Every Book its Reader: LGBTQ+ and Libraries
The Five Laws of Library Science are as follows:
- Books are for use.
- Every person their book.
- Every book its reader.
- Save the time of the reader.
- The library is a growing organism. 1
With this in mind, the staff of the Milwaukee Public Library is constantly evaluating its collections and programming to reflect the needs of the community while also maintaining staples throughout its collections. Libraries are seen as safe havens and beacons of information for people looking to validate their own opinions and for those who want to broaden their outlooks.
Even with progress on the national and local level in reflecting diversity in recent years, there are still opportunities to ensure that all individuals have equal access to library resources and services, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, or other aspects of their identity. 2
Libraries continue to improve on their initiatives to reflect the diverse needs and interests of the communities they serve. By actively seeking out and incorporating diverse perspectives and voices into library collections, programs, and services, libraries can meet the needs of all patrons and create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone.
Libraries have a unique role to play in promoting democracy and the free exchange of ideas, but this cannot be achieved if certain groups are systematically excluded or marginalized. Libraries strive to be intentional in their efforts to address structural inequalities and ensure that their resources and services are accessible and relevant to all members of the community.
As society becomes increasingly diverse, libraries that fail to adapt risk losing relevance and support from the communities they serve. By embracing diversity and working to create inclusive spaces and resources, libraries can better position themselves as vital community institutions that meet the needs of all members of the public.
To help remedy some of these issues, Milwaukee Public Library’s Strategic Plan states its intent to help patrons Read, Learn, and Connect with the library and community. 3 This vision also encompasses a safe space in which all patrons feel welcome to be themselves. Youth-serving staff at MPL work to show support in the collections as custodians of information access for young adults and teens. Staff want it to be known that MPL is a safe place that practices some of the most basic tenants of librarianship, “to combat prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination against individuals and groups in the library profession and in library user populations on the basis of race, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, creed, color, religious background, national origin, language of origin or disability.” 4
MPL's 2020 Plan outlines a commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of its operations, including its services to patrons. As such, the library is dedicated to creating a welcoming and supportive environment for all members of the community, including those who identify as LGBTQ. This includes providing access to a wide range of materials that reflect the experiences and perspectives of LGBTQ individuals, as well as hosting events and programs that celebrate and support this community.
MPL also seeks to ensure that its physical spaces and online resources are inclusive and affirming and that all staff are trained to provide respectful and responsive service to patrons of all backgrounds and identities. By prioritizing the needs and interests of LGBTQ patrons, MPL is able to fulfill its mission of providing free and open access to information and resources that promote lifelong learning and personal growth for all members of the community.
Here are some resources the library has access to that celebrate the LGBTQ community: