Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Advancing the Conversation: Next Steps for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ) Health Sciences Librarianship

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Advancing the Conversation: Next Steps for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ) Health Sciences Librarianship

Article excerpt


In recent years, librarians in various sectors have been moving forward a conversation on the distinct information needs and information-seeking behavior of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) patrons and how well the profession recognizes and meets those needs. Health sciences librarianship has been slower than other areas of the profession [1, 2] in creating an evidence base covering the needs of its LGBTQ patrons: until 2016, only three articles reported on this subject [3-5]. However, the field is now starting to attract new interest, with librarians working together to bring issues around LGBTQ health sciences librarianship to the attention of the broader professional community [6-8].

To develop this conversation, two of the authors of the present article (Hawkins, Morris) convened a panel of interested librarians at the 2016 joint annual meeting of the Medical Library Association (MLA) and Canadian Health Libraries Association/ Association des bibliothěques de la santé du Canada (CHLA/ ABSC) to consider how health sciences librarianship should best respond to the distinct and evolving needs of our LGBTQ patrons and how the profession might drive forward a research agenda to increase the evidence base in this area. To gain a broad perspective, we made a deliberate attempt to include panel members from a variety of backgrounds, such as traditional health sciences librarians based at universities or hospitals, researchers, and a nonlibrarian panelist, Ryan Dyck, who had specific expertise in information-seeking behavior and a considerable background in community-based LGBTQ health services. A brief biography of each panelist is provided in the supplemental appendix to this article.

Dyck opened the session with an introduction to everyday challenges that LGBTQ people face regarding their health, clarifying that it is not very difficult to build networks between LGBTQ patrons and the library. He also introduced various background resources for LGBTQ health, such as Fenway Health reports [9]. Each panelist then gave a short presentation, covering current issues in LGBTQ health information, the information needs of LGBTQ health sciences library patrons, and how health sciences librarians can develop and improve their practice in this context. We concluded with an audience discussion that further explored these themes, specifically covering sources of information and ways of getting engaged as a non-LGBTQ person.

The session attracted significant social media interest (particularly on Twitter [10]), and the months following it have provided an opportunity for the panelists to reflect on ways to develop and improve the relationship between health sciences librarianship and its LGBTQ patrons. This paper provides a summary of the panelists' conversations that took place during the session and concludes with a discussion of our subsequent reflections and with some recommendations that flow from them. In sharing our thoughts in this paper, we invite colleagues to reflect on this aspect of their own practice and to consider joining the scholarly discussion now taking place.


Tony Nguyen, AHIP, is involved in developing LGBTQ cultural competency training for health sciences librarians [11]. He opened the panel discussion with an outline of how librarians can improve their cultural competency around LGBTQ people and why they should consider doing so, drawing attention to the many ways that exist to approach the diverse populations in the United States and beyond.

Before delving into LGBTQ-specific cultural competencies, it is important to explore diversity and cultural competencies in general. One effective way to facilitate such exploration is the "Diversity Wheel," now being used by many different diversity and inclusion offices (Figure 1); Johns Hopkins University of Medicine's Diversity Leadership Council shares a model that is available to view online [12]. …

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