CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Creating and promoting an LGBT+ book collection

Category: Branches and Groups, SLG Scotland

We regularly showcase an activity or project that furthers one of the strategic aims of Vibrant Libraries, Thriving Schools (VLTS): A National Strategy for School Libraries 2018 – 2023. Here, Stephen Leitch, librarian at Buckie Community High School and Keith Grammar School, writes about his experience of creating and promoting an LGBT+ book collection in Buckie Community High School.

Creating and promoting an LGBT+ book collection

To mark LGBT History month in February 2020 I created a display of the LGBT+ book resources in my library. I was surprised at how few books I actually had and the problem of locating some of them due to a lack of consistency with keyword indexing for the catalogue records. The display did catch the eye of some LGBT+ readers who were delighted to see the display but also disappointed by the lack of diversity and were happy to suggest other titles that the library should have like ‘Heartstopper’ by Alice Oseman. Remembering that readers should be able to see themselves reflected in library collections, I became aware this wasn’t entirely happening for my LGBT+ readers. I decided it was time to focus on developing an LGBT+ collection at Buckie High School library. And to start with, I needed more books.

What to buy

Dedicating part of my library budget to buying appropriate stock, I noted down recommendations from library users, asked librarian colleagues for suggestions and searched the internet for book list suggestions and bestsellers, researching widely to make sure I had titles to cover the LGBT+ alphabet. There are a lot of really useful lists available from Scottish Book Trust and Stonewall and I’ve added a selection to the end of the blog. Something I’ve recently discovered is that the library book supplier I use (Askews & Holts) has a search filter option specifically for LGBT+ resources which I now use when searching for new LGBT+ books. It’s worth checking yours to see if they have an LGBT+ option or collection. During Pride month (June) I also attended several book discussion webinars that allowed me a greater insight into what the books were about and potential stock to order. As the books came in my thoughts turned to how best to promote them.

Promoting the collection

The overarching approach to promoting the collection was to make students aware that the library has LGBT+ fiction, and has resources available to help them find and explore the collection in the library.

Key words and catalogues

Though often a dry and dusty aspect of library work, I knew I had to be more consistent with making sure I had relevant and appropriate key words added to my catalogue records for the books. I decided to use the key term ‘LGBT+’ with all catalogued resources using Heritage Library Management System. I also use this term in discussions with pupils, book talks, posters and whenever students ask about searching for LGBT+ books so I am consistent about using terminology across my library work. If I, my students, or my teaching staff search our library catalogue using this term, it will now bring up all LGBT+ resources, including non-fiction.

Reaching students online

The effect of COVID-19 on school opening provided me with the opportunity to directly promote the collection to pupils using MS Teams, Twitter and the library website. For LGBT History month 2021 I created a ‘New for You’ book poster with links to further information about each book for pupils to explore. Other books and book lists also featured in the LGBT History Month resources slide. For Pride month 2021 I created a virtual bookshelves Google slide to highlight more books from the collection, alongside a physical display in the library. You can access the slide here. My overall aim was to highlight to pupils and staff that the library has LGBT+ books available.

Book collection

I decided to collate and display many of the LGBT+ books in baskets as a book collection. I’m aware there is some discussion about whether to do this or have the collection totally interfiled with existing stock. Feedback from my users is that they like knowing where to go to select LGBT+ books, and by doing this I’m treating the books as I do my other themed book box collections.  I am aware that this may dissuade some students (potentially nervous of being seen going to this section), so I also have some on the shelves, rotating the books between shelves and the book collection box. Ideally it would be great to have two copies of each book with one in the collection box and one of the shelves but budgets do not always stretch to this. Including LGBT+ books on general display spaces on fiction shelves and any themed book displays in the library is also helping students to discover these books. I’ve also made sure that where possible I include LGBT+ titles in my book talks to classes as a matter of course.  By doing this I’m able to usualise LGBT+ books in the library, making them an embedded part of the everyday library experience.

Book lists are also a good way of highlighting LGBT+ books (and any book collection) and I created one as part of the library ‘If You Like….’ series of book lists, displaying it in the library and English classrooms as well as putting it on the library website and Teams for students to explore.

Elgin High School developed their collection after a request from their LGBT+ group within the school. Librarian Mrs MacLeod explains: ‘We have rainbow stickers on the spines, and also a permanent Pride display surrounded by all the different flags.  The students respond really well to it, especially the flags, as they feel seen.’ This is a quick and visual way to highlight books with LGBT+ themes, especially if pupils are used to seeing genre stickers on book spines to help inform their reading choices.  Engaging pupils and school groups in general is a great way to seek views and opinions for creating and promoting book collections.


The LGBT+ book collection at Buckie High School has proved popular and has allowed me to discuss the books with students and encourage them to request and suggest other books for the collection. One student said to me recently “I love these books as I can see myself in them”, and I feel this authentic feedback helps validate the approach I’ve been taking.

While the visibility of the collection in the library seems to be the main attraction to it, I feel I need more promotion around the school to make sure students who perhaps don’t use the library often know the collection is here for them.

Here are some book lists I found useful when researching book stock for the library:

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