In the article, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ)-Themed Literature for Teens: Are School Libraries Providing Adequate Collections?" Overberg and her fellow researchers, Sandra Hughes-Hassell and Shannon Harris, report on their study to determine whether young adults have access through school libraries to LGBTQ-themed literature. They studied library collections in 125 high schools in North Carolina for the inclusion of LGBTQ-themed fiction, nonfiction and biographies, including a core collection of 15 recommended titles.
In general, they found the school libraries were under-collecting LGBTQ-themed titles.
“It has been a long process and I’m excited to finally see this research in print,” Overberg said. “I hope this article will help libraries improve their LGBTQ collections and their services to LGBTQ patrons. Issues of sexuality and gender tend to be taboo in schools, but I think this article illustrates how important it is to pay attention to these topics. If it gets even one librarian out there to pause and think about the way he or she is doing things, then that’s huge to me.”
The article started out as Overberg’s master’s paper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she worked as a research assistant for professor Sandra Hughes-Hassell. Hughes-Hassell was particularly interested in looking at ways that libraries can support multicultural populations, and she passed this interest along to Overberg.
“When I was in graduate school, I learned a lot about multicultural literature and library services and saw ways that my profession could make a difference,” Overberg said. “I had to choose my master’s paper topic in the fall of 2010, which was the time when five young men who were gay or perceived to be gay took their own lives in the span of one month, including Tyler Clementi at Rutgers. Gay rights were a really timely topic, and something that was important to me, so I decided to see how I could help it get better.”
In addition to her study of school library collections, Overberg also looked through archived issues of professional journals for school librarians to see what type of information had been published for libraries about supporting LGBTQ patrons and issues. She included this study in her master’s thesis as well and wrote up a separate article describing these findings, which was previously published in the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults.
“I believe this is the great civil rights issue of my generation; the issues of sexuality and gender touch all of our lives in some way,” Overberg said. “I’m proud of our collections in the Darlington libraries. We have books across all divisions that represent LGBTQ populations and issues in a realistic and positive light. I think we try to use consistent collection development criteria across the board: if it offers perspective on authentic human experience, if it has good writing, if it’s won awards, if a student or teacher requests it, we’re probably going to buy it.”
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