, let’s use it.
That being said, though, it’s time GLBT books, especially those in libraries, came out of the closet.
Libraries and librarians need to stop being afraid of what is on their shelves. It’s been said that a good library should have something in it to offend everyone. Let that be the case.
GLBT Book Month is for everyone. It isn’t just about highlighting books for the GLBT community, it’s about exposing every reader to a new idea, a new story, a new author. In the same way National Poetry Month isn’t just for the poets, GLBT Book Month isn’t just for “the gays.”
So dust off those display ideas you’ve had squirreled way. Order a poster and bookmarks from ALA Graphics. Cut out those rainbow letters. Tack up a flag in the corner. Put out some books from the Stonewall Book Awards, Rainbow Book List or Over the Rainbow Book list. Let your community know that you are proud to serve everyone. And if you have a copy of Entries from a Hot Pink Notebook in your collection, maybe you can put it in your display for the kid who shelves your children’s books to see. He may need it.