rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 4: p. 378
Sources: Out Behind the Desk: Workplace Issues for LGBTQ Librarians
Sarah VanGundy

Reference & Instruction Librarian, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho

In or out, or somewhere in between? Librarians, like all professionals, are always engaged in seeking an artful balance between self and profession. Whatever identities we claim, the insightful stories in Out Behind the Desk, contributed by many kinds of librarians with many kinds of sexual identities, make inspiring and thought-provoking reading for anyone who is in the process of being both a human and a librarian. In the words of the editor, Tracy Marie Nectoux, “Every librarian in Out Behind the Desk has faced an option between self-expression and self-censorhip, self-integrity and self-preservation, and they have generously shared the decisions they made here” (6). These stories are intrinsically powerful, and their value doubles when we consider the ways they create pathways for the librarians of the future.

Out Behind the Desk is not the first work to address gay, lesbian, and transgender librarians and their experiences. In her introduction, Nectoux cites Norman Kester’s Liberating Minds and James Carmichaels’s groundbreaking Daring to Find Our Names. At the same time that she acknowledges the value and significance of these works, Nectoux notes that it has been more than ten years since their publication, making it “time to check out the landscape and assess our progress” (1), a task that this work accomplishes admirably. Nectoux, who currently works as the quality control and metadata specialist for the Illinois Newspaper Project, identifies herself as a bisexual woman married to a man. Negotiating her own identity in the library profession seems to have imbued her editorial choices and commentary with deep compassion and a nuanced understanding of the spectrum of issues LGBTQ library workers face.

The stories in Out Behind the Desk are organized into six parts: Trajectories, Sex and the Institution, The Rest of the Rainbow, Coming Out in Time, Coming Out in Place, and Coming Out in the Field. Some contributors tell very personal stories: “Girl meets girl. Girl works with girl. Girl falls in love with girl … ” (23). Others approach the topic from a broader perspective, for example, “The Challenges of Coming and Being Out in Historical Perspective” (147) and “When is the Personal not Professional? An Exploration” (219). But all of the stories provide valuable insight, information, and perhaps validation to all kinds of people working in all kinds of libraries.

This book is essential to any collection that serves library students, staff, and professionals.

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