No. 521, Oct 14, 2004
If you have ever wondered how to come out to your parents, wanted to study the history of bisexuality, plan a gay vacation to the Disney theme parks, or get hot and sweaty with some bear erotica the Toronto Public Library is just the place to go. The Toronto Public Library’s Gay And Lesbian Collection has almost anything imaginable of importance to queers, from career guides to S/M how-to manuals, to Hollywood drama and critical theory. The Collection was established in 1991 in response to a request from librarian and writer Norman Kester. The Collection, initially housed at the Northern District branch, is currently located at the Yorkville Branch downtown.
The Collection is interfiled and unlabelled, which means other than a small display highlighting new additions at the Yorkville branch, the materials are fully integrated into the library system as a whole. Communications Director, Suzanna Birchwood says the decision to integrate The Gay And Lesbian Collection was made for several reasons, including the hope that they would “create awareness of G&L materials to audiences that might otherwise not choose designated G&L titles.” There are no pink triangles on book spines, but people may be surprised to discover gay content in that mystery novel they sign out. Given the diversity of The Collection’s contents and genres, the decision to integrate makes sense.
Although the Collection is currently called The Gay And Lesbian Collection, the phrase acts as a catchall. It also includes materials relating to queer, trans and bisexual people as well. The library is hoping to update the collection, and review issues surrounding the name and its collection policies by the end of 2004.
Considering that The Collection is not entirely “wholesome,” (thanks in part to several works by noted trans sex radical Pat Califia, amongst others) it is a little surprising to hear Birchwood say there have been no complaints about the material in The Collection, that the overall response has been positive. Seeing as queers of all kinds are not strangers to sex, it is nice to see our lives reflected on the shelves. The development of the collection is largely the job of “Collection Selector” Paul Della Penna. Selections are made according to customer requests, critical attention, relevance to community, and quality of writing to name a few of the criteria.
The Collection helped aid the creation of Supporting Our Youth’s (SOY) Rainbow Book Club for young readers, does community outreach to various local queer groups, and sponsors readings. The Collection promotes both PFLAG and the Youthline by distributing their information at local branches. The Collection itself is promoted through publishing and distributing queer book lists at all TPL branches, including a list for teens, having community partnerships, and has had a booth at Pride Day for approximately ten years. As with any important queer institution, the Gay And Lesbian Collection could always use more support in order to keeps its collection current, relevant and dynamic. They accept donations of both the material and financial variety to both preserve and expand the collection.
If the Yorkville Branch is miles away from where you live, library materials can always be placed on hold and picked up at a branch near you. With the summer heat quickly setting in, it is a good time to head to your nearest TPL branch and take advantage of both the queer goods and the air conditioning.
22 Yorkville Avenue