LGBTQ students are statistically more vulnerable to bullying, harassment, depression, and suicide, so access to supportive and educational materials can be powerful and life-saving. Public and school libraries can provide LGBTQ students both resources and a safe place for exploration. Youth who seek these resources often need the assurance of privacy as they might not feel ready or safe to come out to their families and peers.
If you are an ally librarian or a PFLAG member who wants to encourage your school and public libraries to better serve LGBTQ students, here are some important actions that libraries can take:
- Become familiar with the legal rights of students and youth to have access to LGBTQ books. Consult this article from Lambda Legal for details.
- Include LGBTQ brochures and similar publications for display or in your library holdings to provide low cost up-do-date information that students can easily and rapidly read.
- Keep up with the available LGBTQ book lists created by librarians and other field experts. In particular, Rainbow Book List is created yearly by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association.
- Set up regular displays of LGBTQ books/resources in the library, and where possible, include books with LGBTQ characters/themes in other displays. Some students might hesitate to approach an open LGBTQ display, so also include a quiet display, where you set up books in a visible place without explicitly indicating they cover LGBTQ topics.
- Display Safe Space stickers and posters throughout the library, like the Safe School Set from GLSEN, to signal to LGBTQ students that your library is an inclusive and accepting place.
- For schools, ensure that counselors, teachers, and the school nurse have access to the LGBTQ books/resources in the school library holdings or their own copies for distribution to students.
- Create a forum or mail list for local librarians and educators to share books lists, display concepts, and other ways to support LGBTQ students.
- Invite librarians to a PFLAG meeting to discuss ways to create safe and supportive libraries. Librarians can be some of our best allies! Get to know the ally librarians in your schools and community.
- Apply for a grant from the Pride Foundation to procure more LGBTQ books and resources for your library or to fund a long-term library project that will enhance the lives of LGBTQ students.