Week 2 Question – Research Interest “Libraries & Diversity”

I’ve enjoyed reading about the research interests that have been shared so far and look forward to the ongoing discussions.

Much like Brooke, I’ve always been interested in a variety of issues affecting children and youth, especially since I have a background in education (specifically in teaching/mentoring). So naturally my research interests would be geared toward that age demographic. I am currently employed (part time) with one of Ontario’s fastest growing public library systems in the information services department; I love the work because I am interacting with such a diverse community on a daily basis.

Though I personally find the initial process of developing a research project a bit daunting, Luker’s (2008) suggestion of creating a “research diary” makes the whole process seem more enjoyable and much easier to help narrow your field of research.

While my inspiration for my research interest stems from my ongoing work with schools, public libraries and community centres there are two separate occurrences that have shaped this interest.

Firstly, when we typically explore issues encompassing “diversity” it focuses mainly on discourses on race, ethnicity and culture – often  overlooking sexual orientation. However, for the past couple of years the library where I’m employed has been supporting the ‘Be an Ally’ button campaign which encourages library staff to show their support for the LGBTQ community, and to be more inclusive in their approach to supporting diversity in the community at large. I have had many individuals verbally express their appreciation of seeing such a visible sign of support since it makes library staff more approachable.

Secondly, I was encouraged to think more critically about the services and information provided to LGBTQ youth in libraries after reading a journal article published in 2005 by scholar Dr. Ann Curry entitled “If I Ask, Will They Answer? Evaluating Public Library Reference Service to Gay and Lesbian Youth”.  In this article Curry investigates the reference support by public librarians provided to youth concerning gay and lesbian resources. In her paper Curry highlights the need for public libraries and librarians to properly support LGBTQ youth with a compelling assertion: “a good reference librarian can mean the difference between the youth fleeing the library or considering the library a helpful refuge.”

Over the past several years there has been ample research conducted on the services and information provided to LGBTQ youth in schools but only a small body of research has explored the role of public libraries in serving and providing access to information and a welcoming space for LGBTQ youth. Further research and exploration in this area is essential– especially since there has been recent global movement for many social justice issues impacting the LGTBQ community; the struggle to have LGBTQ rights recognized globally as human rights  is in turn a key motivator to propel librarians to become more committed to better serve LGBTQ youth. While many (public) libraries have started or supported many new initiatives, there is far more work to be done to ensure support for LGBTQ youth is widely recognized and sustained for future generations.

— Frieda

REFERENCES

Curry, A. (2005). “If I Ask, Will They Answer? Evaluating Public Library Reference Service to Gay and Lesbian Youth”.  Reference & User Services Quarterly,  45( 1), 65-75.

Luker, K. (2008) Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences: Research in an Age of Info-glut. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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