Consider yourself part of the collection management committee of your local library, or a library at which you would like to work. You must decide whether or not to separate GBLTQ fiction and African American Fiction from the general collection to its own special place. Some patrons have requested this, yet many staff is uncomfortable with the idea - saying it promotes segregation and disrupts serendipitous discovery of an author who might be different from the reader. Do you separate them? Do you separate one and not the other? Why or why not? You must provide at least 3 reasons for or against your decision. Feel free to use outside sources - this is a weighty question that is answered differently in a lot of different libraries.
I will answer this question in two parts. The first part will be the point of view of the library I work at and my experiences working there and the second part will be my opinion if I worked at a different library.
Part 1. The library that I work at has a mixture of ultra conservative and more open minded staff. The problem lies in that the ultra conservative staff members express their personal opinions (especially considering sex topics in general and LGBTQ) about what is ordered. They do not always think of the patron base. For example, I ordered the book "Barbara Gittings: Gay Pioneer" by Tracy Baim. After I catalogued the book it went on the new book shelf and then disappeared. There is no record of it being checked out. Was it stolen by a patron? Maybe. But why would a patron steal this biography?
Another example is recently the book called "This Book is Gay" by James Dawson was on my desk to be cataloged. I found this strange, because there is already a record in the system that I catalogued the book earlier this year. When I asked the YA Librarian what happened to the other copy she told me that it is missing. It went from the new book shelves to missing and she is tired of this happening. So, when I catalog this book again it is skipping the new book shelve and going right into the YA section.
It sounds like I am accusing a certain staff member or two of removing these books. Don't get me wrong I do not have any evidence nor am I going to blame someone(s) who may be innocent. However, it just seems strange that LGBTQ books seem to go missing quickly after being out on the new book shelf. However, the stuff that skips the new book shelves and is put directly into the YA section is still there.
The question is: is there a need for LGBTQ material in my library? The answer is yes, especially in YA. The YA librarian has told me that several of the teens in her programs have requested materials on LGBTQ and the materials that she orders is checked out.
So, will my library allow a LGBTQ section in the library? Sadly, I strongly feel that bringing up even doing a simple display of LGBTQ materials at a full library staff meeting would ruffle some seriously narrow mined feathers. I already caused an issue last year and a separation of staff opinions when I ordered the graphic novels "Sex Criminals" by Chip Zdarsky and "Motel Art Improvement Service" by Jason Little. These two books were discussed in several monthly staff meetings that actually ended up in a final heated shouting match. The director saw merit in these books and left them on the shelf until a staff member checked it out and kept on renewing them until she was told to return the books. Then she finally did a formal complaint and filled out the book challenge form. From there the books have been removed from the shelves.
What about a separate section for African American materials? The library does not have a lot of materials on the subject nor does it have a strong African American patron base. We maybe get one black person a month in the library and the school children seem to only ask for reference materials on black singers. So, there does not seem to a need for a separate section.
Part 2. If I worked at a different library in some other city I could imagine having a separate section for LGBTQ and African American Fiction if there is a need for it. There should be enough books, a strong patron base, and available space as the three reasons to separate fiction books into these two sections.
In my opinion it does not matter if it is possibly controversial genres like LGBTQ and African American Literature or more common genres like mysteries and science fiction; I feel that there needs to be enough interest in patron requests and circulation numbers in order to make these two or any genre a separate section of the library. For example, for a class assignment way back when I started grad school (I am graduating this May!) I shadowed a reference librarian in a mid-large city library that has a strong African American patron base. They have a lot of fiction books on this genre, so they created a separate section of the library for these books. I was told that these books are among the top circulated items in the library. Then the library separated their Harlequin novel featuring black characters onto a separate display near the security officer's desk. Why? Because these are the top stolen book genre from the library. So, there is strong patron base for African American literature and the library filled it by separating the books into a separate genre and in return made it easier on their patrons to find these books.