The Library is Closed: Reflections on Self-Censorship, Pride, Silence, and Solidarity

Intellectual Freedom Issues, LGBTQIA+

By: guest contributor E. F. Schraeder

Pushback against social change can be loud. Phone calls, protests, nasty emails, news coverage, threats, criticisms. Book, display, or event challenges. These are risks and possibilities when a librarian opts to honor PRIDE month or recognize LGBTQ authors and readers throughout the year in other ways. Each June almost like clockwork, it seems some library or other is on the receiving end of public noise: shame or praise, for hosting or cancelling an event with LGBTQ community members in mind. From a hum to a roar on both sides, the noise will rupture, build a pressure all its own.

Pride flag with the word closed

Even though it’s not personal, it’s going to be stressful. There’s going to be confrontation, tension, and hostility. Avoidance may look like an option just to escape putting a library staff through the trouble. This month, while the library is closed and programs are online, it may seem like a relief not to be faced with navigating those troublesome situations.

Maybe next year it will be easier. It’s hard enough to function in these strange times.

But relief for whom? About one in four homeless youth identifies as LGBTQ. Family estrangement and abandonment among youth or throughout life is a reality. Trans youth of color face heightened risks for violence, harassment, and brutality. Imagine for a second being a thirteen year old kid, or that youth’s sibling. The first time they pick up a queer title or peek into the doors of an event, amidst all the public outrage and pushback.

Nervous. Saying nothing. Too shy to fill out an evaluation or comment card.

Librarians are known for appreciating the value of literature to life, and libraries work hard to provide entry points into diverse viewpoints, cultures, and worlds. Perhaps youth librarians in particular recognize the value of diverse literature as discussed in the groundbreaking “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” by author, educator, and scholar Rudine Sims Bishop. Literature introduces worlds where intersectional realities co-exist, sometimes outside the noise of the pushback, sometimes giving voice to resistance and marginal perspectives. This PRIDE, take a moment to consider the magnificent silence of appreciation.

Imagine the successes. Remember those patrons who never said thanks, those patrons who may have been silent, but grateful.

The author of Ghastly Tales of Gaiety and Greed (Omnium Gatherum, 2020), E. F. Schraeder is an ethicist, poet, and speculative fiction writer often inspired by not quite real worlds. Schraeder’s writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.

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