“It’s a very straight space”: Gender-diverse students’ narratives about the library


How do students with diverse gender identities experience and perceive the academic library? What can we learn from our students to help develop services, spaces and collections that support their safety and well-being? This presentation will highlight results from a qualitative case study at an academic library by exploring themes related to the students’ experiences with library workers, the library’s physical environment and its collections. The study results position the library as both a source of positive, transformational potential and site of harm and oppression. Students reported experiencing great discomfort while using library bathrooms and study spaces and were distressed by encountering library materials expressing outdated, inaccurate information about gender identity/sexual diversity. They described affirming experiences with library workers while being confronted with library technology – e.g. computers – which deadnamed them. And they questioned why libraries provide platforms to transphobic speakers in the name of intellectual freedom and highlighted the dangers of espousing neutrality. While themes surfaced by this study reflect the participants’ individual lived experiences, they are broadly reflected in survey results, scholarly literature and other works documenting these topics. Finally, this presentation will describe students’ suggestions for how academic libraries can become safer and more inclusive.

Jun 6, 2022 10:00 AM