Q: I work in a small public library. I feel that I should be including books with gay, lesbian and transgender content in our collection, but I’m afraid of the possible repercussions. I’m not certain the board would support such books if a challenge arose. I’m especially worried about collecting picture books. What do you suggest I do?
It can be scary to purchase materials that you think might create a stir. And you aren’t alone with this concern. Good for you for knowing you shouldn’t let your fear stand in the way of fulfilling the library’s mission to serve everyone in your community.
Remember that your job in selecting books is guided by your policy. And that policy was approved by the library board. The public library and its board have an ongoing commitment to serve all community citizens with materials in many formats on many themes and topics. So when you are choosing materials with gay and lesbian content, you are helping to fulfill the mission outlined in your policy. You are doing your job.
Community members do differ from each other, even if they might seem to be remarkably similar in many ways. Whether or not members of your board are aware that gay individuals live in the community, or that individuals with gay family members and friends live there, every library –large or small–has a responsibility to provide materials for everyone in the community. All library users in a democratic society deserve to see their realities and values reflected in the library books they are free to choose – or not choose – to borrow and to share with their young family members.
Of course this no guarantee that your board will support keeping a particular title if it is challenged. But don’t assume such books will be challenged. And don’t assume the board won’t support them if they are. Focus instead on your responsibility: to uphold your policy and fulfill the library’s mission by serving the community as a whole-in all its diversity. That is something in which you can take great professional pride.
Because you most likely have a small book budget, you’re probably already selecting books for young children that are recommended by reliable professional resources such as the ALA/ALSC Notable Children’s Books list and others, and professional review journals such as Booklist and School Library Journal; resources such as these and Children’s Catalog, which recommends books for public libraries on various themes and topics, will help you identify materials that you and the library can support.