Below you can read the original project proposal from early 2020 that sparked Book 28.
‘Book 28’ is the name of an LGBTIQ+ project I am currently undertaking. Right now, it is the branding I have given to the book collection housed at the Outside Project Community Centre / Homeless Shelter, in Clerkenwell, London.
This project proposal summarises my current understanding of LGBTIQ+ information needs, and how the project could help meet them. I will not be able to meet all the needs of the whole community with a small, physical book collection. Rather, Book 28 will be about creating a hub in London for the local community, and setting an example of what excellent library provision for LGBTIQ+ people could look like.
I am beginning this project in 2020, 17 years after Section 28 was repealed in England and LGBTIQ+ content was allowed back into the public and school libraries. In the two decades since this time, many people feel things have improved for the LGBTIQ+ community in public life. However, there are still many issues.
Particularly concerning are the effects of austerity, given the disproportionate number of LGBTIQ+ people living in homelessness and poverty; and the recent high profile of transphobia in English society. There have also been significant public library closures during this time, as well as closure to public support services more broadly. Part of my research for this project will be undertaken within my dissertation for my Library Science MSc, to investigate how this situation currently affects the relationship between public libraries and LGBTIQ+ members of the public.
Needs / Problems
I believe that the information needs of the LGBTIQ+ community is insufficiently met by the current public library system. This is due to issues with public libraries in general, ‘library anxiety’ LGBTIQ+ people may suffer, a perception or reality that the collection is irrelevant and fear / negative experience of staff attitudes. I believe some of this is a result of damage done by Section 28, for which the project is named.
I also believe that the continued success of LGBTIQ+ literature-focused enterprises in the UK (historically, Gay’s the Word, and more recently, Category is Books (Glasgow) and The Portal Bookshop (York)) suggests there is interest in LGBTIQ+ specific reading material, for both information and leisure. Some of this interest presumably comes from those who are questioning, curious, or allies to the community.
I believe that LGBTIQ+ people could benefit greatly from greater access to literature, both for leisure and information. The location of Book 28 within the Outside Project’s community centre and homeless shelter means these needs can be met within an ecosystem of both leisure activities and essential services for the community. Although libraries can offer many things beyond a book collection, I believe that books should remain the heart of Book 28, as reading for pleasure remains an excellent, well-evidenced route to quality of life. Moreover, the context of the library as starting within the community centre means that visitors simultaneously have access to other physical resources (free clothes, toiletries, etc.), community events, and exhibitions.
I see Book 28 as filling a ‘gap’ between the existing LGBTIQ+ library at the Bishopsgate Institute, and other endeavours, such as the Feminist Library, or the queer literature collection at Senate House Library, which may be more geared towards academic and research interests. I want to sit alongside these institutions, as well as the shops mentioned above, and help integrate people into the wider queer literary scene. Hopefully, using Book 28 will make them more likely to use these other spaces, as well as public libraries. Ultimately, Book 28 should feel like the best parts of a public library, and I hope to mature enough to introduce a lending system.
I also hope that the project will become obsolete, if public libraries are robust enough, LGBTIQ+ friendly enough, relevant, and the community feels confident using them. Therefore it is within the interests of the project to continue to maintain ties with the public library system, and offer resources, advocacy and campaigning for public libraries in general, and for robust LGBTIQ+ policies specifically.
I will be completing a dissertation in 2020 in MSc Library Science with City, University of London, to fully investigate the ‘information needs’ of the library users, so as to meet them more specifically. In my research and practice, I am particularly mindful of the increased level of marginalisation felt by QTIPOC people in this country, including under current ‘Hostile Environment’ policies. I therefore seek to be anti-racist in my librarianship and standards for myself, and to include QTIPOC and their particuarly needs within the collection, as well as acknowledge their contributions to the LGBTIQ+ movement as a whole.
Goals / Objectives
My primary goal is to improve the book collection currently held at the Outside Project. This would mean:
- Weeding it (reducing it to relevant material)
- Organising it
- Undertaking maintenance on books where necessary
- Cataloguing the collection as it currently stands
- Creating a ‘Book 28’ identity, through events, labels, and media to promote the collection
- Adding more relevant stock in line with a collections management policy
I have planned the project in phases, so that at the end of each phase, the current success of the project can be evaluated and a decision can be taken about whether to continue to the next phase. The first phase would be to meet the primary goal. The second phase would be to meet the goal of developing a more sophisticated infrastructure for the library, including an OPAC, ILMS and lending system. The third phase would have the goal of developing more resources, consulting, campaigning, events and partnerships; and the final phase would consider expansion of the collection and thus the project, e.g. the possibility of dedicated premises (will keeping the original collection at the Outside Project as an outpost).
I am currently undertaking the project at the Outside Project, and within their organisation. I will continue to discuss the nature of the relationship as the project develops, e.g., negotiating responsibility for funding, promotion, volunteer recruitment, and handling the physical items. This will include checking in with them as we reach the end of each phase and discussing what we envision for the next.
However, my research for the project needs and much of the infrastructure will be undertaken separately, under the jurisdiction of my MSc in Library Science. There is a possibility that this might include some primary research on the current users at the Outside Project, but it is more likely my research will be secondary, and on existing work on the topic. Any possibility of primary research will be discussed with the appropriate parties.
The first phase of the project will last at least until October 2020, when I finish my MSc. I’m hoping at this point to have successfully created the key components of a brand (imaging, some social media presence, some events). We also will have done much of the work in weeding and organising the collection as it currently stands. The immediate work upon graduation would be completing the first phase, e.g. expanding the collection based on the needs researched. Hopefully, this will lead to Phase 1 finishing in the Spring 2021, at which point a timeline for the rest of the project can be discussed.
Stakeholders & Interested Parties
I am maintaining a list of interested parties. As well as those mentioned above, this includes anyone group who I perceive to have interests relevant to a London-based LGBTIQ+ library. If they confirm their interest, I will add them to a mailing list, where they can keep updated about the project. I am interested in and open to collaborations.
My primary stakeholders are the current users of the collection (visitors and guests at the centre), as well as the Outside Project themselves. I am sensitive to the fact that my improvement of the collection should not unreasonably interrupt people’s current free access to it. As the Outside Project is licensed by Islington Council, I’m ultimately also accountable to them on issues such as the fuel load on the premises caused by the presence of the collection. Finally, City University is a stakeholder on any research I undertake with their name, including that it meets their high ethical standards.
Evaluation More concrete evaluation measures can be considered at the end of each phase e.g. re-assessing the needs of people using the library and comparing them to the needs found by my dissertation research. I hope to keep the project transparent and open to feedback throughout, both through my visible presence at the centre during the social drop-ins, and through more concrete feedback measures, such as feedback forms, a suggestions block, and meetings with users to discuss their thoughts on the project.