LGBTQIA Collections Moving to New Call Number Area

Linda Rudell-Betts, Senior Librarian, Social Science, Philosophy and Religion Department,
stack of books with lgbt sign

Several years ago, a young man came to the reference desk with questions for the Social Science, Philosophy & Religion department librarians. He asked me why books about gay men were next to the shelves with incest and sexual bondage books. He said that wasn't how he was at all. His face showed deep hurt, and from his expression, I read that as a gay man who came of age in the 21st century, he had never experienced the kind of marginalization, ostracization, and ridicule I had seen my friends fight when I was his age. It had likely never occurred to him that the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) itself would assign lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and transgender people (LGBT people) to a call number, 301.4157, as a kind of "abnormal sexual relations" (modified 14th edition of the DDC). But, as a librarian and classificationist, I knew earlier call numbers had been more demeaning.

That patron encounter, one of the thousands I've had in my fifteen years as a reference librarian, affected me deeply. I resolved that when the appropriate time came, I would do my best to implement reclassification of library materials to the current version of the Dewey Decimal Classification call numbers applicable to LGBT life. While we librarians can't take away the history of discrimination and neglect of the civil rights of LGBT people, we can reflect the world increasingly made right and fair in how we group our books, DVDs, and other materials on the library shelf.

Library catalogers, classificationists, and LGBT academic community continue to debate how materials on LGBT life should be represented in libraries. The time may come when there is general agreement that sexual orientation does not adequately or appropriately represent the LGBT community, and a new classification structure will be created. As progress is made, the library will bring its collection into the currently agreed upon classification.

With that, I invite you to review the small, but growing, reclassified LGBT collection at Social Science, Philosophy & Religion department at Central Library and your local branches. Thanks go to the heroic efforts of the library catalog department, the cooperation of the Science & Technology department, which collects works on sexuality, and the LAPL LGBT Services Committee. Our many dedicated clerks who affix new call number stickers, revise penciled entries, and move the books from the old location to the new are also to be thanked in this venture.

And the new numbers from the 23rd edition of the DDC (with library modifications, some new since 2021) are
306.76 - Sexual orientation, transgender identity, intersexuality
306.762 – Asexuality
306.764 - Heterosexuality
306.765 - Bisexuality
306.766 - Homosexuality
306.7662 - Male homosexuality (gay men)
306.7663 - Lesbianism
306.7681 - Transgender Identity and Intersexuality