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LGBTQ Organization Our Center Place

The Library is Queer…and Dogs!

Before you read this, check out my last blog on the Washoe County Library Downtown branch. The place is amazing. I give a little history, too.

Credit: Erica Pionke

The bulk of the library’s active LGBTQ events are the one or two Drag Queen Story Times over the last few years, minus COVID, of course. They have also marched in the Pride parade twice so far, and a staffed a booth at the event. If you google Washoe County Library and LGBTQ, the first hit is an online art exhibit called “Exploring the Queer Bible” which has been up for a long while.

Controversial much?

Did I ever mention that I love librarians because they are secret revolutionaries, waging quiet battles that we hardly even see.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Not only does the library celebrate Pride, but they keep a calendar to celebrate other affinity groups. They encourage the library branches to put up displays of books for the different affinity groups based on the calendar and the library system hosts a spot on KUNR to promote affinity books.

Debi said that they try to continue to bring on relevant collections for everyone, including more secular and conservative groups. She said that a major role of a library is constantly evaluating the library collection, and one of the impactful ways of doing that is looking at whether they provide a diverse experience in the collection.

Some of the most-requested services or asks of the library are connecting all kinds of people to jobs and other resources. 

Jamie said that the library employs about 130 people total for the library. Jamie and Debi answer to the Library Director, Jeff Scott, who answers to the Board of County Commissioners for the library system budget.  Mr. Scott also reports to the five Library Board of Trustees, who make the final decisions on how the library system is run.

Some of the important points that they stressed during the interview:

  • This is not your parent’s library. Shushing librarians are a relic of the past.
  • Libraries value anonymity. 
  • The library will not label books that are LGBTQ, to eliminate inadvertent notification to looky-Lous on what a reader is reading.
  • Libraries don’t divulge lending histories of their patrons, not even to parents of children.
  • The libraries have space available, free of charge, for organizations.
  • The library has a programming committee that can even sponsor some events.
  • The library has a The Quad Maker Space, where you can make different things using their tools and machines.
  • The library hosts summer lunch programs for kids who otherwise get them at school during the schoolyear.
  • They just got a grant for a book mobile. So they can start taking the library on the road to remote places and homebound seniors.
  • Director Scott has been very supportive of their work to move into, in particular, the LGBTQ space; he approved the library to march in the Pride parade, and supported Drag Queen Story Time, even in the face of national news and opposition.

Since Jamie is the marketing person, I asked if the library system had any marketing strategy. They informed me that they have a new strategic plan.  They are excited about it because it brings new energy into their workspace. 

They plan to focus more on service to seniors, which includes homebound delivery.  The library also focuses on improving their space, including renovating two branches recently.  They have always maintained a focus on early literacy.

The library system also maintains a quarterly magazine, The Explorer, which shows all the goings-on in all the branches in one glossy-covered place.  They print 3000 magazines per quarter and distribute them to all the branches. They also put out a weekly email newsletter and try to keep consistency in their brand.

Jamie said she hopes to reach out to Our Center (see my prior post on Our Center) and create some kind of a partnership with them.

When I asked Jamie and Debi what are their favorite events at the library, Debi said she loves new book Tuesday.  That is when they get a cart of fresh, new books to shelve and lend. She said they spend over $1 million per year in new materials.

Jaime said her favorite events are the story times in each branch.  She used to do them and was known for her puppetry when reading.  She loves the Drag Queen Story Time (of course), which includes her friend Miss Ginger Devine, aka Christopher Daniels of Good Luck MacBeth theater company. Jamie also loves another program the library hosts called Paws to Read, where the library brings in therapy dogs to sit with the children during story time.  Please enjoy some adorable pics from their website.

Credit: Paws for Love website

By Erica Pionke

Erica Pionke moved to Reno/Sparks, Nevada in March 2020 and is finally now getting out into the world and exploring all of its queer offerings with her hilarious and loving partner of 10 years, Debbie.

Erica is an avid outdoorsperson and a self-inflicted seeker of education. She works for the government, in realty, and has a history going back to her earlier years in law school, in real estate, zoning, and land management.

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