Blogging task on Gender

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.”

Julius Jokikokko

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.”

Charlie Craggs

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.

3 Replies to “Blogging task on Gender”

  1. I agree with what you said regarding Charlie Craggs quote and Marsha P. Johnsons video to indicate the importance of learning the history of LGBTQ+ communities to achieve a ‘solidarity’ and the library is always a place to start.

    When reading your blog, it is great to discover new resources that I was not yet aware of and knowing I can pass them on to my students. I was especially interested in the Liberating the Curriculum campaign. As a support worker, I do not believe we have as much access to all the relevant information to help our students as members of staff do. (This is something I would like to change as I feel it is invaluable to my students). The questionnaire, bookmarks and zine submissions are an inclusive way to get staff and student involved in building their knowledge in a wider field and it encourages everyone to look at alternative resources, I will be definitely passing these on to my students.

    I have added a couple of links below that I found valuable when referring to terminology in this blog post and wanted to know what the plus on LGBTQ + communities stood for. I thought this description was a great explanation.

    Ortiz-Fonseca says…”I explain it by simply saying that the ‘plus’ is an inclusive and intentional way of representing different identities and experiences,”

    Justin Kamimoto, founder of the community organization My LGBT Plus,
    ‘…. said he chose the name of his group since he felt “LGBT, LGBTQ, and even LGBTQQIA [weren’t] encompassing and inclusive enough for [this] diverse community.”’

    1. Thanks for your comments, especially for the resources on terminology. I was trying to use the terminology that the resource I was discussing used, but looking back I can see that I was not consistent in this. Those links will really help.

      Yes please do pass on details about Liberate my Curriculum to your students. This is a Student Union campaign the library service is involved with. Generally, the libraries are always keen to receive any suggestions from students so please do pass this on!

  2. I really appreciate how you have analysed gender and sexuality within an academic library settings. Libraries are very important as they shape the students learning journey. Most importantly the role of course librarians is extremely influential as they can aid in liberating the curriculum as they can recommend books, key-texts and other resources that have a diversity opinion to course tutors and students.

    Because of the presence of ‘authority’ in academic thought and writing, I always think about the voice left behind or silenced academically because of racism and sexism. As well as the Liberate my curriculum campaign you should also check out; Why is My Curriculum White, ( in the file section there are dozens of useful journal articles on race and gender in higher education.

    The idea of asking students to respond to the film, Pay It No Mind, in a workshop is a really fun, creative way to get them actively involved in exploring gender and privilege(s). Have you thought about how a workshop like this may be beneficial to academic and non academic staff at UAL?

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