There’s much to say about the shooting in Orlando. I’m the G in LGBT. I’m a librarian. I’m also honored to be part of the 2016 IRDL cohort. For this tragedy to happen at this precise moment gave me pause to think about the relationship between the LGBT community and librarianship. I think it is no surprise that many LGBT people find a home in our profession, and there are many straight allies who have stood by our side long before the national zeitgeist said it was okay to treat LGBT as equals who deserve dignity and love just like any other person.
When I read about the statistics of the Pulse club massacre: 49 dead, approximately 50 injured – I started to realize that it’s very likely one of these men or women would have become a librarian. The Daily Beast gave brief profiles of the victims. Many were already living out their professional lives as business owners, IT specialists, financial aid officers…some were too young to know what career they would discover. We know that the path to our profession is often a winding one, and we will never get the chance to see what these people could have been.
I wonder what we as librarians should do next? I remember our core values – the Library Bill of Rights states “Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people…” [emphasis mine]. We help people question the status quo, we help our patrons think critically and not give in to easy to swallow bigoted narratives. We have the capacity to use our spaces for discussions, events, and displays – which make it clear that we support LGBT people and that Library spaces are for them. We will need to do the same for our Muslim friends and patrons as a new wave of Islamophobic rhetoric begins to grow.
I am far too much an optimist to end on dark notes. This tragedy makes many of us scared and sick to our stomachs, and dashes the hopes of many LGBT people who found new hope with the legalization of gay marriage a year ago, and we are reminded that we are still not equal. But so much has changed for the better – 20 years ago people may have tacitly accepted and even quietly praised the systematic slaughter of LGBT people, and we are a very long way from that dark past. Support for our community has been overwhelming – Communities are raising money for affected families, Airlines are offering free flights to victims’ families, The City of Orlando has set aside cemetery plots at no cost for any families who want to bury their loved ones there. OneBlood, and Orlando blood bank, was overwhelmed with donors looking to help, animal charities are making sure victim’s pets are safe and cared for.
On a final note – the IRDL is hosted at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. LMU is a Jesuit and Marymount institution, and I’m sitting across from Christian iconography as I’m writing this. It is no secret that religious and LGBT communities have had a difficult relationship – and for LGBT people of faith it’s been an especially difficult journey to openness and acceptance. Today there will be a prayer vigil honoring the Pulse shooting victims, at the campus chapel. The flags of the campus are at half-mast. Our hosts have gone above and beyond to make us feel safe and accepted here.
There are many reasons to grieve, and it’s important to do so. But also remember, as Mr. Rogers reminded us, to look for the helpers in times of disaster. This time, there are so many helpers.
Adam H. Lisbon
Professor Adam H. Lisbon is the Japanese & Korean Studies Librarian at the University of Colorado Boulder and a member of the 2016 IRDL cohort.
This blog post is part of a series of IRDL Scholar responses to the shooting in Orlando, FL, on 6/12/2016.