Finding Queerness in the Catalog: How Do You Identify (Me)?

A reflection on LGBTQIA+ representation as Pride Month concludes

Researching a topic like queer history that feels personal to me can sometimes prompt the uncomfortable echo of medical forms. Should I enter “lesbian,” “queer,” or “gay”? “Partner” or “wife”? Will they use the right pronouns for me? If I pick the wrong word, will a gatekeeper respond with rejection, refusal, or errors?

One challenge when researching LGBTQIA+ subjects is that the language used by communities, and by scholars studying these communities, has evolved substantially over time. Libraries rely on standardized data and vocabularies when organizing and describing records. In addition to the flawed standards themselves, staffing and resource limitations compel libraries to rely on record information we receive from publishers, booksellers, or organizations that manage bibliographic data. As a result, library catalogs are often slow to reflect societal changes. Continue reading