Libraries as safe spaces for the LGBT+ community

Morgan Grimm Jones

As part of the August Herts Pride celebrations, some HCC staff members are kindly sharing what Pride means to them and some of their own LGBT+ workplace experiences and advice.

Morgan Grimm Jones (she/they), Assistant Customer Service Supervisor at Hoddesdon Library, shares her experiences of Hertfordshire Libraries being safe spaces for the LGBT+ community and her LGBT+ recommended reads.

What does Pride mean to you?

As an information professional working in our public libraries, Pride to me means being able to be who I am without apology and helping to spread knowledge to those who ask for it. As a citizen, I am proud of our open, loving, fabulous, creative community of unique people.

What makes you proud as an LGBT+ staff member?

I have had parents of trans pre-teens asking me for information resources on how to talk about gender identity with their transitioning children, how to try to use the right pronouns, and what services they could access for help learning more.

I’ve also been the person people have come out to first – libraries are seen as safe spaces for all and I have had the honour of having conversations about identity with younger customers, which they just couldn’t have with other adults in their lives.

I’ve seen the relief on customers’ faces when I’ve changed their title or name on our library system without the line of questioning that they were dreading when they proudly present their new passport with their newly corrected name.

I always want to be a safe person to come to and it makes me proud to think that I already have been for so many in my short career.

 

What do you think it is about Hertfordshire libraries which helps them to be seen as safe spaces for the LGBT+ community?

Since I’ve joined Hertfordshire Libraries, I’ve been thrilled to see the rainbow lanyards and pride pin badges worn by various members of staff. I’ve also appreciated being asked what my pronouns are by the new team and being given the opportunity to help with displays for Pride month where books are enthusiastically suggested by colleagues. It’s noticeably friendlier in Hertfordshire than other counties I’ve worked in previously.

I think public libraries are starting to be recognised as safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ people by the public – our stock selection, title requests and information resources show this trend. And with events like Drag Queen Story Hour becoming popular in public libraries all over the UK, we are also introducing a much more diverse cast of creative, colourful people to library customers.

 

Working as part of our library service, what books would you recommend for people who would like to learn more about the LGBT+ community?

This is a great question. I’ve shared details of some recommended reads and included links for each book from the Hertfordshire Libraries catalogue so you can reserve a book to collect at your local library if you’d like to.

Outrageous!: the story of Section 28 and Britain’s battle for LGBT education / Paul Baker. | Hertfordshire Libraries (spydus.co.uk)
I think this book is incredibly important at the moment. We should never forget Section 28’s oppression over us. ‘Outrageous!’ tells its story: the background to the Act, how the press fanned the flames and what politicians said during debates, how protestors fought back to bring about the repeal of the law in the 2000s, and its eventual legacy.

This book is gay / Juno Dawson; illustrations by Spike Gerrell. | Hertfordshire Libraries (spydus.co.uk)

You can catch me always recommending teen books no matter the age of the reader! People who want straight-forward, easy to digest information, look no further. Former PSHCE teacher and acclaimed YA (Young Adult) author Juno Dawson gives an uncensored look at sexual orientation and gender identity. Including testimonials from people across the gender and sexual spectrums, this frank, funny, fully inclusive book explores everything anyone who ever dared to wonder wants to know – from sex to politics, how to pull, stereotypes, how to come-out and more.

All the things she said: everything I know about modern lesbian and bi culture / Daisy Jones. | Hertfordshire Libraries (spydus.co.uk)

‘All the Things She Said’ explores the nature of queerness and queer culture from the dingy basement clubs of east London to the realms of TikTok and award-winning films like ‘Carol’, showing the multifaceted nature of ‘being a lesbian’ in all its glory. Here, journalist Daisy Jones unpicks outdated stereotypes and shows how, over the past few years, lesbian culture has emerged into the mainstream.

Non-binary lives: an anthology of intersecting identities / edited by Jos Twist, Meg-John Barker, Kat Gupta, Benjamin Vincent. | Hertfordshire Libraries (spydus.co.uk)

Leading non-binary people share stories of their intersecting lives, how it feels to be non-binary and neurodiverse, the challenges of being a non-binary pregnant person, what it means to be non-binary within the Quaker community, the joy of reaching gender euphoria. This thought-provoking anthology shows that there is no right or wrong way to be non-binary.

 

We have a great selection of books across Hertfordshire Libraries, a lot of which I haven’t managed to read yet but I’m sure these will be of interest. I would also suggest taking a look at: Burning my roti: breaking barriers as a queer Indian womanLove that story: observations from a gorgeously queer lifeSupporting queer birth and Queer up: an uplifting guide to LGBTQ+ love, life and mental health.

This page was added on 26/08/2022.

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