things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #23

Girl: Do you have this book, something like, "keeping a secret about you"?

Me: Let's take a look in the catalogue. [Stalling for time while scrolling through titles in my mind.] Hmm, do you mean Keeping You a Secret?

Girl: Yes! I took a bus all the way from the South Common branch to here to get this book so I hope you have it.

I recognize it as a good title by Julie Peters, excellent writer of LGBT-themed girl books.

Me: Let's go over to the youth section to look for it.

Girl: Do you know any other good books? Anything LGBT! I want to read lots of LGBT stuff.

Me: You've come to the right place, we have a lot of it. I'm making a list now for our upcoming Pride display. [Technically speaking this is not true -- but I will be updating our list in about a month or so.]

Girl, pumping fist: Yes!

We get to the shelf... and it's there! Yay! We're both happy.

Girl: Is there any place I can charge my phone?

I point out some places she can hang out, she thanks me and leaves -- and I'm immediately sorry I didn't find another title for her.

I remember another good LGBT book, but my mind goes blank when I try to remember the title or the author's name. But I know around where it is on the shelf, so I walk quickly through the youth collection and spot it: The Vast Fields of Ordinary.

I grab it off the shelf and quickly walk around looking for the girl, hoping she is charging her phone. I spot her from across the floor and double-time it over to her.

Me: So glad you're still here! I have another book for you.

She takes it from me.

Girl: Great, I'll take this one, too. Thanks!

I'm totally casual on the outside, but inside I am almost crying from joy. This happens now. Easily, daily, in a perfectly no-big-deal way. Perhaps it should be unremarkable to me -- after all, I do live in Canada in the 21st Century. But this is a sea change I have seen in my lifetime and it fills me with such pride and joy.

I know it isn't like this everywhere, but because it is like this somewhere, it means it can be like this, one day, everywhere.


John F said...

Less than a generation ago, an authority figure with that knowledge might have called the girl's parents. Before that, it might have been the police. We have come a long way.

laura k said...

Yes. So true.

And if she asked a librarian, what would we have had for her -- one or two titles? And where would she get the idea to just say this to a stranger?

So many older LGBT librarians remember that the library was their first place of contact --
pre-internet, of course. They remember furtively looking through the card catalogue, then praying no one noticed the titles (usually nonfiction) when they went to borrow the book. It's often cited as a big factor in their career choice.

James Redekop said...

Sign of the times: I'm currently following LGBT Webcomics on Tumblr, and I'm thinking I'll have to drop it because the volume is just too high for me to keep up.

BTW, there's also a Bisexual Books Tumblr (which is much more manageable), if you're interested.

laura k said...

That could come in handy -- thanks!

impudent strumpet said...

I'm so glad we live in a world where it works out like this! Would have been unthinkable when I was a teenager.

Not library-related but in keeping with the spirit of the post: my fairy goddaughter's parents were thinking it was time to start introducing her to social issues, so when I went to Mabel's Fables to buy her birthday gift, I asked them if they have any books that address social issues and are appropriate for a five-year-old.

They recommended about a dozen different books about a full range of issues with varying issue/entertainment ratios, and these included books about same-sex relationships and books about transgender.

What's remarkable about this to me is not just that these books have been published and that a children's bookstore has them right there in stock on the shelves, but that they unhesitatingly recommended them to a single, childless adult buying gifts for someone else's child.

Within my adult life, there have been contexts where it would be seen as reasonable to give these books to a child who asks or for a parent to provide them to their child, but it would be seen as questionable for a single, childless adult to give them to someone else's child.

But in 2016, they're unhesitatingly recommended alongside the book about how to help your refugee classmates integrate and the intro to collective bargaining starring anthropomorphic cows.

laura k said...

Imp Strump, thanks for this great comment. I am going to share it on the Facebook thread discussing this post.

impudent strumpet said...

Actually, another similar thing occurred to me. (Completely off-topic from libraries, but on-topic for LGBT)

I've been wondering whether the ladies next door are a couple or are just some form of roommates. There are clues pointing both ways.

But I would never presume to ask them, because that would be rude.

I feel it would be rude because if it was a man and a woman living in the same situation with the same clues, I would default to assuming they're a couple. It's hideously heterocentric and just plain insulting not to give two women the same benefit of the doubt.

But 20 years ago (at least, in my small town teenage life) it would have been rude for the opposite reason: it was considered an insult to suggest someone might be or come across as gay unless you were certain they were gay and they were out.

laura k said...

In the late 90s, there was a lesbian couple across the hall from us, and I made a point of showing that I knew they were a couple and was not homophobic. That seems ridiculous now. (Maybe it was ridiculous then? But we lived in a neighbourhood without a big visible gay presence. It made sense to me at the time.)

James Redekop said...

I don't think it's necessarily heterocentric to assume a man & woman together a couple, but not two women, simply because of demographics. A man & woman living together are simply much more likely to be a couple than not, and two women living together are more likely to be roommates than not. This'll probably change over time, but I suspect that, even long-term, roommates will be the more likely scenario -- at least for younger people.

(Which isn't to say that there aren't people who'd make the assumption that two women are roommates for heterocentric reasons -- just that the odds lean that way.)