Our Middle School Library in Laurel, Maryland has been a loud and proud Safe Space and Ally for ALL of our LGBTQIA and Neurodivergent students for years. We have purchased every well reviewed, requested, intriguing, and middle school approved fiction and non-fiction book on these topics. I daresay we have one of the largest collections around! We have Safe Space signs around, a rainbow narwhal (pictured above) and groupings of books on display all the time.
I have also blogged about our support of our diverse communities.
BUT… I have strong opinions about putting a Genre label on these books. I am really cognizant that some of my Middle Schoolers are curious or questioning to learn more about but aren’t ready to out themselves. To their peers and to their parents. This is yet another reason I’m against Genrefication. I know, among some of my other Future Ready Librarians this is a controversial topic. But to group all these books in one spot means that kids might be VERY HESITANT to gravitate and browse that area of the Library.
I remember back in the 80’s in college, a friend of mine asked me to make a pilgrimage to the iconic Lambda Rising bookstore in Baltimore because they didn’t want to go in there alone. We even drove around the block to “case the join!” before parking and going inside. So I can just imagine how a teen who has questions about their gender identity in Middle School may not be ready to hang out with those “labeled” books in my School Library.
I Don’t Like Labels
Some books also span between many genres. What if you have a book that has a queer main character but there’s also other elements to the story? Like a mystery? Or suspense? How many genre stickers are you going to put on there? Where are you going to shelve it?
I’m going to shelve it by author and genre label it Mystery. Because also, what does it matter if the main character who is solving a mystery is gay either – except to show kiddos that people of ANY orientation or gender identity can do do ANYTHING, right? Not narrowed down to a label.
Instead, I’m going to just use the TEEN label. Pretty much covers everything. Except that Mystery book.
(Photo right from Jenna Ingham follow @heymissjenna link to her excellent and related blog post below)
OR… from a School Librarian who I admire and who I am privileged enough to call a friend
Danielle DuPuis says:
“Best case scenario? having the funds for two copies. Label one, don’t label the other.” Give the reader the choice. She’s a High School Librarian and does label all her books. In a recent text conversation: “We DO label them. And they are the most circulated books we own. Kids love it because they can find them easier. And they might not want to come and ask where the queer books are located.”
Don’t Censor My Collection
This is going to sound perhaps cowardly or wimpy or sneaky or super whip-smart (Muuwwaa) But I also don’t always want to put a big spotlight on the fact that my Middle School has a LOT of divergent and controversial books to the parents who might be apt to”challenge it” or fight to get it removed. Which is happening a lot more lately? That’s a topic for another post — but why the heck are we going backwards with FReedom to read? [SMH]
Please note: This post is about Middle Grades only. Not elementary and not High School. YMMV.
What do do instead?
Create: displays, book lists, bookmarks, Instagram posts, posters, etc.
Show that you’re an Ally – Be a Safe Space! BE Out and Proud that you’re there for ALL your community and that you will provide all the information and resources that they need.
Further and more comprehensive reading:
This topic won’t please everyone.
My choice NOT to use genre labels won’t please everyone.
My opinions AGAINST generefication won’t please everyone.
My choice to have these books in our collection won’t please everyone.
BUT…. you can’t please everyone!
I also reserve the right to change my mind in the future.
What do you think?
Please leave your real thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!
But not about how to buy cryptocurrency or how to get more followers …SPAMMERS BEWARE — I will NEVER publish your comments.
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Proudly supporting and providing back copies of:
To all the REAL commenters out there and not SPAMMERS: You are so
appreciated and I love hearing from you! Sorry for the delay in
replying – as you know, it’s been a challenging couple of years and I
had 487 SPAM comments to go through to find only 13 REAL ones! Daunting.
But your comment was worth finding and publishing. If you ever have any
questions or if I can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact
me directly at Gwyneth Anne at G to the mail dot com. Best wishes,