Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Gays in Library Land

This article discusses the American Library Association’s the inception of and subsequent activities of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The article is written by a lesbian non-librarian who describes herself as an activist. Barbara Gittings took over as coordinator for the Task Force after its first year and led it for another 15.
Gittings discusses her own realization of sexual identity and her search for literature that represented her. Her activism eventually led her to the ALA and librarians working for change within libraries and the Association itself following the Stonewall riots of 1969. The missions of the Task Force in the beginning were about raising awareness of the Task Force, raising awareness of gay and lesbian patrons’ needs within libraries (and beyond). To that end, they created bibliographies, awards for best gay and lesbian books, workshops, and discussions. In its first year, the Task Force pushed the ALA to adopt a platform of recognition and tolerance of gays and lesbians. As society grew more accepting, so did the publishing and library fields, which offered more literature by and for gays and more accessibility to that literature in libraries. Much of the article describes the actions, accomplishments and failures of the Task Force throughout Gittings’ time with it.
Considering this is written by a non-librarian (a “lay” person, in her words), is there anything missing from this account of the history of gays in librarianship and if so, what? Whose history is this article discussing? How helpful is this history in constructing a broader history of gays and lesbians in librarianship? How are libraries presented in this article? Librarians? Because Gittings is an activist, what do you think of her call to action by librarians? Do you agree? Lastly, since this is the only article about gays we have had to read in class (and may be the only one), why do you think this article was chosen?

7 comments:

Brendan said...

Where is the librarian's point of view and/or feelings on these issues, both from the 1970s and from today? Since Gittings isn't a librarian, it would be interesting to learn more about how actual professionals within the field felt about these issues, not just Gittings' depiction of those opinions.

SarahStumpf said...

I think it is interesting that change and activism in the library field had to be started by non-librarians. It makes me wonder why. I wasn't under the impression that groups and round table in the ALA were often started or supported by primarily non-librarians. Were there few gay librarians before the 70's? Were they just not willing to speak up? Did they come out of the woodwork after this task force was started?

And flashing forward to the future, does this task force still exist? What do they do and who does it now? Did the ratio of activist to librarian input change over time?

Laura Elizabeth said...
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Laura Elizabeth said...

I believe this article was an interesting selection because it emphasized how the ALA pioneered gay rights and education by being the first professional organization to form a gay group. Gittings might not be a librarian herself, but that should not totally disqualify her of making accurate statements on the views of librarians and of society at that time. I would wonder if an article on the same topic written by a librarian would provide us with a view that is equally insightful on the beginning years of the ALA’s Gay Task Force. She provides allows the reader a unique viewpoint of an activist who had an immense knowledge of the books available on gay and lesbian issues. Even though she was never a librarian, and never claimed the title, I wonder if she was ever given it by others?

Also, the Gay Task Force is now known as the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Round Table. This is their website: http://www.ala.org/ala/glbtrt/welcomeglbtround.htm
One point of interest would be that the Raspberry Cold-Cut awards have since been renamed the Stonewall Book Awards.

Emily Schearer said...

From what we have discussed thus far in the semester, I think it is pretty safe to say that there are still a lot of stuff missing from the history of librarianship as a whole. From what Gittings discussed in the article the amount of research and published materials have increased tremendously since the 60s, but the subject is by no means exhausted. I don't know enough from this short overview to say what is missing. I thought that she did give some examples of librarians and ALA members who worked with the TFGL. Michael McConnell is one of those people. Although she gave those examples, I have to agree with Sarah that the need or demand for change mostly seemed to come from outside the libraries themselves. I think that the influence and interest of people outside of the field really connected the movement to the community and seemed to be responsible for a lot of the success of their initiatives.

Jennifer Gile said...

I'm also going to have to agree with Sarah and Emily on this one. One of the largest questions we've been coming back to again and again in this class is "are libraries/librarians leaders or followers?" I think this article definitely shows librarians as followers in the strictest sense. Not until several lay people (and a few extra daring librarians like McConnell) stuck their necks out and took the necessary risks to get LGBT info and materials out there were the majority of librarians willing to along with it. And even then, how supportive were they truly?

Quinn Fullenkamp said...

Maybe this article resembles the Berman article as a call to arms for librarians to get up and get active. As the other comments have noted, it is a non-librarian going out and trying to do something to make a positive impact in the lives of other people. I really want to know more about the story, and I wish we had more time to get deeper into this issue. GLBT has made an impact and continues to make an impact. Can we quantify it?