To Separate or Not to Separate: GLBTQ & African American Fiction
I am currently working in a very small, rural public library. The majority of our patrons are very conservative. The majority of them are also senior citizens. Our biggest book circulations include Christian fiction, gentle reads, cozy mysteries, and crime novels. At my library, I could not justify setting aside a separate area for these topics, partially because our collection of them are not even substantial. There isn't any demand for these topics. Does that mean that I purposely don't order them? No, of course not, but they get added if they fit the genres that are frequently checked out.
I have mixed feelings about separating these topics in general. Depending upon your patronage, separating these topics could either increase circulation or decrease circulation. For my library, I think that people would feel self-conscious if browsing sections labeled like this, similarly to how they might feel looking at the YA section. Because these aren't common books for most of our patrons, being singled out so blatantly could have a negative effect on circulation of these materials.
I have mixed feelings about separating these topics in general. I understand that promoting books with GLBTQ and African American characters can be empowering and bring a lot of attention to these books. At the same time, though, isn't our overall goal to be inclusive of all types of people? Would putting them in the spotlight help or hinder this goal?
Ultimately, I think the best decision would be to stick to displays. Libraries could display books specifically of these "genres". This could create some attention and allow for perusal without setting them completely in their own area. I also think that it is important, though, to make sure you include these types of books in your regular displays. They contain a variety of genres. It would be easy to find a GLBTQ or African American book that fit in with a genre, appeal, or topic specific display. This would help patrons to consider them as typical books. By using both of these display methods throughout the year, I think that you would be able to do the best of both scenarios for these "genres".