By Casey Stepaniuk
Queer book lovers in Vancouver have ample reason to rejoice this holiday season because Out On The Shelves, the city’s only library devoted to LGBTQ2IA+ books (and DVDs) is re-opening! The entirely volunteer-run library, where anyone can get a library card for free, has found a new home on UBC’s West Point Grey campus in the student Nest Building after being in transition for the last year and a half having lost their downtown space.
The library’s mission is simple but profound: “Out On The Shelves aims to foster a free, accessible, and safe space for LGBTQ2IA+ people and their allies to discover and share stories and resources centring LGBTQ2IA+ experiences. We understand that LGBTQ2IA+ people stand at the intersection of multiple communities and identities, and we seek to empower and support them by providing access to materials that reflect their realities.”
Serving as an alternative and counterpoint to both the university library and the public library, Out On The Shelves has a specialized collection perfect for queer and trans readers looking for their next great read and allies who want to learn more about the LGBTQ2IA+ people in their lives. Not only does it carry new titles that may have long hold lists at the Vancouver Public Library, the library also has some rare, old, and small press books not found anywhere else in Vancouver. They have a diverse selection of fiction and non-fiction, with sections dedicated to children’s and young adult materials and a growing DVD collection. Out On The Shelves’ ultimate goal is to foster a collection of books and DVDs where LGBTQ2IA+ people in all their diversity can see themselves reflected; the concept of “own voices” is very important to the library and its volunteers.
Out On The Shelves is a long-running library that was first established in Vancouver in 1983. It has always been volunteer run and has been through many names changes — “the gay library” to “the gay and lesbian library” to “the LGBT library” to today’s inclusive LGBTQ2IA+ library — as well as location changes. Most recently, as some readers of this blog post will remember, the library was housed at Qmunity, the LGBTQ2 community centre off of Davie St. (So if you’re wondering what happened to that library after it had to move, here it is!)
The library will be open as of January 2nd and is planning a launch party mid January — the date is still to be announced; follow them on social media for details. They are generally open five days a week, including one weekend day; opening hours can change, so be sure to double check their website before visiting.
During the month of December the library is hosting a holiday book drive in order to fill in some of the gaps of their collection; if you’re interested in helping the library out by buying or donating a book they need, check out their wishlist and then follow these steps!
You can find Out On The Shelves on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. They are also always looking for volunteers; if you’re interested, you can email the co-coordinators of the library at outontheshelveslibrary[at]gmail.com. See you at the library!
Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian-in-training who runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find LGBTQ+ Canadian book reviews and a queer book advice column. She also writes for Book Riot. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian
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