State Library of Pennsylvania establishes LGBT research collection


The State Library of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg is in the process of establishing its first LGBT-specific collection. 

The brainchild of State Library Director Sarah Greene, the collection is part of Greene’s ongoing effort to expand the ability of the State Library to serve the needs of Pennsylvania’s diverse population.

“The Library’s purpose is to serve the informational research needs of Pennsylvanians,” said Greene. “This will be one way of making sure that our collections are inclusive.”

Accessible and open to the public, the initiative had its genesis during a meeting between Greene and Barry Loveland, the chair of the Pennsylvania LGBT History Network. Loveland had been shepherding a traveling LGBT history exhibit, which Greene was interested in hosting. In the course of discussions about the exhibit, Greene reached out to Loveland about her idea to establish an LGBT collection of her own.

“They reached out to us,” said Loveland. “Sarah thought we would be helpful in pulling together a list for her acquisitions department. Of course, we were happy to put the word out to our network of colleagues statewide for a list of titles.”

“They’ve been invaluable,” agreed Greene. “In a matter of days, we’ve already received many pages of suggested titles.”

Greene’s priorities include material, books and periodicals that focus on Pennsylvania events, history and people, but she does not want to close the door to material with a national perspective.

Greene said the function of a library is somewhat different than that of a formal, dedicated historical archive. While she specifies she’s not seeking archival material such as historical artifacts and ephemera, the Library is willing to accept such items if donated.

Progress has been rapid, and Greene is hoping the initial acquisitions will be publicly accessible by the end of October. In only a matter of weeks, Green’s initial overtures to Loveland provided suggestions for acquisitions. 

Greene said the State Library’s LGBT collection will not be a “special collection,” but treated as part of the Library’s general collection. “Expanding our LGBT titles will now be an ongoing thing. It should and will be just a normal part of our regular acquisition process,” she promised.

“I feel strongly that the State Library should be inclusive,” Greene maintained. “The State Library is here to serve as an information resource for all Pennsylvanians equally.”