You Can Change the Library
Are you tired of reading books where Charlotte or Jason has to be home on time or else Mom and Dad will take turns lecturing all night? Or stories where Mom and Dad hold hands in the stadium watching the big game? And stories where Mom is a model-perfect woman, and Dad is a real man’s man?
If books that reflect LGBT-headed families are missing from your school or public library, you can do something about it. Follow these five steps to get the books that you want to read onto the shelves.
If the school or public library staff doesn’t know there is a need for books featuring teenagers with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender parents, they might not buy them. If you’re not comfortable speaking directly to a library staff member, look for a suggestion box on site or online, or an online wish list. Can’t find one? Then send an email suggestion.
Make the school or public librarians’ jobs easier by recommending specific titles you’ve read and liked. The American Library Association also publishes its list of Rainbow Books each year, which recommends books for children from birth to eighteen years old with LGBT characters. The list likely contains some titles you’ll find appealing. You can find current and past lists at ALA: Rainbow Books.
Sometimes school or public library staff needs more information about LGBT-headed families. If your school has a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance), ask the club adviser to speak to the library staff about LGBT-headed families and how beneficial it is to have books in the library featuring families with parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. You might also find help, like educational materials and advocate speakers, at PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network), COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere), or the Family Equality Council.
If a tight budget is limiting the kinds of materials and numbers of books school and public libraries can buy, make a book donation. If you’ve read and enjoyed a book (and it’s still in good condition), you can share it with others by giving it to the library and asking that it become part of the circulating collection. Perhaps a GSA or a book club could host a book drive to collect titles that include teenagers from LGBT-headed families for donation to libraries. Be aware that libraries do have formal procedures for handling donations and collection development, so ask the librarian for the best way to provide free books to augment the circulating collection.
If all else fails and it seems like you’re not getting anywhere, you can challenge to have a book included in the library collection, with support from your parent or guardian. Most people have heard of book challenges to have a book removed from the library—a form of censorship. However, most people do not know that many libraries have policies in place to challenge that a book be included in the library collection as well. Ask school and public library staff about procedures for challenging to include a title, and then follow the policy steps exactly. A challenge might be considered a last resort because there may be some opposition, and it might make some people upset. But if it’s important for you to have books that represent teenagers whose parents are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in the school or local library, and other methods haven’t made any progress, a challenge can be an important tool for achieving your goals.
You can help libraries become richer places offering greater diversity by proactively championing books that tell the stories of people who have LGBT family members. Not only will you make connections with fiction and nonfiction books featuring families like your own, but teens from more traditional households will be exposed to different family situations, and you can help raise their awareness. Your voice can remind librarians that including more books about teenagers with LGBT parents in the library collection is a win-win for all.