One of the values I hold most dear is appreciating and celebrating diversity in all its forms. I want this to reflect in the work I do with students, in my library as a physical space, and in my collection. I strive to ensure that the library collection at my school reflects our diverse society and world. One of the populations most in need of books that reflect their reality is the LGBTQ+ community.
Students that identify as LGBTQ+ are at a greater risk for numerous negative factors, particularly in schools. Though improvements continue to be made, positive portrayals of LGBTQ+ individuals in mainstream media has far to go. Many of these students grow up in communities and homes that are not supportive of their identity. Many rarely come across positive role models in their schools or communities. Adolescence is a confusing time for anyone, I imagine it is doubly so for those still exploring their sexual or gender identity. Having access to materials (both fiction and nonfiction) that depict authentic LGBTQ+ characters can be life changing for these students.
If you are thinking of embarking on a mission to create a more inclusive collection that contains LGBTQ+ materials, I suggest you first take a look at AASL’s Defending Intellectual Freedom: LGBTQ+ Materials in School Libraries. This rich resource will walk you through the process step by step.
One new initiative I plan to take on in my library soon is a diversity audit. This is a lengthy process that involves analyzing your library collection title by title to check for diverse representation. This can be done in spots (say one or two shelves/one section) or your full collection. Check out this Accio Books Diversity Audit Template from We Need Diverse Books and The Harry Potter Alliance for a quick way to get started. I hope that conducting this audit will highlight gaps in my collection more clearly.
There are many things to consider when attempting to build a more inclusive collection, and many populations that deserve to be seen. The LGBTQ+ community is only one such population. However, I hope you will agree that it is a worthy endeavor that is essential to serving our school communities. I recently co-led a professional development session on this topic and invite you to explore our full presentation below.
For more information on the importance of creating a diverse collection that reflects the LGBTQ+ community, check out the Reading the Rainbow: Diverse Collections for the LGBTQ+ Community PowerPoint.
Author: Brandi Hartsell
Brandi Hartsell is the school librarian at Halls High School in Knoxville, TN. She was awarded Teacher of the Year at HHS in 2021. Brandi was also recognized alongside colleagues as recipients of the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL) Teacher Collaboration Award in 2019 and 2021. She has served (and continues to serve) in many leadership roles within TASL. Brandi has presented professional development sessions for TASL, Halls High School, and Knox County Schools. Brandi loves sharing ideas and brainstorming…also cats…and true crime. Follow her on Instagram @hhslibrarytn.