Rainbow Flags and Donor Tags: Queer Materials at the Pride Library

Danielle Miriam Cooper
2014 InterActions : UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies  
Publication Date 2014 Peer reviewed eScholarship.org Powered by the California Digital Library University of California In insisting on the value of apparently marginal or ephemeral materials, the collectors of gay and lesbian archives propose that affects -associated with nostalgia, personal memory, fantasy and trauma -make a document significant. (Cvetkovich, 2003, p. 243) Located in a small corner of the D. B. Weldon Library at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada, the Pride Library
more » ... , the Pride Library provides access to materials by and about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Although the Pride Library is housed within D. B. Weldon and the library materials circulate through Western University's online library catalogue, the Pride Library maintains independence through a separate mandate from the Western University library system, volunteer-based staffing structure and primarily private financial and material donation funding structure. 1 The Pride Library's status as a near-autonomous, LGBTQ-focused information organization reflects the organization's queer orientation to library services, including a striking, LGBTQ-themed aesthetic throughout the space, emphasis on community building, and the collection of information materials relevant to the LGBTQ community in London, Ontario. The Pride Library approach to information services provides a case study for how unique LGBTQ community information needs can be incorporated into academic library contexts. Based on ethnographic research conducted at the Pride Library between January and April 2011, this paper explores findings pertaining to library's approach to materials, including object care and organization, acquisitions policies, and donor relationships. In the following article, I present a literature review on LGBT information issues and queer theory, a description of my research methods and setting, and report on my findings relating to the Pride Library's materials, donor policies, and donor relations. My findings demonstrate that the Pride Library not only treats its materials as informational containers, but also as aesthetic, symbolic, and affective artifacts. As the opening quote from Ann Cvetkovich (2003) reflects, the marginal status of queer communities, and by extension, the marginal status of the materials affiliated with their activities, leads to highly ephemeral and affective queer information collecting strategies such as collecting objects and privileging the documents of "everyday" or "regular" people as opposed to famous figures. Following the archival turn in queer theory and cultural studies from the past decade has explored the queer and often affective dimension to LGBTQ information organization; however, these works primarily focus on LGBTQ archives and "archives" in a more metaphorical sense (cf. Cvetkovich 2003; Halberstam 2005; Halberstam 2011) . The Pride Library 1 The Pride Library's official mandate can be found on the Pride Library website, see "Primary Sources" in References section of this article for a full citation. case study, therefore, demonstrates the existence and viability of distinctly queer library practices. Literature Review In contrast to the Pride Library case study which represents a grassroots, community-driven approach to LGBT information needs and activities, preexisting literature on LGBTQ information issues in Library and Information Science (LIS) focuses on exclusively professional and institutional contexts and more individualized LGBTQ information behavior. Professional recognition of LGBTQ information issues traces back to the social justice movement in librarianship, most notably the creation of the American Library Association's (ALA) Social Responsibilities Roundtable (SRRT) and affiliate group, the Task Force on Gay Liberation. Founded in 1970, the task force was the first professional association for gays and lesbians (Rayman, 2013) . During the early 1970s, librarians also produced pioneering works critiquing professional and institutional library practices utilizing social justice frameworks that often included anti-homophobic components. For example, Sanford Berman's (1971) Prejudices and Antipathies examined bias in the Library of Congress subject headings towards social groups based on various attributes including race, class, gender and sexuality. Similarly, Celeste West and Elizabeth Katz's (1972) essay collection Revolting Librarians (1972) included a chapter by Bianca Guttag addressing homophobia in LIS education. These works, therefore, included LGBT information needs and issues within the larger spectrum of librarianship and social justice. More recent LIS works addressing LGBTQ issues continue the discursive legacy addressing how professional and institutional library practice relates to LGBTQ information needs. For example, Cal Gough and Ellen Greenblatt's (1990) Gay and Lesbian Library Service is the first-ever monograph dedicated to library services for the LGBTQ community and includes information on a variety of topics, including collections development, reference materials, library exhibits and bibliographic control. Other works, such as Norman Kester's (1997) anthology Liberating Minds: The Stories and Professional Lives of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Librarians and Their Advocates and James Carmichael Jr.'s (1998) anthology Daring to Find our Names: The Search for Lesbigay Library Services provide experientially-based insight into LGBTQ-based institutional library activities and identities. The most recent contributions to this discursive branch include Hillias Martin Jr. and James Murdock's (2007) Serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Teens and Ellen Greenblatt's (2010) anthology Serving LGBTQ Library and Archives Users.
doi:10.5070/d4102019851 fatcat:ri4r5ogg5zg57lmhwjjcnww3ea