This study examines the experiences of public library staff who works in an LGBTQ-profiled children’s library. The aim of the study is further to find out whether the library as an institution can challenge heteronormativity or if traditional gender identities are reproduced. I have conducted five qualitative interviews with librarians who all work in the same library, and who all work with children to some extent. The interview material is analyzed with queer theory and norm critical theories of pedagogy. These perspectives wish to critically examine heteronormativity and change what is defined as normal.
The result of the study shows that the way the library works with separate rainbow shelves, where LGBTQ-themed material is gathered, is pointing out LGBTQ as something different. And although it may also shed a light on a group formerly made invisible, it is reproducing traditional gender identities and leaves heteronormativity unquestioned. By contrast, the way the librarians are working with always including LGBTQ-materials in programming as storytimes and book presentations, is challenging the dominant position of heterosexuality. It is also shown that the way the library staff has developed their written and oral communication with the patrons, including using the gender neutral pronomina ”hen” and alternatives to ”mom and dad”, is increasing the possibilities of an inclusive reception in the library. The oral communication is for various reasons not always used though.
In conclusion the interviews show that the librarians are positive to working with LGBTQ-issues although they sometimes tend to forget. The study further concludes that the library’s way of working with LGBTQ-issues is both reproducing traditional gender identities, and challenging heteronormative structures.
This is a two years master’s thesis in Library and Information Science.