Why do we need to bother? Public library services for LGBTQI people


Why do we need to bother? Public library services for LGBTQI people


Vincent, John


The John Hopkins University

pub year



In considering social justice, many commentators overlook (or disregard) the needs of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning, or intersex (LGBTQI), assuming, for example, that they do not require any particular support or recognition, or that they “self-exclude” by “choosing” to be LGBTQI. This article aims to challenge these perceptions. Young (and not-so-young) people may find it easier to come out today—and, indeed, the necessity to have life framed by coming-out stories may be fading. Nevertheless, we know that many people still struggle and still have to face hostility, threats, even violence. Suicide rates among young LGBTQI people, often the result of bullying, are unacceptably high. The cultural sector, including public libraries, can play a huge part in combating prejudice by providing safe, informed (and informative) spaces where people can explore who they are, and be who they are as well. However, not all public libraries understand this, or want to play this role. This article identifies some of the needs and demands of LGBTQI people, demonstrates the good practice that public libraries have developed, and examines gaps where this is not happening. The focus will be primarily on public libraries’ work in the UK. It looks at some of the key background issues (prejudice against LGBTQI people, for example), then focuses on the ways in which the public library can intervene, concluding with practical examples of the range of work that is being undertaken and some suggestions of what still needs to be done.

Audience Education Level





Katie Arthur

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