Its been a whirlwind month for all the staff and volunteers at PTS. During the month of August, 251 Bank was enlivened by a flurry of packing tape, brown boxes and cursing. Organizing and crating our library collection was a particularly arduous task. Over the years we have accumulated over 6000 books dealing with LGBTQ+ life, thanks to our amazing donors (No brag. Just facts).
Was it worth the cramped and pulled muscles? In this lukewarm cultural climate, does the LGBTQ+ community need a library of their very own?
I personally believe that a queer library is crucial to fostering community for those who fall outside cis and straight norms.
Firstly, our LGBTQ+ library is a safe, judgement-free space where any LGBTQ+ person can visit and pick out a book. As a PTS librarian I promise I will not bat an eye at your book selection. Pick out whatever kinky, sexy, nerdy book you want and I will scan that bar code, no problem.
Secondly, as a wee queer, I remember trying to get my hands on a copy of “Annie on my Mind” and waiting forever to briefly inherit the dog-eared baby dyke classic. Though they have improved quite significantly, public libraries t really lack a variety of queer interest books. Compiling research on a queer topic can be virtually impossible, especially for a university paper that requires over ten peer-reviewed sources. At the PTS library, we have ensured that our vast collection is uncompromisingly LGBTQ+.
My second reason for believing in the PTS library is intensely personal. That’s right, gather round my queers comrades, it’s personal disclosure time.
I have always been what I’d call a voracious reader or “bibliophile”, if you will. My mom worked as a librarian during my formative years and provided me with all sorts of wonderful reading material. But, around fourteen years of age, I stopped reading. After going to my rural town library again and again I would come home empty handed and defeated. I would start books and, after a few pages, put them down- they couldn’t sustain my interest. The girl who sat in front of me in French class; however, definitely could.
The problem was and still is that most books are written to be consumed by a cis, heterosexual audience. In that period of my life, I was doing some serious questioning and I found this reliably heterosexual content to be completely alienating. Our straight and cis peers have a abundance of relatable materials to assist in their identity formation; but for queer readers, these heteronormative plots only serve to remind us of how we diverge from the mainstream.This time in my life is remembered with sadness- it was the first time that books, something I honestly thought I could rely on to sustain me, had let me down.
When I discovered the few LGBTQ+ selections offered by the rural Ontarian library, I found a fictitious yet crucial portrayal of queerness. I couldn’t entirely express, even to myself, how much these books resounded with me. However, the queer texts provided a foundation from which I built a towering queerness. Books gave me the tools to come to terms with and eventually accept a life which, before, I could barely conceive.
Furthermore, my mom observed the change in me, though I was unaware that I was exhibiting unusual behaviour. She actually used reading material in order to start a dialogue about my burgeoning queerness. She was trying, in her own way, to help me come to terms with what she had already begun to suspect as queerness.
Now that I’m a full-fledged queerling, I’m proud to be a librarian at PTS. To update y’all, we are currently involved in the exciting process of updating our system in order to improve our ability to serve you. And, we have A LOT of unpacking and re-shelving to do. Therefore, we will have to close the library for most of September. But watch for us when we are back! We’d love to have you in…we even have a comfy couch at the new, fancy 331 Cooper headqueer-ters, so you can read quietly, bask in all our combined queer glory and READ ALL THE LGBTQ+ BOOKS!
–Fern Burge: Queerism Blog Team