A “cardigan” of librarians has taken over the Oregon Convention Center for the week—and I’m so happy to be among them! If there was a theme to the first day of my first PLA conference, it was serving underserved populations. Specifically, I attended sessions focused on:
- LGBTQIA+ patrons
- incarcerated youth
- patrons experiencing housing insecurity
I’d cover them all if I could but, given Tuesday’s Disney employee walkout and certain recent legislative tactics, our nation’s LGBTQIA+ communities have been especially on my mind lately.
In their session “Queering the Library: Strategically Creating Space for the LGBTQ+ Community,” librarians Rebecca Oxley and Teresa Miller shared programming and outreach efforts at Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS). From “It Gets Better” panels (teens) to queer cartoon discussions (tweens) to rainbow storytimes (families), PGCMLS offered programs for LGBTQIA+ patrons of all ages. PGCMLS also formed a LGBTQIA+ work team, which allowed staff to get strategic across workgroups with programming, as well as develop staff education and a toolkit for libraries.
While it might be tempting to put all your efforts on Pride Month, Oxley and Miller encouraged celebrating “Pride 365” by incorporating LGBTQIA+ programming into existing initiatives and heritage months, like Poetry Month or Black History Month. They also noted that while Pride events themselves are often open to families, they don’t necessarily cater to families. This is where libraries can come in. PGCMLS’s solution? A Rainbow Family Festival!
As children’s librarians, it may be tempting to think of serving LGBTQIA+ patrons as being in the teen or adult librarian’s purview. Yet, LGBTQIA+ children and families certainly exist. We—or our administrators—may fear backlash. Yet, fear shouldn’t equate with inaction. If a drag queen story time is too much for your community, Oxley and Miller encouraged starting small. Read books about all family structures. Incorporate rainbow-themed crafts or activities. But, if you do go further that, don’t be surprised to see more LGBTQIA+ patrons (and even staff) than you thought you had in your community. They’re there, they’ve always been there, and they deserve to see themselves in library programming, too.
(Want to learn more about topics like these? Don’t forget about posts by ALSC’s very own Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers committee!)
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
Guest conference blogger Alec Chunn (he/him) is a Children’s Librarian at the Tualatin (OR) Public Library. He’s new to the Portland area, so he’s looking forward to meeting other local librarians and reconnecting with colleagues. He’ll be attending the conference in-person. His favorite snack is Bear Naked granola bites (any flavor).