Islington’s Pride volunteer Isadore Auerbach George is the creator of Book 28. In this entry, he details his motivations for setting up this vital initiative.
When I worked in my first library, there was no LGBTQ+ section. Actually, there were hardly any LGBTQ+ books at all. When I went to put together a display to celebrate LGBT+ History Month, the best I could come up with were memoirs from Stephen Fry and Sue Perkins, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Later, I began to train as a professional librarian and in my research, I found out that my experience was not unusual. While there are some public libraries who put a real effort into LGBTQ+ provision, there are many in the UK that fall short – or worse, are outright hostile spaces for queer patrons.
Austerity has played a big role: there is no LGBTQ+ section in a closed public library. Curating a specialist LGBTQ+ section is often seen as a ‘niche’ task that gets squeezed out under tight budgets, and cuts can also mean loss of staff training. Looking further back, we can see the long shadow of Section 28 and the damage it did, especially when it comes to confidently providing children and young people with proud, open and celebratory LGBTQ+ resources. Even when a public library service does a great job – like Islington, who host many LGBT+ History Month events and get specialist advise on stock from Gay is the Word – queer people have been stung. After years of poor service, many do not feel the public library is for them.
These problems are why we decided to found Book 28 Library in early 2020. Based in the Outside Project LGBTIQ+ Community Centre and Homeless Shelter in Clerkenwell, our small collection has grown slowly through donations to a humble offering of out and proud queer titles. We have been privileged to host virtual workshops during the pandemic, like our talk on queer Muslim literature from Hidayah, or our regular Storytime sessions. As well as leisure reading, we also work to make sure LGBTQ+ people have access to high-quality information that is relevant to them. We have held sessions on navigating privacy online as a queer person and created resources to myth-bust transphobic misinformation. Throughout it all, we have beat our drum about importance of public libraries and promoted some of the great collections out there, collections our audience members are often shocked to hear exist.
But we want to do more. So far, we have relied entirely on volunteer time and book donations. With our own budget, we can choose exactly what titles we want in our collection to target the needs of our users, pay collaborators for their valuable time, and create the infrastructure necessary to be a full-fledged lending library for the LGBTQ+ community. More funding would also allow us to invest in sustainable revenue options, expand more beyond London and start developing consultancy and resources for public libraries who want to improve their service to LGBTQ+ people. Overall, we are asking for about £5000 to help us officially ‘launch’ our library. We are asking everyone who supports our mission to spread the word, share our fundraiser and donate if they can. All donations, no matter how small, add up. Even £1 could go towards purchasing a book that gets shared and changes the life of hundreds of queer people to come.
To donate, please go to u.nu/u28-f.
Isadore Auerbach George is the creator of the Book 28 project, which he started after his research into provision for LGBTIQ+ library users during his Library Science MSc. He currently works as a school librarian, with a background in public libraries.
You can follow him on Twitter @SadoreLi and read his Open Access research at https://hcommons.org/members/isadoreauerbachgeorge/.