Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

A fantastic and call to action presentation was given by four panelists at ALA on Monday: Erin Downey Howerton, School Liasison for the Johnson County Library in Kansas, Brent Hartinger, author of Geography Club and upcoming book about the attack of the soul sucking brain zombies (at least that’s what I think I heard), Sara Ryan, Teen Services Specialist for the Multnomah County Library system in Portland, Oregon and author of Empress of the World, and David Levithan, author of Are We There Yet? (All the panelists are so much more than what I mentioned, but those are a few things about them.

Erin talked about how she wanted to add GLBT books to the collection and the fact that people might object to them. It was a good sign that Rainbow Boys by Sanchez and The Misfits by Howe were tattered copies already in the system. Lists from the ALA 2000 annual conference put together by the GLBT roundtable and updated in 2004 were used as guides to build the collection.
Rainbow Kite by Shyer is a story about a gay teen’s coming out that Erin shared her enthusiasm for with colleagues that opened a lot of doors for further conversation. Adding booklists to binders so that teens don’t have to approach staff for suggestions if they would prefer not to and putting booklists inside of books to point out similar reads were suggested to connect teens with GLBT themed books. Erin thinks of books as people and wants them to meet the people they were always destined to meet. Further recommended resources:

2006 Popular Paperback GLBTQ list
The Heart Has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969-2004 by Michael Cart
Outsource: A Handbook for Serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens at the Library by Hillias Martin and James Murdock

Brent Hartinger told his story of growing up as a gay teen and how he didn’t see himself represented in books. There was a made for tv movie called What If I’m Gay? which was done from the point of view of straight friends which was not very helpful or enlightening. Like Geography Club, he started a support group and safe meeting place (away from the seedy bar) which grew to 450 members of GLBTQ teens and even offered themselves as a resource to counselors.
Geography Club was in its 3rd printing in less than a month, turned into a stage play, and brought about an avalanche of emails and letters from people that related to Russel (even straight people who understood that everyone knows what it’s like to have a secret). He talked about the controversy of this book in his home town and the importance of continuing to foster diverse collections and helping spread the word as a library for GLBTQ folks.

Sara Ryan suggested the article: If I Ask, Will They Answer?: Evaluating Public Library Reference Service to Gay/Lesbian Youth by Dr. Ann Curry, published in the Fall 2005 issue of Reference and User Services Quarterly. Sara has a fantastic booklist for teens with GLBT related themes and links on the Multnomah County Library site. Sara has been spotlighted by YALSA for the phenomenal work she does (that I can’t possibly capture here).

David Levithan’s book, Wide Awake, comes out September 2006 which is about a gay Jewish President of the U.S. This is his form of a protest song against the last presidential election. As the last speaker of the session, his discussion on the moral imperative of GLBT books themselves and what we do with them was truly uplifting and nothing short of a call to action. In talking about preaching your beliefs, he said that sometimes we need to preach-even though we can’t shove our beliefs down anyone’s throat or force people to do what they don’t want to do, we cannot be afraid of our beliefs just because there might be people louder than us. “Let us make this the loudest god damn fire there is, book by book, shelf, by shelf. . . “ it is about making progress and making things right.

Day of Silence (or no name calling) was recommended for a library program. Partnering with local GLBT organizations, book displays, book lists, and adding authors to your library web site, adding authors myspace accounts to your library's, adding Spanish/English language GLBT materials from the Human Rights Campaign to the collection-these are free!, adding search words to your catalog that reflect the needs of GLBT people were some of the ideas shared by the panelists and audience.

Also, check out one of this years Movers and Shakers, Bart Birdsall from Tampa Florida, who indeed made the freedom of speech for gay teens the loudest god damn fire there is.

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.

One Thought on “Out of the Closet and Into the Library

  1. Bart Birdsall [Visitor] on October 21, 2006 at 9:11 am said:

    Kelly is so kind to mention me. I was surprised to find this posting. I never thought my actions would have made news beyond Tampa. My goal was to show LGBT teens out there in Tampa that there are school employees who are not afraid to stand up for them. I was focused completely on sending them a message and being a role model and showing that the books taken off display in Hillsborough County were valuable literature, but I was surprised to have my protest end up in a small article in American Libraries and to be named as a Mover and Shaker by Library Journal. It just shows you that when you do the right thing, you get rewarded in life. I thank you, Kelly, for mentioning me in your wonderful article. You helped me milk my 15 minutes of fame for all its worth! LOL

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