Bringing Pride to Your Library

This short article seeks to point out a number of resources you could use to help celebrate Pride at your library. Working in South Dublin Libraries, I have previously organised book displays, events and programmes which celebrate Pride and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans (LGBT) community.

Book Displays

Book displays are the bread and butter of libraries and can go a long way to engaging borrowers, especially LGBT displays since these books are often spread across the library and once collated can make for a powerful library display, particularly when timed with Pride.

Pride Display at Ballyroan Library
Pride Display at Ballyroan Library
Pride Display at Ballyroan Library
Pride Display at Ballyroan Library

Pride can also be shown in different ways at different times. Last year, the day after the Orlando attacks in the US, I gathered up every LGBT romance I could find and arranged a display as I felt, right then, that we needed a display of queer tales of love and happy endings.

LGBT romance display
LGBT romance display

When creating your own display, first hit up your fiction section – which will probably contain most of your LGBT stock – before collecting your LGBT non-fiction (starting of course with the Dewey number 306.766, your library should hopefully also have LGBT interest books available to you in across most of the spectrum of non-fiction). If you have any LGBT staff, now would be a good time to get them on board for recommendations. You could also consult various international LGBT book prizes for titles (such as the UK’s Polari First Book Prize or the extensive categories nominated in the USA’s annual Lambda Literary awards) as well as recommendation lists, which range from official (the American Library Association’s yearly Over the Rainbow list) to unofficial (social reading sites like GoodReads have lots of interesting LGBT lists). If you find that these books are not in stock at your library, perhaps you purchase a selection in time for Pride.

Community Information

Easy to underestimate and bypass altogether, community information can be an important resource for LGBT patrons. In Ireland, we have a fantastic monthly community magazine, GCN (Gay Community News), which is entirely free and if you contact them, they will supply you with copies for your library (and who in libraries doesn’t love a free periodical?). Within its pages, you will also find a list of community organisations across the country which cater to the LGBT community, such as BeLonG To, Ireland’s national organisation for LGBT young people aged between 14 and 23. You could sign up to these organisations’ mailing lists and display any relevant event/information posters from these groups, which range from a Gay Hillwalking Club in Cork, to contact details for the Gay Switchboard, to LGBT Health Information, and much more. Dublin also has a number of LGBT festivals, as well as Pride, which you could promote (and tie item displays into) such as the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival (May) or GAZE LGBT Film Festival (August). There is also the option of more direct collaboration, such as offering these organisations use of your library event space for a meeting, a LGBT book club, or an event. The possibilities are endless and easy to incorporate of a library of any size.

Events and Exhibitions

There are a number of LGBT events you could organise for your library. The most obvious is author readings; we have a wealth of Irish LGBT authors whom you could ask to give a reading at your library, from John Boyne, to Brian Finnegan, to Emma Donohue. A quick google for their twitter account or agent’s details and you could set something up rather easily. And don’t forget, it’s not just novelists, we have Irish LGBT playwrights (a good source of inspiration is Fintan Walsh’s anthology, Queer Notions: New Plays and Performances from Ireland), poets (whilst there’s no definitive book at the moment, Dublin in particular has a vibrant spoken word scene with many LGBT poets, and I’m sure other cities do too – ask around) and musicians (there’s nothing to say you can’t have music in the library!).

Another way to celebrate Pride at your library would be to have an LGBT-themed exhibition. This could be an exhibition of Irish Queer Artists such as Adrian+Shane or Will St. Leger, or one of Tonie Walsh’s, curator of the Irish Queer Archive (IQA), many excellent exhibitions, a lot of which draw on the wealth of materials from the IQA. A particularly pertinent exhibition of Tonie’s would be A Liberating Party, an exhibition about the emergence of Pride in Ireland, which I have previously programmed in South Dublin Libraries. Tonie is also an historian who frequently gives talks all over the country and is an excellent resource himself! You can find him on Twitter here.

Poster by Tonie Walsh
Poster by Tonie Walsh
Exhibition board from A Liberating Party, curated by Tonie Walsh
Exhibition board from A Liberating Party, curated by Tonie Walsh

Conclusion

These are just a small number of resources you could consider using to incorporating Pride into your library. If you’ve any ideas you’d like to share, or if you’re seeing advice/help setting any of these up, feel free to contact me at mward@sdublincoco.ie.

Mark Ward, Senior Library Assistant, South Dublin Libraries