Adult Fiction · Children's & Middle Grade · Nonfiction · Picture Books · Queer · YA

3 Books on Queer Reading and Librarianship

You know how sometimes you’re just living your life and all of a sudden you’re doing a research project? That’s just me? Okay. The point is I got super interested in whether or not queer librarianship was a thing, and if so, what are the going concerns. Turns out it is, of course it is, and there are plenty of concerns that affect all of us who love books, but I’ll save some of that for another day. Right now I’m pleased to say I’ve found three books on the subject and I’m happy to recommend them for both librarians and readers! There’s one for each age level — children’s, YA, and adult — and all three include large reading lists.

Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children’s Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content by Jamie Campbell Naidoo (2012)

Rainbow Family CollectionsThis is an absolutely amazing guide for anyone trying to develop an LGBT+ children’s collection. There are bajillions of titles here I didn’t find on my own, and I’ve been actively looking for years, so anyone interested in queer children’s lit should get a copy ASAP.

It’s also perfect for a librarian, though. There are rationales for how and why to include queer books, helpful in making your case, but also very plain and simple how-tos for those librarians who may not be queer themselves or know much about it, but who want to be inclusive and serve their communities. How to make families feel welcome without needing to identify them individually (through the use of posters, etc.), considerations in where to shelve queer material (with a special signifier or not) and how to identify it in the catalog, how to deal with complaints, even worksheets on how to pick books with positive representations. I know I used to be terrified of recommending something about race or disability because I had no idea which representations were accurate, so that’s a very real concern for allies and leads to erasure.

Best of all, the book is openly inclusive of bi, trans, and otherwise-identified people, as well as disabled queer people and characters of color. And, crucially, children who are queer, not just those who may have a queer relative. I can’t recommend this one enough. Just note the nonfiction books are all in one section, not separated out in the picture book and chapter book sections.

Serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians by Hillias J. Martin Jr., James R. Murdock (2007)

serving lgbt teensThis one’s a little more textbook-y, and less woke, but still a fine place for someone to start exploring queer book issues. Importantly, it’s not condescending about teenagers. There aren’t necessarily a ton of surveys to choose from, but the book mentions those that exist and what they indicate: Teens go to the library for information, but they don’t find much about queerness. Either it’s not there, or it’s not openly available and easy to find. They want novels and comics and whatnot, but they also want nonfiction and community resources. Nonfiction for teens tends to be underappreciated, especially queer biographies and memoirs but really nonfiction of any kind. Still, you’ll probably want this one more if you’re in some kind of advisory role for teens (in a library or otherwise), not so much for general use or for book recs since you can get queer YA recs anywhere. It’d also be good for research on queer reading habits, since it cites surveys and gives an overview of the niche’s history.

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Literature: A Genre Guide by Ellen Bosman and John P. Bradford (2008)

GLBT Literature A Genre GuideAnd finally, a hefty recommendation guide for adults. This one doesn’t try to explain what terms mean or that librarians should treat everyone equally, it jumps straight into a very brief description of the genre and its history and then some issues for librarians, like censorship, subject headings, and nontraditional sources for books and book reviews, but again these are very quick and to-the-point. After a mere 40 pages of introductory material, the rest of this 400-page book consists of gloriously detailed book lists sorted by genre and accompanied by content tags, subject headings, awards won, even read-alikes! I’m swooning at just how many titles are listed under each genre. A lot of them are familiar, I’m an enthusiast, but even more of them aren’t. If you’re super into a genre and want a comprehensive list up through about the year 2000, more than you’ll ever find in a blog post or library subject heading, this is the place to go. I could even see it as part of a collection, if you’re blessed with the time and money to collect queer books!

Do you need these? Not if you’re not a librarian, no. If you’re a librarian, absolutely. But either way, if you have anything to do with recommending books, check one out for the age group in question. They’re published by library presses, so it’s worth a look to see if a central library in your system has them in a professional collection, that’s how I got my hands on them… And if you’re a voracious reader, the book lists will have you swooning too!

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