Queer eye for the library: Transforming library spaces, collections and communities

I haven’t been doing the best for a variety of work and life reasons this year, and have been struggling to write – hence the silence on this blog- but I have been watching a lot of Queer Eye as self care. This has made me think of transforming library spaces, collections and communities in similar ways to how the fab five have been transforming peoples’ lives, and I thought this month’s GLAM blog club theme Transform would be a good opportunity to write about it.

I would love to start a ‘Queer eye for the library’ blog, vlog, podcast, zine, consulting group, and/or combination of these things with a fabulous team of at least five library workers discussing ways to transform library spaces, collections and communities to make them more LGBTIQA+ inclusive and affirming, and sharing good examples of work people have been doing in this space to encourage more people to introduce to their libraries.

I have made a start at listing some library ideas and examples I have seen related to the Fab Five roles of Design expert, Fashion expert (Collection development), Grooming expert (Cataloguing), Culture and lifestyle expert, and Food and wine expert (possibly reimagined in this case as Food and Sustainability expert). Get in touch if you would like to participate in a ‘Queer eye for the library’ blog, vlog, podcast, zine, consulting group, or combination of these things, and/or have more examples and ideas to share and discuss. As I anticipate it being a little difficult to find a time for five or more people to meet at once and in an attempt to scale back my grand plans, I am thinking it might take a form somewhat similar to Ellie Armstrong’s museum podcast Behind the Glass Cabinet where I do a one-on-one interview and have at least one interview/episode/post/zine focus on Design, Collection development, Cataloguing, Culture and lifestyle and Food and Wine/Food and Sustainability, but I am very open to other ideas!

Design expert

  • Creating LGBTIQA+ book displays



  • Creating LGBTIQA+ inclusive and affirming signage as well as anti-discrimination signage in the physical library and online (particularly through social media)
  • Encouraging staff to add pronouns to name badges and email signatures
  • Establishing all gender bathrooms. See more in an earlier post on this blog.

Fashion expert

Collection development:

  • Purchasing new LGBTIQA+ resources
  • Creating and sharing bibliographies and resource guides
  • Crowdsourcing reviews and recommendations from LGBTIQA+ communities
  • Weeding inappropriate, offensive and outdated resources



Grooming expert

Improving the quality of metadata describing material:

  • Inviting LGBTIQA+ communities to describe material in their own words through folksonomies/tagging (and metadata parties!). Read more about this in this earlier post on this blog. 
  • Changing outdated and offensive subject headings and Dewey numbers if possible and lobbying for change to these systems- inspired by the Cataloguing Lab. 
  • Connecting to related collection items and GLAMorous collections and facilitating access to materials and their context through cross-references, keywords and networks  – inspired by Mike Jones’ work.  See recent keynote by Mike Jones below:



Culture and lifestyle expert

This role could be played by a community engagement or community programming or events librarian with a background in social work or other community engagement experience or it could be played by a social worker who works in or closely with libraries, as I am keen to encourage more libraries to either employ social workers or at least form partnerships with them.

This would involve working closely with LGBTIQA+ communities, helping the library become a safer space and an affirming space for LGBTIQA+ communities (including organising training library staff and working very closely with the design expert) and hosting events for and by LGBTIQA+ communities. Events could be connected to collections (e.g. queer book clubs, feminist reading circles, rainbow storytime, bibliotherapy, zine making workshops, author talks – many libraries have recently hosted or are about to host Nevo Zisin), cataloguing/metadata (metadata parties!), LGBTIQ+ history (e.g audio tour/podcast workshop at Moreland Libraries, exhibitions , digital storytelling workshops), and more!



Food and wine expert (perhaps reimagined as food and sustainability)

As so many LGBTIQA+ folks I know dream of running away and starting a queer commune, and also to help abate global warming doom, I feel like a food and sustainability expert would be a very useful addition to any library. This person would work very closely with collections and culture and lifestyle in particular to develop collections and host events related to permaculture, gardening, sustainability, ethical food consumption and other related topics. This could include setting up a community garden, seed library and/or a tool library.


Seed library and related collection at Castlemaine Library

In a more similar role to Queer eye’s food and wine expert, this expert may also be involved in hosting LGBTIQA+ or at least LGBTIQA+ friendly events involving food, including:

Beer and books (or Bubbles and books) as seen at my local Rainbow Valley Libraries

beer and books

Reading between the wines

Literary themed cocktails

ITea and biscuits (could be perfect to include at a metadata party!)

I actually think every community event could involve food in some way as this is a really powerful ingredient in successful community engagement initiatives I’ve been part of – particularly for getting them started and bringing people in and together in comfort and safety. I have written a little about this before on twitter and in some lessons learned from Midsumma 2017 and it is at least partly why the banner for my blog includes a rainbow tea shelfie in my office.


I guess this entire blog and my life is a little bit like Queer eye for the library, particularly my Ideas for a GLAMorous homotopia and Queer eye for the librarian ally posts in addition to others I have shared throughout this post… However, I am keen to turn this into a collective endeavor!










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