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Week 14 Prompt: Separating Fiction

Prompt: Consider yourself part of the collection management committee of your local library, or a library at which you would like to work. You must decide whether or not to separate GBLTQ fiction and African American Fiction from the general collection to its own special place. Some patrons have requested this, yet many staff are uncomfortable with the idea - saying it promotes segregation and disrupts serendipitous discovery of an author who might be different from the reader. Do you separate them? Do you separate one and not the other? Why or why not? You must provide at least 3 reasons for or against your decision. Feel free to use outside sources - this is a weighty question that is answered differently in a lot of different libraries.

Response: I like to be on the side of forward thinking. Librarians have a duty to bring certain issues and in this mater types of fiction to the light. Placing GBLTQ and African American Fiction among the general fiction is almost like hiding it in plain sight. We know that the titles are there, but how do we know what the title it has a category. Many libraries separate by genre and while these types of fiction are not necessarily a genre and can fall into other genres I believe that it would be worth while to give them their own sections within the library.

The argument of segregation seems invalid to me. We all know that segregation simply means that the items are separated out, but we also know that the ultimate meaning in our country is one with a negative connotation. When we separate the African American and GBLTQ books out we are not setting them apart because there is anything wrong with or bad about the books. Instead we are separating them out so that people in these groups of people have chance to see that their are books about them and by people like them. As a biracial African American I know that having an African American fiction section at my local library was one of the best things about my library. The fact that I was able to get books by people like me was validating.

Another reason I would separate out is if patrons are calling for this action. I believe in giving patrons what they need, but also what they want. If my library serves patrons who would like to see these two types of fiction set out then I think I am obliged to do so. Also, I am obliged to defend the choice to do so based on the wants and needs of those patrons being served who ask that the books be separated.

Overall, I am personally in favor of separating these types of fiction out along with any other type of fiction in order to help my patrons see books about them and by people like them. I would help my coworkers/employees see that this helps the patrons and circulation of these materials which in all helps the library. The bottom line is that books and materials circulating is always going to help the library show that there is a need for those materials.


  1. I really appreciated reading your prompt response! It was informative and persuasive to hear the benefits you presented to having sections separated out, and I think I'll consider these matters in a more nuanced light from now on. Thanks! Also absolutely a good point regarding the importance of responding to patrons' wishes.

  2. You present a very good argument! I agree that patron request is a major factor. The prompt says a few patrons have asked, but we don't know if they asked because they want the books, or because they want to make sure they don't accidentally get them. I ended up giving an answer more geared for my own library than for the specific scenario. Anyway, you didn't change my mind, but you did give me food for thought - nice!

  3. Hi Kamara,

    You bring up many good points and points I had not thought about previously. I do agree with your point about librarians having a duty to bring to the light certain issues and matters, as well as the fact that if enough patrons are requesting it, perhaps we as librarians should listen and act accordingly. I was coming it at it from the point of view that it almost seems as though it glorifies that your books are over there in a special collection. Which, I suppose is similar in some ways to separate science-fiction, fantasy, and mystery sections. Which I can possibly see the point of, and yet, still seems a bit too much. I am all for displays, however, I just felt that if you have it may get confusing for where the discussion ends. One of my first thoughts on the issue was, what would make a LGBTQ or African American fiction book “enough” to make it to one of these separate sections? Does the author need to be a member of the LGBTQ community or identify as one? Do a certain amount of characters need to fit into to either grouping? Are these prerequisites that must be followed? Just my two cents.

    1. Hi Jonathan! Thanks for the response. I think that both LGBTQ and African-American fiction can be written by people outside of those communities. Though I do think that people tend to write about their own experiences and you would find less books about these communities by people outside of the communities than you might realize. To include these genres in my collection I would think they would center around characters within those communities and/or center around the issues of those communities. Not every book written by an African-American author or LGBTQ author will necessarily be about their own communities. It is a complicated machine, but I still think it is worth exploring to help my patrons feel more comfortable finding books. One of the things that I have personally experienced is that we now have an urban fiction collection at my library and all of the African-American titles tend to get tossed in there. That really bothers me because some of the romance books I read are not at all urban fiction. Especially not when they are about women jet setting off to an island and falling in love. I love reading these but I dislike having to search for them amongst regular fiction, but hate when they get shoved in with urban fiction. Just my take on things. Even labels for these collections would be better than nothing.

  4. Great prompt response! You did a great job backing up your point. Full points!


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