21 May 2009

Trans/librarian, Part I

I was reading an article for the collection evaluation I'm doing as part of my internship this summer, and it gave me a lot of food for thought and helped me flesh out the points below, which have been nagging at me for some time. It's mostly just notes to myself to use in the future, but I thought you might find it interesting to read.

This is the article that I reference: Moss, Eleanor. (2008). An inductive evaluation of a public library GLBT collection. Collection Building, 24(4): 149-156.

At one point, the author is talking about ex-gay/anti-gay literature, she makes the point that based on the perspective of users their collection is targeted at ("community relevance"),
"As one of the leaders of Exodus Ministries, and a poster child of the Ex-Gay Movement, Paulk’s book is considered anti-gay, even psychologically and spiritually damaging, by most of the GLBT community. Using a definition of community relevance, one could even make the argument that Love Won Out is not a GLBT book."
Still, she kept the book in her sample, because a) it has the subject headings, and b) it's still in high demand at the library she studied, so it's relevant, if distasteful. I think that this "relevant, if distasteful" concept is going to be key for the work I do with the trans stuff in my internship, and I should expand on it in whatever write-up comes out of this research, since as a research institution, anything is valid fodder for study, especially (humanities) analysis. Ah, I see-- so the question arises of how to "keep" psych/social scientists/medical practitioners from using "bad"/non-trans-affirming materials to inform their new research/practice. It's an information literacy issue--being able to make an informed decision about what info is "good" for a particular purpose, and it's complicated by the fact that the balancing voices that would add depth to the pool are trans people's voices themselves, especially in the psych/ss/medical fields.

So non-trans researchers/practitioners in these fields look for information, find non-trans-affirming/trans-controlling stuff, and this becomes their basis for interacting with/caring for/working with trans people, and since they've read voices of authority that included zero-to-very-few trans authors, it reifies the notion that "non-trans must be better sources of information about trans people than trans people are themselves." Which is why I can't bring myself to be a "neutral" librarian about this issue, because this particular cycle of knowledge production, consumption, and use causes harm (to be clear: harm is certainly not the only produced effect, but it is significant). Still, the answer can't be through censorship, but rather through information literacy education (i.e., giving users context). But how to do that when researchers/practitioners in the psych/ss/medical fields are already imbued with superiority and entitlement? At the root: how to make them respect and value trans people?

No answers yet. What do you think?

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