LGBT: More Than a Book Category

By Mollie Pharo

Diversity. Inclusion. Tolerance. 66416967 - illustration of a long shadow lgbt gay pride flag with a bookAs librarians, we have reached the consensus that these are worthwhile and important ideals. We have also agreed to ensure that libraries uphold them, so that collections support and reflect the broad spectrum of patrons who use them. But it’s valuable to remember what the availability of LGBT(QAI+) titles can mean to individual patrons on a deeply personal level.

I am one of those patrons. I’ve seen both sides of this issue: as a library selector and as a patron who has read many such titles and found them to be moving, inspiring, and important to me in my life.

As I began to plan this article, I reflected on the ways my family and I have turned to LGBT titles over the years. My wife Nancy and I are a lesbian couple who have been together nearly 30 years and raised two children. We’ve benefited from both fiction and nonfiction books for children, young adults, and adults.

We grew up and raised our children during a historical period when we benefited greatly from changes happening in the writing and publishing of books for an LGBT audience. Literature of the 18th and 19th centuries, and much of the 20th century, included few titles with overt gay themes or characters. Often books that touched on such themes or characters did so in coded, sub-textual ways. It wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that sodomy laws and book content started to change. From the 1970s to the present, we’ve seen an increase in mainstream acceptance of LGBT people and, most recently, the legalization of gay marriage. This has coincided with waves of feminism, as well as a rise in acceptance and promotion of multiculturalism and diversity.

Nancy and I first got together in 1986, and at that time we found very few titles with LGBT characters or themes at our public library. Bookstores were our go-to places, especially independent women’s and LGBT bookstores. Jane Rule, Katherine Forrest, and Armistead Maupin were some of our favorite authors.

Our parenting journey led us to appreciate the practical Nolo Press legal guides we found at the library, current versions of which are Making It Legal and A Legal Guide for Gay and Lesbian Couples. We also read books about options for becoming parents, looked up studies and journal articles about children raised by gay and lesbian parents, and, of course, consulted general guides on having a baby and rearing children.

One of the ways our family benefited from raising our children when we did was by having access to more books with representations of LGBTQAI+ families and diverse characters than had been available even a few years earlier. Children who are gay/lesbian or who come from families with gay or lesbian parents benefit greatly from seeing their situations represented in fiction and nonfiction. In short, it validates them. That’s what inclusion is all about —not reaching quotas, but helping people to feel like they belong. We had our children in 1991 and 1995. Heather has Two Mommies was published in 1989, and Daddy’s Roommate in 1991. The 1990s also marked the emergence of more YA novels exploring LGBTQAI+ issues and characters. More recently, both children’s books and picture books contain more LGBTQAI+ characters and themes, although these are still rarer than they are in YA or adult titles.

Nancy and I have been pleased to see the recent upsurge in books by and about transgender and queer people and issues as well. According to a 2015 NPR story, hundreds of children’s books featuring transgender characters have been published since 2000. What’s more, most fiction genres — along with comics and graphic novels — now include titles that feature LGBTQAI+ characters and themes. And, as always, there are still pulp fiction and erotica titles, though not so much in public libraries and mainstream bookstores.

I’ve seen and lived this issue from both sides. If you have thoughts to share, from any perspective, please include them in the Comments section. I’d love to hear from you!



October is LGBT History Month, and Brodart’s Bibz Featured Lists – Hot Topics – LGBT History Month, is a great place to start. Bibz Featured Lists – Hot Topics also sometimes includes other lists of interest. Another place to check in Bibz is in the Awards lists – ALA section. Included here are the Over the Rainbow Project Book List 2017, Rainbow Project Book List 2017, Stonewall – Barbara Gettings Lit Award Winner/Honors 2017, Stonewall – Israel Fishman NF Award Winner/Honors 2017, and Stonewall – Morgan/Romans Youth Award Winners/Honors 2017.

Wikipedia has helpful articles on “Gay Literature,” “Lesbian Literature,” and a “List of LGBT Writers.”

I also recommend checking out the Lambda Literary website. The Lambda Literary Awards (the ‘Lammys’) “identify and celebrate the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender books of the year and affirm that LGBTQ stories are part of the literature of the world.”



Mollie unofficially retired at the end of November 2012, which has given her time to enjoy reading more books — mostly mysteries. She has worked as a part-time remote selector for Brodart since 2013. Click here for more.

The Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart

Book Review by Becky Roupp

Aren’t we always longing to capture a piece of the past? How many of us want to see a vintage item come back to life? The theme is so popular, it’s everywhere, from the books we read, to the latest trend in weddings, to antique cars. last-chance-matinee.png

I was surprised to discover that the first book in Mariah Stewart’s new series is set in the Pocono area, which is very familiar to me and not far from where I live. Hidden Falls, based on a town in which Stewart’s uncle and his family lived, is a town left behind. Stewart is clearly well acquainted with the roads that twist and turn—the ones that seem to be heading nowhere until a town suddenly pops up.

In The Last Chance Matinee, Stewart introduces three very different sisters as the book’s main characters. And here’s the great twist: two of the sisters, Allie and Des, have no idea that their third sister, Cara, even exists. Only when the girls’ father passes away suddenly do the two separate families find out about each other.

The sisters’ inheritance rides on them fulfilling their father’s dying wish: to rebuild the theater in the small Pennsylvania town where he grew up. It’s in awful shape, and these women want to know why their father hid two families from each other. Living and working together allows the sisters to slowly uncover the beauty of the theater, much like the beauty in their increasingly tender relationships.

Will the theatre project be a success? Will the sisters be able to form some sort of bond? And how will they deal with their own demons and the murky past their father has left for them?

Just like Hidden Falls, the small Pennsylvania town where I live has a vintage renovated theatre. The restoration and renovation process that I have witnessed firsthand is painstaking, but the end result is amazing. Every time you walk into the theater and smell the delicious popcorn pouring from the old popcorn maker, buy a dollar soda, and watch the latest blockbuster, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. My connection with the plot made the story very special for me, but anyone can appreciate the universal themes of family bonds and restoring neglected historic gems.

I love being introduced to a series, finding my interest in and affection for new characters grow as I learn more about them. Stewart slowly peels the layers of characters away, leaving you rooting for the sisters because of their strengths and weaknesses. Stewart does a masterful job of setting the scene. Curling up with The Last Chance Matinee is both satisfying and rewarding. For me, it was like uncovering a jewel as precious as the theatre the Hudson sisters are renovating.

This is the perfect choice for readers of women’s fiction. Fans of Robyn Carr, Debbie Macomber, Viola Shipman will love this book.



Since joining Brodart in 2006, Becky has worked with a great variety of libraries, large and small; public, school, and academic. She loves adult fiction and is always eager to find new authors and series to read. Click here for more.

Just a Librarian

By Lauren K. Lee, M.Ln.

18867960_lSometimes I get to be “just a librarian,” not a librarian/bookseller/trainer/salesperson. Attending Library Journal’s Day of Dialog last week was one of those times. I’m pretty sure that I attended the first one in the late 1990s. I spoke on a panel about opening day collections in 2005. I don’t believe I attended in the last eight years or so. It felt good to be back. I saw the familiar faces of Barbara Hoffert, and Francine Fialkoff, and Nancy Pearl, and Marci Purcell.

I came away from the author and editor panels with a very long list of books to read and a tote bag full of advance reading copies. More importantly, I came away feeling more like a librarian—even a reader’s advisor (“Oh, Amber would love that book!”). When I hear an author tell a good story about why they wrote a particular book, I am immediately intrigued. The same is true for hearing about a mystery set near my home, or for an editor explaining why a title becomes a “lead read.”

As one who loves selecting adult nonfiction, I am not surprised that the nonfiction panel was my favorite. I find the storylines and the way they unfold to be every bit as captivating as fiction. For instance: A woman tries to solve the mystery of why her cousin became a victim of the juvenile justice system. A director has to learn more about the story behind the play she is directing. A contemporary single woman is fascinated by the Vogue editor who talked about “extra women” and the advantages of the “live-aloners.”

On to fiction. How can you resist the “first sentient sourdough starter” as a main character? Or the story of a drug that addicts the user to work? (Has someone been slipping me that one?) The author of this last one had the best quote of the whole day: “I went into fiction to tell the truth.”

The word of the day at Day of Dialog was “trope.” Guess I had better learn to use it in a sentence soon.

Don’t we work in a wonderful profession? We get people’s thoughts brewing, just like that sourdough starter (or the first batch of kombucha I just made).



Lauren Lee is approaching her 40th year as a librarian, with more than half of that spent at Brodart.  Although she rarely gets to select now, she loves life on the road, visiting as many public libraries as possible. Click here for more.



Oldies but Goodies

Part 1 — Classics

By: Richard Hallman, M.Ln.

1984 covers 4I’m what you might call an old-school librarian. When I was growing up, my dad always encouraged me to read “important” books that would stand the test of time. Through my work as a Collection Development Librarian at Brodart, I often notice older titles that are still in demand at libraries across the country. Some of these titles are the kind of books they made you read in high school; the kind some libraries include in special groupings of “classics.”

What makes a “classic” a classic? There are as many answers to that question as there are readers. The simplest is probably one of the standard definitions of art: “I know it when I see it.” I’d say classics are often characterized by exceptional writing and universal themes. To illustrate, let’s look at two books, named below. Published in 1949, George Orwell’s 1984 has been described as a cautionary tale, a book that had to be written so that the things depicted in it would never come to pass. The book’s one-word title has been used endlessly to protest against many real and perceived wrongdoings. What’s the universal theme? I’m going to state it simply: “People want to be free.” Take another example: over the course of seven books and thousands of pages, what do we learn from Harry Potter? Love is stronger than hate. The message is timeless, straightforward—pretty simple stuff.

1984-HM-2Many classics have particular relevance to current events, like the recent interest in 1984. I’ll let people draw their own conclusions as to how. This is a newly released edition, and the list price is, oddly enough, $19.84–ha!

1984     L H     Orwell, George Hardcover            9781328869333    
Fiction      Houghton Mifflin Harcourt                 04/04/2017



Sometimes an interesting older title will be released in honor of an anniversary. It’s hard to believe, but the 20th anniversary of J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book is right around the corner. You can read about the new editions here:


Click above for article

Here’s one more great title of interest: Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag. This picture book, written in 1928, is believed to be the oldest American picture book that’s still in print. It was a Newbery Honor Award winner in 1929. A bit of Brodart trivia about this title: It is the oldest title in Bibz with “hot” demand.


Click above for video

“Cats here, cats there, Cats and kittens everywhere. Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, Millions and billions and trillions of cats…”

Just for fun, you may want to watch this video of the book being read aloud, story time-style:



What are some older favorites at your library? Let us know! I’ll tell you about more of mine soon.

If you are a trendier librarian, or serve patrons who fit that description, keep an eye out for the upcoming post by my better half, Brodart librarian Fern Hallman, about the newest trends in “hipster” publishing. Stay tuned!

Richard Hallman, M.Ln.


Budding collection developer Richard Hallman finally set aside his dreams of becoming a rock star, movie director, and/or famous novelist to embrace librarianship. Click here for more.

Loving the Model vs. Loving the Mission

By: Ann Wilson, MLS, MA, Collection Development Librarian


As a librarian, I think a lot about the evolving role of libraries. Sometimes I find insight from unexpected sources.

Our pastor has been sharing with our congregation some thoughts on our changing world and how the church can remain vibrant while seeking to connect with this changing world, which, on the surface, seems to change so much from day to day. Specifically, he has offered ideas from Carey Nieuwhof, a church communicator and strategist who wrote an article called “10 Predictions about the Future Church and Shifting Attendance Patterns” (23 Feb. 2015 blog). Prediction #2, “Churches That Love their Model More Than the Mission Will Die”, caught my eye especially, because I believe it is appropriate not only for churches, but also, for libraries.

Nieuwhof used the example of the invention of the automobile to illustrate his point. As automobiles became common and affordable for average families, carriage and buggy manufacturers lost business and many went under, even though human transportation actually exploded as average people began to travel more than they ever could before. The mission is travel; the model has changed over the years, from horse-drawn buggy, to car, to airplane. Many other examples exist – think of the recent developments in the fields of communication, music, photography – and even publishing. The mission is entertainment, but the model shifts from 8 tracks to cassettes to CDs and streaming audio and video. The mission is information, and the shifting model includes books, magazines, videos, audiobooks, online/digital content, social media use, innovative programming, maker spaces, and much more. Companies that innovate strategically around their central mission (think Apple or Samsung) will outlast companies that focus myopically on their method (like Kodak).

Can we apply this concept to libraries? What is our mission? Could that question be answered differently by different libraries? Could a library have several missions, perhaps dictated by the various populations who use the library (or who we WANT to use our library?) Does the mission of a library change over time?

Answering these questions consciously will help library decision-makers chart a path through a changing landscape. Keeping the mission(s) foremost in the minds of library staff should help the library connect with the changing world. The key to this effort lies in separating the specific means and media we utilize to serve our patrons from our ultimate objectives as community-based centers for learning and the exchange of knowledge and ideas. To paraphrase and adapt Nieuwhof’s summary statement, “In the future, libraries that love their model more than their mission will die.”




Ann Wilson started working for Brodart, where she is affectionately known as The Sourceress, in 2000. Ann draws from her high school/public library career experience to feed sources and choose key titles for our selection lists. Click here for more.



Fake News & Libraries

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln., Collection Development Librarian

myth and reality word cloud

One of the hottest topics around right now is so-called “fake news,” the recent explosion of intentionally false or highly biased news. Many of these stories are fabricated and then packaged and distributed to look like legitimate news. Librarians are major players in the fight for REAL news and information literacy.

A recent Stanford Graduate School of Education study found that most students have a hard time distinguishing between credible and unreliable news articles. Some even have trouble distinguishing paid advertising from news reporting. Another study, by the Pew Research Center, finds that a majority of US adults are getting their news from their social media feeds, which certainly do not present all sides of a story.

Throughout history, various fabricated stories have been presented as truth. In the 1880s, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst practiced yellow journalism, using lurid stories and sensationalism to attract readers. For a long time, tabloids such as the National Enquirer have done the same for readers in line at the grocery store. The current combination of a divided electorate and rampant social media has led to the deluge of questionable reports.

Fake news can take several forms. Some stories are intentionally misleading, and are packaged in a way that makes them appear credible. Other stories, often called clickbait, are just intended to lead readers to a specific site. Many stories may seem to contain real facts, but the perspective may be biased. There are also sites that specialize in parodies or satire.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), a leading organization for the library and information professions, has put together a simple graphic describing how to spot fake news. The first step in evaluating a story is to consider the source. Check to see if that story really is from a valid source, or if it is just someone using a similar name or URL. Read the whole story. Sometimes a headline will draw you in, but you will find there is more to the story if you dig deeper. Find out more about the author. Do a little checking to see what else they have written, and whether there is a reason for their point of view on a topic. When was the story written? Is this current “news” or a rehash of an older event? Is this a joke? Some stories from satiric websites go viral and certain readers may not understand or recognize the humor. And finally, determine the point of view of the story, and evaluate the role your own feelings are playing in your interpretation of it. It is not appropriate to call a story fake news just because you disagree with it.

Libraries everywhere are helping their users spot fake news. Many have assembled web sites and fact sheets on the subject, and are holding workshops and webinars. Here are some additional ideas. Julie Todaro, president of the American Library Association recently gave this quote to Governing Magazine: “The authority of the president of the strongest country in the world needs to be protected. But we have to think about facts and information now more critically than ever.”

For more information on this timely topic, here is a great guide from the librarians at Hillsborough Community College:



Fern has worked for Brodart as a Collection Development Librarian since 1990. She also did a stint as a reference librarian in the CNN newsroom and is married to a newspaper librarian. Click here for more.