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Publication Title

Queers Online: LGBT Digital Practices in Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Document Type

Chapter in a Book

Publication Date



Historically, librarians in the United States have addressed censorship of LGBTIQ print materials. Most of the time, school and public libraries have chosen to “self-censor”. In other words, librarians will either choose not to select LGBT materials, shelve LGBT materials in hidden locations, fail to promote LGBTIQ materials, “hide” LGBT materials during processing and cataloging, or remove LGBTIQ materials from their collections completely. The American Libraries Association does not condone these practices, as they go against the American Libraries Association Bill of Rights.

Unfortunately, librarians working in public libraries and K-12 school media centers in the United States may be more likely to restrict access to LGBTIQ online content. Whether through filtering, inappropriate cataloging practices, failure to promote LGBTIQ resources through the library website, or not selecting particular LGBTIQ EBooks for patron-driven acquisitions systems, people seeking out LGBTIQ information online at their public libraries or school media centers might be denied access. Children and teenagers, people with disabilities, the homeless, and the transgender community are populations most frequently affected by such intentional or accidental online censorship.

While Americans often criticize other countries for implementing laws that restrict all citizens’ access to online content addressing LGBTIQ subjects or other content deemed illegal by their governments, Americans feel the need to “protect” children and teens from content they perceive as “inappropriate”. Librarians, pressured by the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA), as well as the desires of concerned parents, are reconsidering “freedom of access” to anything that the community would consider pornographic or sacreligious. At the same time, use of filters to restrict non-pornographic online LGBTIQ content in American libraries is now leading to lawsuits. Librarians who must comply with CIPA and COPPA need more training on how to employ filters without restricting content or online spaces appropriate for minors.


This chapter first appeared in Queers Online, and appears with the generous permission of the publishers, Litwin Books for LibraryJuice Press, as

Wexelbaum, Rachel, ed. Queers Online: LGBT Digital Practices in Libraries, Archives, and Museums. Sacramento, CA: Litwin Books, LLC. 2015. (ISBN: 978-1-936117-79-6) Number six in the Litwin Books Series on Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies, Emily Drabinski, Series Editor.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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