Library Juice Press has just released the first in its new series on Gender and Sexuality in Librarianship, Out Behind the Desk. This wonderful book is an anthology of nearly 30 pieces by librarians relating their experiences as being LGBTQ at work.
Although libraries are traditionally seen as very progressive institutions, no workplace is totally free of the challenges of being out. Several of the essays cast back into earlier decades when the difficulties were even greater. As the foreword notes, one half of the first known gay couple to apply for a marriage license in the United States, Michael McConnell, lost his pending job with the University of Minnesota Library because of the “scandal” of his activism.
One essay, by my colleague Richard Hulser, who informed me about this book, recounts the formation of the Gay and Lesbian Issues Caucus of the Special Libraries Association in 1995. I was fortunate enough to be Co-Convenor of this group in 2001 and 2002. Despite the generally supportive atmosphere of the Association, there were challenges forming the group and questions raised about its continued existence in subsequent years.
Being out at work is critical to a healthy and successful career and life. I was lucky enough to work at a very supportive company when I first came out; I was out to some of my co-workers, including my immediate supervisor, before coming out to many of my friends and family. The support at work gave me the strength and courage to take the big step with people who had known me longer.
The stories in Out Behind the Desk range from the celebratory to the cautionary, from the historical to the whimsical. All are worth reading, whether one is gay or straight, librarian or not. You can purchase your copy of the book or ebook from Library Juice Press.