Confessions of a Librarian: Que(e)ry
Author: Rachel Wexelbaum
January 6, 2011
Queer Nerd Appeal
Tara Hart, (Amber) Billey, Lydia Willoughby, and Matt Haugen are the founders of Que(e)ry, a New York City based organization that raises awareness of queer history and the work of great queer organizations. This means supporting LGBT libraries and archives, as well as the work of LGBT writers, through fundraising events that have included some wild parties.
1. Are all of you on the Que(e)ry team librarians?
What made you all decide to become librarians?
Yes, the Que(e)ry team is made up of mostly librarians, library students, and recent graduates from varying backgrounds.
Matt is a cataloger at the New York Society Library. Billey is a digital archivist working for Collective Access. Tara works as a processing archivist for the Fales Library and Special collections at NYU. Lydia is the director of Literacy for Incarcerated Teens and a student at the Palmer school. We also have an amazing group of volunteers from all backgrounds and encourage anyone who is interested in supporting queer history and the work of great queer organizations to get involved.
While we were each attracted to librarianship for different reasons, we collectively have a passion for supporting the work of queer scholars, artists, and writers. Through forming Que(e)ry we aim to raise awareness and provide support to organizations that support queer history, free access to information, literacy, and community building.
2. What inspired you to create Que(e)ry?
We definitely see a thriving queer community in the library profession. We were originally inspired by the Desk successful librarian parties and fundraisers. Through meeting other queer librarians at its events, we decided to create a social space for queer librarians and their allies to come together in support of LGBT libraries and archives.
We also identify several areas of common interest between the librarian profession and LGBT community activism. Que(e)ry has found a very supportive community within the library world, one that promotes a general openness to academic freedom, community building and to radical politics.
Our nerd appeal also makes us great party planners and organizers. As information professionals, we oppose censorship, discrimination, and the invasion of privacy. This includes defending freedom of expression and the contributions LGBT people have made to the cultural record.
3. What is the main purpose of Que(e)ry events?
The Que(e)ry name plays with these ideals that are important to librarians and LGBT community at large. Que(e)ry seeks to bring together smart queers who love libraries and archives, as well as anyone who supports the preservation of Queer history.
Our events bring people together to celebrate institutions that provide access to our history. These are often small institutions that are in need of our support. We are specifically interested in organizations that have actively participated in queer(ing) libraries and archives.
Historically, our LGBT history has been subjected to censorship and restriction by institutions seeking to suppress our heritage. Today we are lucky to have so many wonderful institutions dedicated to the preservation of Queer history. We want to support these organizations through fundraising and community building.
Many people are unaware of Queer archives, or simply do not know how they can access them. By creating a space that is fun and social, we aim to demystify the archives, urging LGBT people of all backgrounds to support the work of preserving Queer history.
Que(e)ry is definitely about bringing people together for a fun time, and we were impressed by the huge attendance and enthusiasm for the past two events. We also invite LGBT organizations to table at these events, and hope to raise awareness of institutions that are often overlooked. Many of our party goers find out that these queer archives and collections exist by hearing about them at our events. For our allies outside of the queer community, it’s a fun way to share our cultural history.
4. Does Que(e)ry raise funds for LGBT libraries and archives outside of New York City?
Yes! In 2010, Que(e)ry raised funds for the Tom of Finland Archives in Los Angeles, as well as the Leather Archives in Chicago. While we are based in NYC, we are not limited to working only with local organizations.
We are also not limited to urban areas. Maybe your readers know of a great collection or archive they’d like us to know about. Email us at [email protected].
5. Do the librarians who attend Que(e)ry events all talk shop, or do they actually let down their buns and party?
Some of the librarians that attend Que(e)ry also double as go-go dancers. They are letting down more than their buns…
6. Who has been the most famous (or infamous) Que(e)ry party crasher?
No one needs to crash our party, we welcome everyone, and the donations are sliding scale. Certainly we have had some infamous characters at our events. Just check out these photos.
7. Do any writers try to get into these librarian parties to market their books?
We’ve definitely had our share of writers, but we also have a mix of artists, librarians, archivists, performers, leather daddies, and so on…
8. What sort of publishing work are you all engaged in, if at all?
Currently our publishing is mostly in the form of blogging. Our blog is found at or check out the queeryparty.tumblr.com.
The Que(e)ry team also posts occasionally at the Desk Set web site, where we have written a number of profiles on different queer organizations.
Billey and Lydia are currently working on “publishing” a Web site called The drag king digital library, which will will be unveiled in 2011.
9. What are your opinions about books and periodicals moving from print to digital? Have any of you explored open access digital publishing or EReading applications?
Que(e)ry is excited about the future of reading technology that supports freedom of information. One great thing about digital media is the ease with which writers can self-publish, which is important considering the barriers some LGBT authors and publications can face in traditional media.
One of the reasons we as a society have invested in libraries is the belief that society benefits when everyone has free access to information and can learn from the past. Technology that help us learn, create, and share more openly is a great thing, and we’re seeing amazing new forms of creativity and information sharing happen on the Internet.
At the same time, media industries have incentive towards greater control over content, incompatible devices, planned obsolescence, and so on. People often think that with technology we won’t need libraries anymore, but there will still need to be librarians and other people defending net neutrality, privacy, and making sure what we’re creating in digital forms is available to everyone and will be preserved for the future.
For example, the rising costs of journal subscriptions is taking it’s toll on many libraries. The problem is not the technology, but the profiteering that often goes along with it.
10. If you could only rescue one LGBT book from a fire to save for future generations, which one would it be?
This really is an impossible question to answer—everyone knows that the best books are by queer authors. In attempt to choose something comprehensive (though nothing really can be), we suggest Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Duke University Press) by Elizabeth Freeman, recently released this month.