Supporting Trans Students UAL website
There were two quotes from UAL students on this website that I felt had particular resonance for library work.
“It’s good to do a bit of your own research. Focus on resources written by or at least with the community you’re looking into. Everyone is their own expert: you on you, me on me.”
This shows how important it is that the diversity of LGBTQ identities are represented within the library collections. We should ensure we purchase resources by authors from across the LGBTQ spectrum, as well as using those resources within workshops.
“If you’re an LGBT person and you don’t know who these 2 women are [Marsha P. Johnson and Silvia Rivera] , go change that, because they changed the world for you.”
This indicates how essential it is for people with LGBTQ identities to be aware of the history of those communities in order to build solidarity. UAL’s libraries should ensure they are places where students find out about their history and find authors they identify with in the collections.
The libraries already seeks suggestions from students, including through the Liberate My Curriculum project, but it would be beneficial for the collections to have a closer relationship with the UAL LGBT+ student network to gain a deeper understanding of any imbalance in the collections and how that could be redressed.
It is also important to use language carefully. In an article Jessica Colbert also proposes ideas for patron-driven subject access, which although imperfect, could help to make library systems more responsive to the LGBTQ communities at UAL and ensure they are able to access information using preferred terms.
Student responses to LGBTQ-related resources and how they are organised within the library, could be used to provoke discussions in workshops about the importance of LGBTQ history, how this is recorded and preserved and accessed.
bell hooks : Understanding Patriarchy
hooks quotes John Bradshaw on the destructive effects of patriarchy, including
“the repression of thinking whenever it departs from the authority figure’s way of thinking.”
We need to look at the concept of “authority” in library resources carefully and critically. As Alan Carbery says in his lecture on ‘Authentic Information Literacy’ (mp4 video) it is too simple to assume that someone with a PhD has authority and someone without a PhD does not. He proposes that in teaching information literacy we should show examples of individuals speaking truth to power. As hooks argues, a system of authority and control damages everyone even those who supposedly hold the power. Critical Information Literacy puts forward teaching methods we can use to democratise the classroom, question the idea of authority and control in information, publishing and libraries, and recognise that everyone has their own authority. Using texts such as hooks and these methods could encourage all students to think critically about the relationship between power and information and how that can be challenged,
Pay it no mind: the life and times of Marsha P. Johnson
Watching this film, I was thinking how great it would have been for the LGBTQ community in Greenwich Village had had a library that catered for them where they could find out about LBGTQ history and build solidarity. Libraries can be safe havens for marginalised communities if they are truly inclusive, or if not, they can be another institution that marginalises and oppresses groups.
To be inclusive, libraries must preserve information on the lives of people in marginalised communities and ensure access to all. Michael Musto who appeared in the film said in a panel discussion about the film that he was “happy that her life hadn’t fallen through the cracks of LGBT history”, suggesting the precariousness of individual lives within the historical record.
Often the physical documents that could be collected – magazines, zines, pamphlets, photographs, oral history- are fragile in nature and may not be preserved. This film shows how the importance of how, for all the problems they have, open access digital resources such as Youtube can play an important role in creating, preserving and disseminating knowledge and experiences from communities such as Marsha P. Johnson’s.
Resources such as this film and student responses to it could be used in workshops to raise discussions about why some people have 500 page biographies written about them and some don’t, why some identities might be underrepresented in library /archive collections, and the importance of including different kinds of materials to ensure inclusive, diverse collections.