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.

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13 thoughts on “HW Assignment: To Separate or Not to Separate (Prompt #8)

  1. That’s a great distinction – to say that the specific books in that “genre” aren’t necessarily aimed at that specialized group only. You’re right….those books are still inclusive of the entire reading population. Good point! I think in the instance of your library, what you said makes perfect sense. The overall goal of separating certain books out would be to HELP the patrons – not to alienate or upset anyone, which it sounds like would be the case for your library. Good response.

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  2. You mentioned everything I thought when I saw the title of your post. I’m Black but have never given much thought to the separate African American section in bookstores because I find it convenient in easily locating books but since thinking about it, I think it’s pointless to have a separate section, especially since those sections are usually very small and poorly stacked.

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  3. I agree with all of your points. Separating these books from the general collection would definitely could cause a stir among many communities in the US. In regards to your last paragraph, I think that LGBT and African American fiction are meant for the general audience, but in many cases may be used more by those groups. Just an assumption. But like you said, hopefully anyone can pick one of these books up and develop a new understanding or appreciation for them.

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    1. I agree with you that I think those specific groups are more likely to pick up an African American or LGBT fiction book. But I think separating them from the rest of the collection could potentially create an artificial barrier that keeps other people from trying them out.

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  4. I especially like your last point about how these books aren’t really their own genre the way mysteries are, for instance. These authors write in all sorts of genres. And I completely agree that putting things classified as African-American and LGBTQ lit with the rest of the collection is great for hopefully having people appreciate a perspective that they might not have found otherwise.

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  5. Demographics rule, I’d suppose, and there is nothing wrong with that since that’s how it is. I appreciate the honesty with which you convey the description of both, your library community and with the way you see it. I am curious about your overall description though. Since it is a very conservative population, its majority, what type of information items are included in your collection that you are surprised at having? Also, what type of material does your library not carry that you think they should, in your personal opinion? Does your public library fail to measure up to ALA standard regarding FOI in your opinion? Like I said, I am very curious but not judgmental in any way, either way.

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    1. No, these are very fair questions! I actually think that the libraries in my area do a very good job of still providing materials for everyone regardless of beliefs. They definitely still have LGBT material, I just don’t think it would benefit my library to bring extra attention to them by separating them into their own collection. So to that point, I don’t believe that my library necessarily needs improvement.

      One thing that my library supplies that most don’t is LDS fiction. Being in a primarily LDS community, there are always books being added to the collection that have been published through LDS publishers that I wouldn’t expect to see on other library shelves.

      I also know that the YA section especially tries to stock books on depression and suicide (I believe Utah–maybe more specifically Utah County–has higher rates than other places, but I’m not 100% on that). Overall, I think my library is doing a very good job of maintaining ALA standards, but it is very tricky in an area that is saturated with these religious beliefs. Being LDS myself, I’ve been able to separate my personal beliefs from my professional beliefs pretty successfully, but I think patrons have a lot harder time doing/accepting that.

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  6. I enjoyed reading your prompt, as all of your points were valid. Thinking about this prompt after reading about how you talked about segregating the books, has changed my opinion on this subject matter somewhat. You are right- if you don’t want specific groups to be segregated in general, then they should not be segregated in the library.
    -Alicia Mitchell

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