How should libraries deal with materials that address homosexuality
According to the famous Kinsey Report of the 1940s 10% of the population of the United States identified themselves as homosexual. This report has now been widely questioned due to the unscientific means of Kinsys's study. Edward Laumann, a professor at the Chicago school, states that the percentage is around 5%. His findings have since become a point of controversy.
Studies show homosexuals may be your doctor, neighbor, or grocery store clerk. In recent times many gay and lesbian organizations have been active promoting a more positive image of themselves. A natural outgrowth of this activity has been an increase in the publication of books that deal with homosexual issues. However, there are groups and individuals that object to these books. A number of questions arise from this situation. Should libraries offer books that deal with homosexuality, either positive or negative? Should librarians actively purchase books whose topic is homosexual in nature? How do librarians deal with objections raised to these books in libraries?
The issue is larger for school library media specialists. Being both librarians and educators we have a dual obligation, first to the First Amendment, but second to the students who enter our libraries. As stated, people are homosexual. We must assume that 5-10% of any student population is gay or lesbian. It is not the role of the librarian to determine why an individual is homosexual. The question to be confronted is, “How do I best serve the needs of these students?” The remaining 90-95% of the student population will be affected by knowing people who are homosexual; the issues important to gays and lesbians too will touch their lives. How one interacts with a student who has just lost an uncle to AIDS is just such an issue.
All will agree the teen-age years are especially important. Suicide is a fearful topic for adults. It is attempted by 9-12% of straight teens. For gay teens the rate skyrockets to 39%. Obviously this group is at extremely high risk for self-destructive behavior.
If the library profession honestly tries to help these students, their friends, and their families we must seek, purchase, and circulate materials that will be a positive influence. We need to encourage the publication of materials that promote self-respect and responsible behavior for gay and lesbian students. Ignoring the issue of homosexuality will not make it diminish. It will not lessen our obligation to provide service to these patrons.