This year’s Los Angeles gay pride parade is going to include a “Grand Lesbrarian.”
That’s right, a real grand lesbian librarian will be leading the Los Angeles Public Library’s LGBT contingent, which is officially participating this year for the first time in the parade’s 45-year history.
LAPL organizers say the contingent will include 100 library employees of all levels, from clerks to the city librarian. Some of the employees marching identify as LGBT while others just support the culturally specific services the library offers to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Angelenos.
“We want people to know that the library is a place where they’re welcomed. It’s the place where they can get the information they need in a safe and non-judgmental way,” said Xochitl Oliva, a digitization librarian and co-chair of the LGBT services committee for the Los Angeles Public Library.
Oliva, who identifies as a lesbian, says librarians have always been progressive and “really ahead of the game.”
“We’re really about moving forward, and this generation of librarians is far more progressive and far more inclusive than [professionals] in other fields,” Oliva told Fusion in a telephone interview.
The library selected former LAPL librarian Carolyn Weathers to be the "Grand Lesbrarian."
As a member of the activist group Gay Liberation Front, Weathers once stormed into a downtown L.A. hotel in 1970, protesting an American Psychiatric Association screening of a film advocating electroshock conversion therapy for LGBT people.
The LGBT services committee advocates for the information needs of the LGBT population in particular. Oliva said one of the committee's projects is to create a list of LGBT-friendly titles for L.A. libraries to purchase “so that when young people are looking for this information they find it in a positive and affirmative way, because LGBT kids in particular may not get that at home.”
The LAPL has 73 libraries across the county and serves the largest and most diverse population of any public library in the United States.
Oliva said it’s especially important for young LGBT people to see information that reflects their history and experience to get a better context of how to navigate the issues that they’re facing.
“The library is key to many young people because it’s accessible and provides free information that can help them figure out who they are, who they want to be and how they can be really successful,” Oliva said.