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Laurie Spurling is a librarian at the Denver Public Library. She also is a member of the American Library Association’s Rainbow Project, compiling annotated bibliographies of LGBTIQ children’s and young adult literature to assist librarians and teachers in selecting appropriate LGBTIQ materials for collections and curriculum. (You can view the ALA Rainbow Project’s good work here).
1. What made you decide to become a librarian? How did you get into the profession?
I was made a ward of our school library in 5th grade when I was caught stealing a book on how to become a saint. I didn’t have aspirations of sainthood; I just thought the steps leading up to canonization were fascinating. I continued working in libraries through high school and college. I knew I was “called” to the profession around the same time I knew I was gay, but I tried a variety of other jobs until I just couldn’t stand it any longer. I enrolled in graduate school when I was thirty and have been a librarian for 17 years working in special, academic, and public libraries in five states. It has been a fascinating career and I am grateful for my occupation and the people I have met along the way.
2. How do people react when you tell them that you’re a librarian? Do you feel that you fall into any of the librarian stereotypes?
Depends on whose stereotype. I am not young, hip, nor tattooed, so my neighbor would not believe me to be a librarian, as that is his stereotype from his experience with librarians. Ten years ago, I stepped into a cab in Philadelphia and someone remarked, “You must be with the group of librarians in town.” When pressed for details, I was told my clothes and glasses tipped them off. Times change… stereotypes eventually change.
3. What is the biggest challenge in the workplace or the community that you face as an LGBTIQ librarian?
To be visible if you don’t look “stereotypically” gay, to be considered gay if you aren’t partnered, and to help people realize that seniors might be gay too! I am most excited to see partnerships with organizations providing services to LGBTIQ seniors.
3. What do you do to promote LGBTIQ resources from your library’s collection? Have administrators and community members been supportive of these purchases?
I am a member of the American Library Association’s Rainbow Project which promotes new LGBTIQ titles for children and teens. Consequently, I have partnered with staff to have these resources highlighted on our website, displays, and bookmarks. I have presented on merchandising diversity and adding diversity to reader’s advisory. This year, we featured a book club before PRIDE on Lambda winners. I am also interested in doing health literacy outreach to LGBTIQ seniors.
4/5 What advice do you have for librarians who would like to select LGBTIQ resources for their collections? What are your favorite selection aids for LGBTIQ materials? How do you acquire your LGBTIQ titles?
It isn’t really about what you like or think people should read. I look for titles titles outside my own reading and personal interest. I read blogs, ask people about what they are reading, and try to stay current in pop culture and LGBTIQ politics. I also use various lists by groups of the American Library Association, Lambda Literary Foundation, and reader’s advisory guides like Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Literature by Ellen Bosman and John P. Bradford. If collection development activities are centralized, make friends with the staff. Sometimes, the most desired resources are not mainstream publishers with high sales rankings on Amazon. You may need to make a case as to why a self-published title on transgendered experiences should override policy and be included in your library’s collection.
6. As EReaders become more popular, has anyone requested LGBTIQ EBooks? Have you ordered any LGBTIQ EBooks for your collections? If so, which titles seem to be popular? Are you yourself an EBook reader?
Denver Public Library was one of the first public libraries to offer Ebooks and it is a highly prized resource among customers. To date, there is not a vendor offering just a strictly LGBTIQ suite of Ebooks. Our amazing collections team scouts for what is available and unfortunately, licensing issues and pricing options make Ebooks an adventure! Customers are always surprised to learn the library can’t allow multiple, simultaneous downloads of titles: Our Ebooks checkout just like a regular book and we usually only have one copy, sometimes in multiple file formats. I have used both a Kindle, Sony® Reader, and my iPod to read and/or listen to Ebooks. I prefer the Sony because the screen is bigger than my iPod and I can utilize the Ebook options my library offers while I can’t do so with the Kindle.
7. If you ever had to sell your personal book collection, what is the ONE LGBTIQ title that you would keep, and perhaps pass on to someone of the next generation?
Sadly, I did have to sell my personal book collection…twice! The one LGBTIQ title I did keep was Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz published in 1978. I was a junior in high school when I read her book and didn’t know she was gay at the time. I only knew there was something connecting me to Fran. I was just like her and when I told my friends, they didn’t understand how this Irish blonde, raised Catholic in the West, was remotely anything like a Jewish writer from the East. They know now.
If you would like to get in touch with Laurie on how to get involved with the Rainbow Project, please contact her at email@example.com