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Trans Accessible Libraries Initiative

This guide provides practical information and library resources for UNTs transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, gender variant, and gender diverse students.

Information for Librarians

The purpose of this page is to share the steps that went into the Trans Accessible Libraries Initiative. Our hope is that others can adapt what they learn here to serve their local transgender community OR modify the initiative to serve other historically marginalized populations in their area. We would love to hear about how you adapted this initiative for your community.

trans accessible libraries initiative

This page includes:

  • About the Initiative,
  • Needs assessment,
  • Collection development process,
  • Promotion and outreach,
  • Best practices, and
  • Resources consulted.

The original funding for this initiative came from a Dean's Innovation Grant awarded to Julie Leuzinger (she/her/hers), Coby Condrey (he/him/his), and Clark Pomerleau (he/him/his) in 2020. It is also driven by a passion and dedication for making all of our libraries accessible and welcoming for transgender individuals.

If you have questions about the initiative overall, please contact Julie Leuzinger. If you would like more information about the Trans Accessible Libraries Initiative image above, please reach out to the UNT Libraries External Relation Office.

NOTE: While we have tried to use inclusive language in this guide, if you notice anything that could be improved, please don't hesitate to contact us with suggestions. 

About the Trans Accessible Libraries Initiative

The University of North Texas Libraries has become a known repository for LGBTQ+ studies through its collections and trained personnel. In addition to striving to be the LGBTQ+ history archive of the South, the Libraries’ are well positioned to provide effective informational resources trans people seek. Yet, recent national surveys indicate that trans people do not typically turn to libraries for their information. 

Current research, including the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equity, highlights some of the barriers to information that transgender individuals face. Moreover, their needs are significantly different from others in the LGBQ+ community. Since this population is hidden unless self-identified, and privacy may be of concern, this guide focuses primarily on online resources.

According to the  U.S. Transgender Survey, “nearly one quarter (24%) of people who were out or perceived to be transgender in college or vocational school were verbally, physically, or sexually harassed.” Additionally, “one in five (20%) did not use at least one type of public accommodation in the last year because they feared they would be mistreated as a transgender person.” Libraries would be included here as a “public accommodation.” 

In a 2017, a research survey by Drake addressed what accommodations libraries needed to make for transgender individuals to feel safe, what areas had the greatest unmet information needs, and why trans people did not use the libraries as an information resource at all. Some of the accommodations the author mentions included current transgender literature, gender identity and expression as part of their institutions’ non-discrimination policy, and gender-neutral restrooms. Unmet information needs included transgender health, legal, and political advocacy information. Some reasons for overall low level of library satisfaction were either not enough applicable resources or out of date resources; therefore, respondents did not consider libraries reliable sources of information. Discomfort at interacting with library staff also made the list.  

This initiative included an assessment of the collection to see what gaps we have in addressing up to date health (physical, medical, sexual, and mental), social, legal, activism, and even fiction books with trans protagonists to focus on those information needs. Funding from a Dean's Innovation Grant awarded to Julie Leuzinger (she/her/hers), Coby Condrey (he/him/his), and Clark Pomerleau (he/him/his) allowed the UNT Libraries to add several e-books to the collection solely focused on the needs of transgender individuals, dedicate staff time to the initiative, and provide promotional materials.  

Research question: How can UNT’s library create a best practices model that responds to trans and gender-nonbinary people’s information seeking behaviors to make the libraries a safe, accessible, quality source for trans information needs?  

Special thanks goes to Kathleen Hobson (they/them/theirs), Director of the UNT Pride Alliance for your support and encouragement. 

Thanks goes to Karen Harker (she/her/hers), UNT Libraries' Collection Assessment Librarian for your assessment report on this collection in October 2020, and again a year later to track usage. 

Thanks to our amazing transgender/non-binary/genderqueer students who filled out the anonymous survey to help us determine what e-books to select with the funding received.

NOTE: The information in this box was archived from the original About page in March 2022 because we shifted focus from the results of the Dean's Innovation Grant to the Initiative itself.

Needs Assessment

This needs assessment began in 2016 through the Texas Gender Project, funded by another Dean's Innovation Grant, started by Spencer Keralis, Julie Leuzinger, and Jennifer Rowe. We asked transgender Texans about their impressions of library services, then asked Texas Librarians about their knowledge of transgender issues. We shared our recommendations based on our findings with the Texas Library Journal in the 2017 article, Providing Inclusive Services to Transgender Customers. This research, along with the UNT Libraries excellent relationship with the Pride Alliance (the campus gender and sexuality education, outreach, and resource office) provided a foundation for learning the needs of our local community. 

Additional research, including, but not limited to, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, Stephen Kreuger's bookDrake's 2017 article, and Lyttan's 2019 article informed the initial proposal for the Trans Accessible Libraries Initiative and were crucial in the outcomes of the project as a whole. 

Part of the needs assessment also included the collection evaluation, which is described in further detail below. 

Collection Development

The $3000 collection enhancement was based on the following criteria determined in the needs assessment:

  • E-books, so students did not have to come to library if they were not comfortable and wanted to maintain privacy,
  • Books published within the last 10 years so the collection is current,
  • Mostly books published in the U.S. if they were "how to" (for example: navigating health insurance),
  • English language because it is the primary language on campus (if your community is largely Spanish speaking, consider including those), and
  • Adult books (the local public library already does a great job collecting YA materials),

We excluded books on:

  • Teens, children, and elderly since our users are adults (if you are a public library, consider including those), and
  • LGBTQ+ books that were too broadly focused (instead focusing on transgender or gender identity specific) because most LGBTQ+ resources focus very little on the T.

We used Gobi to make a list of everything published with the above criteria covering transgender and non-binary themes . Then created subject based (medical, humanities, and social sciences) anonymous surveys in Qualtrics. The screen shot below is from the medical books survey, which had 16 books. 

Qualtrics survey on trans medical books

The screen shot below includes the directions and information about book selection.

Qualtrics trans book survey directions

The screen shot below is an example of how the survey appeared (the title links out to the book description).

Qualtrics guide to transgender health

It is critical to actually get input from the population this initiative is serving so we partnered with the Pride Alliance as well as select faculty to get survey links out to the right students. We did not want students to have to out themselves just to participate, which is why the anonymous survey was so important. 

The Collection Assessment Department put together a collection evaluation report using circulation, interlibrary loan, and usage data to make collection enhancement recommendations based on the call number ranges provided (this topic is interdisciplinary). The image below is from their report.

collection evaluation qualitative matrix of subjects

The Collection Development Liaison Librarian, Coby Condrey, used the data from the surveys and the collection evaluation to make final selections that fit within our budget. If items were available on DDA (demand driven acquisition) through Gobi, we were able to include those too deferring the purchase cost to if or when the item is used. 

Promotion and Outreach

This LibGuide was the primary means of promotion for the Initiative, with all other promotional efforts pointing back to the LibGuide. Those efforts included:

  • two "book displays" with the first going live on the Trans Day of Remembrance in November and the second going live on Transgender Day of Visibility in March. Both were blog posts that were cross promoted on social media and this guide.
  • general social media posts highlighting different parts of the LibGuide
  • business card sized promotional cards to share at outreach events and to send to specific events
  • the guide is promoted on the Pride Alliance website, they also retweeted everything we sent out on social media.

Best Practices

The project team recommends as best practices: 

  • Conducting a needs assessment of the targeted user group. Understanding the community’s needs is the key element needed to ensure that the project meets its intended purpose of improving access to appropriate services and resources. The best practice in the non-profit sector is to perform a needs assessment every three years, so this should be considered for program continuity.  

  • Developing relationships with members of the trans community and allies, especially faculty. These relationships can be crucial to the success of a project of this nature, where the targeted user group is difficult to identify. Collaborators such as allies and community members will be highly valuable in reaching the trans community and recruiting appropriate respondents for surveys. 

  • Communicating with the community to promote the initiative so that they know that the purpose of the project is to bring about improvements in services and resources. This can be done as part of the needs assessment and soliciting feedback. 

  • Following up with the community to demonstrate how the project team used the community’s input to select materials and develop or modify services. This can be done via promotion and outreach as described above and by providing information to your collaborators and those you consulted.  

  • Soliciting feedback and maintaining objectivity when the feedback indicates the library has not been meeting the information needs of the targeted group. 

  • Determine at the outset how you plan to assess the initiative’s success.  

Resources

Additional Links

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