HW Assignment: To Separate or Not to Separate (Prompt #8)

It’s interesting to consider whether or not libraries should separate LGBT and/or African American literature from the general collection. I can see that it would make things a lot easier for those readers who specifically want to read those types of books just from a locating standpoint. At the same time, I don’t think that separation like that would work in my local libraries.

I live in Provo, Utah which is predominantly populated by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Somewhat due to the influence of the church, a large portion of the community is very conservative. Since the community is so conservative, I think it would be an especially bad idea to separate out LGBT fiction into its own collection. It may be seen by some patrons as subtly promoting certain issues (such as gay rights) which is something that most of them do not support. Whether you agree or disagree with this mindset isn’t really the point. I think this shows that there isn’t much demand for a separate section in this case and at the same time, we would want to avoid angering or alienating patrons if possible.

As mentioned in the prompt, I also think this could be seen as a kind of segregation even though it’s not meant that way especially if we were to separate out African American fiction. I think a lot of patrons would just have the reaction of, “Why is this even necessary?” I don’t think that most patrons would understand or see this as a way for them to easily access material. In the end, I think they would just see it as unnecessarily drawing attention to the fact that these books are “different” from the rest of the collection. Instead, I think that libraries should utilize displays and other resources like lists to feature these sections of their collections. Black History Month would be a great time to feature African American literature and displays could easily be created for LGBT books as well. This way the library can still shine a spotlight on these sections of the collection, but it seems much more natural.

Lastly, I don’t think it’s appropriate to separate LGBT and African American fiction from the general collection because they’re not different genres (like mysteries or speculative fiction). While it’s true that YA isn’t necessarily it’s own genre either, I think those books are mostly aimed at a different audience whereas LGBT and African American fiction are not necessarily aimed at the audiences in their descriptors. They’re still meant for the general audience. I think it’s a good thing if someone were to pick up an LGBT or African American fiction book without realizing it. Who knows? Maybe they’ll end up finishing the book and have a new understanding or appreciation of a section of the collection that they would never have sought out in the first place.