For the past decade, the library has maintained an award-winning Transgender Resource Collection for anyone seeking information. "Transgender" is an umbrella term that applies to people whose gender identity does not conform to what society has commonly associated with birth sex. 

In March, join us for library events exploring issues of gender identity—a film screening and community discussion, and two children's storytimes.

A topic to talk about

What is gender? Should our bodies define us? What makes us who we are?

On Monday, March 20, join us for a community viewing and discussion of National Geographic's Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric

The film follow Katie Couric as she travels across the U.S. to talk with scientists, psychologists, activists, authors, and families about the complex issue of gender. A community discussion will follow the screening. 

Gender Revolution Viewing and Discussion 

Storytimes to celebrate being yourself

At the end of March, Library Assistant Hal Patnott will lead two special children's storytimes at the library to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, a day of empowerment and raising awareness of issues that affect the transgender community. 

“This will be a storytime that happens to feature trans-friendly selections, like one of my favorites, Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall,” Patnott said. 

Geared toward kids ages 4+ and their caregivers, Patnott said the storytime will have a theme applicable to all: the importance of staying true to yourself.

“Being yourself looks different for different people,” Patnott said. “You don’t have to fit into the box that people tell you to.”

Transgender Day of Visibility Storytimes

For further reading

Red: A Crayon’s Story is one of the books on the library's "Celebrate and Be Who You Are" reading list. The bibliography, which includes graphic novels, picture books, and fiction and nonfiction for children with a LGBT focus, can "help put the right book in the hands of the right reader," Patnott said.

Transgender resources for all

And for anyone seeking information, including employers, medical providers, allies, friends, and family, the library has maintained an award-winning Transgender Resource Collection for the past 10 years. With more than 400 items, the collection is available to most Illinois library cardholders. 

As one of the first public libraries to offer such a collection, Oak Park continues to support a "welcoming destination for people looking for information on transgender issues," said Materials Service Librarian Bleue Benton, who was instrumental in creating the original collection.

"We created this collection out of concern that transgender people were very much an underserved population in public libraries," said Benton. "We believe that the open access environment of a public library offers the best venue for raising community awareness and understanding of gender identity issues, and for serving transgender people." 

Going beyond the surface

In 2005, the library undertook a review of its collections to determine whether items on the shelves and in the catalog were genuinely diverse and served specific population groups in Oak Park.

Staff Learning Coordinator Sharon Grimm was charged with looking at how well the library was serving and reflecting LGBT populations.

"What I discovered was, we had lesbian and gay resources well represented, but for transgender resources, we had been covering just the surface," Grimm said.

With a grant awarded by the Illinois State Library, the library was able to "really corner the market" with the transgender resources available to purchase at the time, she added. "Especially medical and law books for the layperson, which are hugely necessary but expensive, and may be out of reach for the transgender population."

Today, the library's work around the collection continues to support the Library Bill of Rights and to be a model for other libraries. This June, Grimm will be a panelist for "Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice in Technical Services" at the American Library Association's annual conference in Chicago. She will share how Oak Park's efforts to build a more useful collection sparked changes in library's facilities and practices. For libraries and other organizations interested in this work, review our Library Toolkit.

Welcoming, safe places for everyone

Even with increasing acceptance, the Transgender Resource Collection remains relevant and important today, Benton said.
 
"Transgender people continue to be disproportionately affected by hate violence," she added. "This marginalized group faces widespread—often socially condoned—discrimination, harassment, and violence. Our project, with its commitment to diversity and inclusion, helps to promote libraries as welcoming and safe places for everyone."