Gay and Lesbian Library Service

The GLBTRT has been reviewing books and movies in its newsletter since the early 1990s. Trace the evolution of queer publishing through these historic reviews. This review was originally published in Vol. 4, No. 3, Fall 1992.

Cover of Gay and Lesbian Library ServiceGay and Lesbian Library Service. Edited by Cal Gough and Ellen Greenblatt. McFarland, 1990. $36.50. (ISBN 0-89950-535-X) Available from: McFarland &: Co., Publishers, Box 611, Jefferson, NC 28640; tel: (919) 246-4460.

This book contains essays and bibliographies which address many aspects of library service relating to gay and lesbian issues. It is not a book just for gay and lesbian library users. Rather, it is useful for all librarians and users interested in better access to a broad spectrum of materials dealing with gay and lesbian lifestyles, culture, history, and more.

The Forward, by Sanford Berman, does a good job of illustrating why the information in this book is both necessary and useful. He relates numerous incidents of homophobic ignorance, negligence, discrimination and violence occurring in the news media, public laws, censorship cases, and library cataloging practice. A number of the chapters and appendices which make up the book first appeared as journal articles or as bibliographies or resource lists available from the GLTFs Clearinghouse. However, much of the material included was specifically written and compiled for this publication, so there is a wealth of new information presented here, too.

Both the whys and ways to improve many different aspects of library service to the gay and lesbian community are presented, starting with chapters on collection development issues to be considered for school, public and academic libraries. Chapters on “Service Issues” discuss how to make the library more user-friendly to the gay and lesbian community, and encourage library exhibits of gay Ilesbian materials, artwork, etc.

Other significant chapters include: “AIDS Information in Libraries,” discussing the role of the library in AIDS education, and giving a directory of AIDS organizations; “Gay and Lesbian Periodicals” presents selection and collection management issues to be considered, as well as giving an annotated list of 73 recommended titles; “Reference Materials For or About Gays and Lesbians,” listing bibliographies, indexes, directories, book review sources, and more.

At least as valuable and useful as the information given in the main chapters are the 16 appendices, which fill almost the last 250 pages of the book. It is in this section that lengthy bibliographies, filmographies, and discographies are included, covering topics such as gay and lesbian nonfiction books, gay and lesbian bibliographies, films and videos, music, drama, biography, and AIDS. Several directories listed in this section include: Publishers of Gay and Lesbian Books, Bookstores and Mail Order Films, Special Collections of Gay and Lesbian Materials, and Gay and Lesbian Professional Groups.

In general, Gay and Lesbian Library Service gets a very high rating by this reviewer. It is multi-faceted in its coverage of the many issues of importance to all librarians and to gay and lesbian library users. However, a few changes that could have improved the book are suggested here, and perhaps could be considered when planning possible future editions or revisions.

The numerous items listed in the extensive bibliographic notes in several chapters (Chapter 2, Gay and Lesbian Issues for School Libraries and Librarians, and Chapter 14, AIDS Information in Libraries) would have been much more useful if presented in a regular bibliographical format and included as additional appendices.

Chapter 11, on Reference Materials, was originally published in a 1988 issue of Booklist; it perhaps should have been updated before its inclusion here. Appendix XII, a pathfinder on Gay and Lesbian History and Culture, perhaps should have been revamped to make it non-library-specific, and thus, more useful to other librarians and library users.

In spite of these few criticisms of the book, it is an excellent work that would be a useful tool for those engaged in all phases of library work, from selection and acquisitions, to cataloging, from program and policy development to reference and public service work. Because of its extensive bibliographies and directories, it is also an invaluable resource for library users interested in researching gay and lesbian issues.

This reviewer recommends that all libraries purchase this book; in fact, why not buy two copies, one for your office collection, and another for the reference or circulating collection.

Reviewed by Stephen Fowlkes
Tulane University
New Orleans, LA


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