Serving, reflecting, and welcoming
“Transgender” is an umbrella term that applies to people whose gender identity does not correspond to what society has commonly associated with birth sex. The Oak Park Public Library has created a unique collection to serve transgender people and everyone seeking information, including employers, medical providers, allies, friends, and family. Materials are 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 Services 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.”
Learn more about gender identity through this brief introductory video from The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York »
Access to the collection
These materials in the SWAN catalog may be borrowed by most library cardholders in Illinois.
- Selected Titles from the Transgender Resource Collection (pdf) »
- LGBTQ Books for Teens (pdf) »
- Celebrate and Be Who You Are for Kids (pdf) »
- $200 Transgender Bookshelf »
For libraries and other organizations interested in our work, be sure to visit our Library Toolkit.
Awards, recognitions, and publications
- Gordon M. Conable Award of the Public Library Association
- OPAL award from Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association (OPALGA)
- Designation as an Exemplary Project by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
- Chicago Gender Society Community Partner Award
- Wednesday Journal (pdf)
- Windy City Times
- I Love Libraries.org
- Lambda Literary
- “When Collection Development Leads to Staff Development,” in Serving LGBTIQ Library and Archives Users edited by Ellen Greenblatt
- “Crossing Barriers,” in Winning Grants by Pamela H. MacKellar and Stephanie K. Gerding
Funding for this grant project was awarded by the Illinois State Library, a Division of the Office of Secretary of State, using funds provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, under the federal Library Services and Technology Act.
Beyond the Surface
In 2005, the library undertook an intentional collection review, 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.”
The library’s work around the collection continues to support the Library Bill of Rights and to be a model for other libraries. Grimm was a panelist for “Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice in Technical Services” at the 2017 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.