School librarians enjoy highlighting special observances for their students, and here’s one more: June is GLBT Book Month. Originating in the 1990s as National Gay and Lesbian Book Month, the American Library Association began its recognition in 2015 as GLBT Book Month, creating “a nationwide celebration of the authors and writings that reflect the lives and experiences of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community” (GLBTRT).
Building the Rainbow Collection
For school librarians, GLBT Book Month is a reminder to continue expanding their collections by adding new fiction and nonfiction books to support their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ) students as well as those living in gay or lesbian-parented families. Like other underserved groups, it is important for LGBTQ students to see themselves in the resources in their school libraries.
Promoting LGBTQ Books
As a book-savvy middle school librarian in New England, Liz subtly lets students know about LGBTQ content in her school library: “For students, I regularly include LGBTQ books and resources in book talks, displays, and resource collections. I don’t typically highlight LGBTQ books specifically, but rather, if I’m book talking sci-fi books, for example, I might include Proxy by Alex London or Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz. Similarly, earlier this year some students were researching civil and human rights topics, so I pointed some of them towards books like Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington or Stonewall by Ann Bausum. I also have this ‘thing of the day’ on a whiteboard by the library entrance — so, maybe I have an author’s birthday and highlight a few of their books, or for National Cat Day I bring out a few books on cats. But I also mark events like Trans Day of Visibility with some books about trans people or characters.”
Teachers may need help in learning inclusive language, classroom best practices, and LGBTQ curriculum issues and resources. Liz shares the actions she took with colleagues: “We happen to have a number of out LGBTQ students and otherwise gender non-conforming students. When our first trans student came out at the beginning of this year, many teachers had a lot of questions! I provided book recommendations to those who were interested (Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews, Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin, and George by Alex Gino). I also created a teacher resource guide (“LGBTQ Education: A Guide to Serving LGBTQ Students and Their Families”) related to LGBTQ Education.”
LGBT Books among Top Challenged Books for 2016
Challenges to books with LGBT characters and content has been a trend in recent years. Of the 323 book challenges reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom for 2016, five of the top 10 challenged books for 2016 included titles that LGBT characters including two with transgender children. The challenged titles include:
- This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
- Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
- George written by Alex Gino
- I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jenning, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
- Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan (Pekoll).
Selecting books is one responsibility for school librarians, but protecting books against censorship is another. If you are experiencing censorship attempts in any subject area, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) provides confidential assistance to school librarians facing oral complaints and formal challenges. Anyone may call OIF staff for support; one need not be a member of ALA or AASL. For help with challenges to library materials, contact Kristin Pekoll, OIF assistant deputy director, at 800-545-2433, ext. 4221, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
GLBT Book Month Resources for You
- “Open to All: Serving the GLBT Community in Your Library” (created in 2016 by the GLBT Round Table Advocacy Committee Tool Kit for all types of libraries)
- LGBTQ K-12 Education: A Select Annotated Bibliography (developed by Elizabeth Gartley & expanded in 2016 by Peter Brunette)
- The Stonewall Book Awards (presented annually since 1971)
- The Rainbow Book List (a bibliography of books with significant LGBTQ content for children and young adults)
- “Seeing Myself in the Mirror: An LGBTQ Literature Annotated Bibliography with Diverse Characters” (created for high school students in 2014 by Alyson Feldman-Piltch)
- Reading Guides for Book Discussions
- ALA Store GLBT Book Month poster and bookmarks to purchase
Many LGBTQ students experience bullying in their schools, but school librarians can make their libraries safe havens and provide quality LGBTQ-themed resources to support students. According to Liz, “LGBTQ inclusion has become a normal part of the everyday activities in the library, and I think this has had a positive impact. This year, I’ve had an eighth-grade student ask me a couple times for good coming out stories, and earlier this year a sixth-grade student came to me to ask about pronoun etiquette.”
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT). “June is GLBT Book Month.” http://www.ala.org/glbtrt/glbt-book-month/ (accessed May 24, 2017).
Liz (middle school librarian), email to author, May 18, 2017.
Pekoll, Kristin. “Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016.” OIF Blog. April 10, 2017. http://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=9226/ (accessed May 24, 2017).
Author: Helen Adams
A former school librarian in Wisconsin, Helen Adams is an online senior lecturer for Antioch University-Seattle in the areas of intellectual freedom, privacy, library ethics, and copyright. A member of the AASL Knowledge Quest Advisory Board, chair of the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and a KQ blogger, she is the author of Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2013). Email: email@example.com.