The road trip has begun! It is hard for me to write a ton while I am on the road because I only have my phone but here are my thoughts so far:
1. Texas is really hot. I was expecting the heat, and I was prepared because we just had an awful heat wave in Boston where I live, but Texas is something else entirely. It also didn’t help that I waited outside in the sun for three hours at Franklin’s BBQ for lunch. Although it was totally worth it. Now that I have eaten Texas BBQ I can never go back to what we eat in New England.
2. The libraries I visited on the way to Austin were very varied in their size, collection, set up etc. (no surprise there) but mostly really awesome in their own ways.
I’ve been to eight libraries with plans for a bunch more in the next week or so. All the libraries I’ve visited have had at least three novels on the shelf in their teen collection with LGBT characters and at least one nonfiction title discussing being gay in a positive way. Of those eight libraries, four have had at least ten titles and multiple nonfiction titles (either in a specific teen nonfiction section or in the regular adult nonfiction section.)
I won’t go into detail now about the holdings, but I will say that the standout library for me was the William F. Laman Public library in Little Rock. I spent a significant amount of time there and was given a wonderful tour by Mary Furlough, the assistant director in charge of children, teen, and technical services. While all the libraries I visited have had some sort of specific space set aside for teens, Laman had the most incredible space by far, extensive programming, and multiple library staff dedicated to serving just teens. They also had an incredible collection with lots of brand new titles and basically every LGBT YA title I have heard of.
Not all of the libraries that I have visited have had collections as abundant and accessible as Laman, but it is heartening to see that they all have something in their collection for queer teens.
Some of the libraries, despite having good collections, have had very little visibility of their LGBT titles or material. I appreciated Laman because they had books on display that were very clearly books with LGBT content (the nonfiction title Queer for example.) One library that did have inclusive displays was the Bordeaux branch of the Nashville Public Library. As soon as I walked in I noticed a stack of “Out and About in Nashville” and when I went into the teen section (which was its own enclosed space, albeit with glass walls), I saw a few titles on display that I knew had LGBT characters and plots.
Overall, I’ve been very pleased and encouraged by the collections I have seen. Even in the small town libraries, there have been material available. I have been especially happy during my stay in Texas because all of the libraries I have visited have had great LGBT collections, but more on that in my next post.