Friday, January 20, 2012

Article Note: On Campus Climate and GLBT Resources in Academic Libraries

Citation for the article:

Ciszek, Matthew P., "Out on the Web: The Relationship Between Campus Climate and GLBT-related Web-based Resources in Academic Libraries." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 37.5 (September 2011): 430-436.

Read via Library Literature and Information Science database.

I found the recommendations at the end of the article to be the most useful part, but I did get some points for reflection and further thinking from the article overall. This is a relevant article from librarians seeking to be more aware of the issues as well as for those seeking to provide better services and resources for members of the LGBT community. While providing both print and online diverse collections is important, the article focuses on online and we-based resources. This is because online resources are specially essential to serve those who may be reluctant to approach library staff in person and/or may not be open about their orientation.

The article discusses results of a survey of 259 schools asking three questions (I paraphrased them slightly. The exact text in article on page 432):
  • Does the library have research guides on the LGBT topics or geared to these students? 
  • Is there a dedicated selector for this topic, or at least a contact in the library for more information? 
  • Does the library subscribe to GLBT Life Database?
I will put myself on the line by answering the questions as they apply to my institution:
  • Not at this time. 
  • Unofficially, I would be that selector. However, the fact that I have some expertise or that I am the one who, primarily, selects materials in that area is not advertised by the library. In fact, there has been questioning of the fact I do such selections. I usually do a book display for Pride Month in June, which has met with some degree of objection as well locally. I do it anyways. As a disclosure note, I am one two advisors for the campus LGBTQA group. Some people are aware I do it, but overall they are indifferent about it. 
  • No. 
The author states that library online catalogs, special collections and print materials were excluded from the research. This was done to focus on general resources, which the author states would be available in most academic libraries (432). I can see the point to this, but I wondered if eliminating the print also leaves out the possibility of finding  materials by browsing.. However, I do see the point as well regarding stigma when it comes to finding these kind of materials then checking them out of the library.

Though the author did find that there was a relationship between campus climate and the availability of LGBT resources, the places with said resources seemed low in number:
  • "Evidence of a GLBT research guide was found at only 25% of libraries surveyed, and evidence of a selector or resource contact was found at even fewer libraries surveyed" (434). 
  • A subscription to the database was found a bit more often, but the author credits this to the fact that, in many cases, the database may be bundled in a larger database package. Also, smaller institutions might find GLBT Life to be too expensive.
The article gives some very good recommendations for action. I will jot down some with brief comments:
  • "Create a top-level research guide geared toward GLBT-related topics and resources on the library's Web site" (435). We could easily do it since we use LibGuides here. However, since I would be the one doing it, odds are good this would not be a high priority given the many other things I do have to do. I would like to do it; I just don't see the time opening up to do it at this point in time, and since this topic is not a high priority, there is no incentive. The author mentions that often LGBT materials get tossed in or put into larger guides for topics like Gender Studies or Women's Studies. He makes a valid point that some students may not think to look in these guides  We currently do not have a Gender Studies nor a Women's Studies research guide in our library. I guess no one ever requested one. Something more to consider.
  • "Assign a selector for GLBT materials who is tasked to keep abreast of resources in the area of GLBT studies and purchase materials for the GLBT community on campus as budgets allow" (435). As I mentioned, I do this in an unofficial capacity. The literature selector here does purchase a thing or two, but GLBT is not a high priority overall. What I do select in large measure is part of my work and efforts for library outreach. It basically gets done as long as I do it. 
  • "Highlight GLBT related collections and resources on the library's Web site, newsletter, and other institution communications to the campus community at large" (435). We do some of this. As the Outreach Librarian, I handle the library's communications to the campus and community at large. We do blog content, which does get channeled into our social media, mainly Facebook page and Twitter. I have also used the internal campus bulletin board for some of this, usually to announce a book display or event (something I do for other observances and topics as well). 
  • "Perform an assessment of GLBT students, faculty, and staff information and resource needs and create a plan for meeting these needs" (435). Something I would like to do, but I may not be able to get to right away. In this regard, I would like to read a bit more on this assessment topic, and the article does provide some references I could use as a starting point. Then again, there are other areas where I would like to do needs assessment, if I can actually get the time instead of having to do a lot of busywork (but I will not go into that now). I am thinking a good place to start is with the local campus LGBTQA group. 
Here is one final point from the article that made me think a bit:
  • "Mehra and Bracquet argue that academic librarians should become 'change agents' by not only improving the library collections and services to GLBT persons but also by promoting the equality of these people in society and in the institutions where they work" (431). 
Why did that make me think? For one, I do wonder how one or two librarians can do such in an overall environment that is not very friendly to 'change agents' (related to LGBT or any other issue for that matter). I am not saying that librarians then in such a setting should not do anything; silence is worse, but to what extent do you put your neck on the line when repercussions can be a very real possibility? And I am thinking in general terms here.  For me, this goes along with the whole idea of library neutrality, an idea I have struggled with at times and pondered (see here, here, and here). Change agent to me is more than just some twopointopian "visionary" (to borrow the term from the Annoyed Librarian). I have no problem with the idea; it's the carrying it out that at times I ponder.

Anyhow, leave my musings aside. If this is a topic that interests you, you probably should read this article.

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