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Local library boasts trans collection
by Steven Chaitman
2009-09-09

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Bleue Benton.


When the Oak Park Public Library ( OPPL ) evaluated its collections back in 2005, there was one glaring hole in its diversity collections. There were books and other materials for the "LGB" portion of the LGBT community, but there was very little for the "T."

Since 2007, the OPPL has amassed a collection of around 150 transgender-related books and other resources, making it the first public library outside of San Francisco, Calif., to have a trans collection.

"We were looking under the GLBT umbrella and realized we had completely missed ( the transgender community ) ," said OPPL Collection Development Manager Bleue Benton.

The Transgender Resource Collection contains resource books such as information on gender reconstructive surgery, non-fiction memoirs, magazines, audio non-fiction and both feature and documentary film DVDs.

OPPL applied for and received a $3,000 Library Services and Technology Act grant in 2006 that helped pay for the collection. An extensive self-study was conducted, resulting in a detailed report on how to make the library more transgender friendly and consequently a guide on appropriate training for library staff.

To promote the collection to the transgender community, OPPL worked with the Chicago Gender Society ( CGS ) . OPPL has lectured many times about their collection and self-study findings and also appeared at this year's Be-All convention, Chicago's transgender conference, back in June.

"CGS has told us how meaningful it was to them to be welcomed in a public library," Benton said. "For years they had to get information sources from adult bookstores."

Greer Daniels, a regular columnist for the CGS newsletter The Primrose, wrote about her positive experience visiting the library last March.

"It's nice to know it's there," Daniels said, "That there's a place you can go or direct someone to if they're having issues, questions."

Daniels said that the librarian who assisted her was extraordinarily helpful, directing her to the online catalog to look up the materials, which are spread throughout the library, not centralized in one section. Daniels said she found the memoirs to be the most interesting.

"For those that are searching for themselves a little bit, it's nice to see things that address what it's like to be TG," she said.

The OPPL has information about the collection on its Web site ( www.oppl.org/media/trc.htm ) along with links to the self-study findings and "The $200 Transgender Bookshelf," which is a list of all the transgender titles that OPPL recommends.


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