BCPL Forms LGBTQ+ book club; Towson Library group engages community

By Sophia Bates, Assistant News Editor

Photo by Nikki Hewins/ The Towerlight

The Towson branch of the Baltimore County Public Library is launching an LGBTQ+ oriented book club that will meet the last Tuesday of every month from 7 to 8 p.m. starting March 26.

According to librarian and club organizer Rhiannon Harlow, the first three meetings are planned out, starting with the novel “Time Was” by Ian McDonald for the March 26 meeting. The following months will study “Speak No Evil” a novel by Udodinma Iweala and “Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality” by Sarah McBride.

The three planned novels all have a relation to the LGBTQ+ community, but according to Harlow, the book club could branch out depending on what the members would like to study.

“It’s going to be very flexible depending on what the participants want to do. I’m not here to tell them what they should be doing in a book club. If they want to pick books that are not necessarily within the LGBTQ community, but they want a space where they feel safe, sure, we can do that,” Harlow said.

Harlow kick-started the idea to fulfill not only personal interest, but the goals of the Baltimore County Public Library system as well.

“I actually graduated from Towson University in 2016 with a women’s studies major and LGBT studies minor so it’s something that’s personally a real interest to me in my life,” Harlow said. “One of [the BCPL] goals is cultivating a connective, inclusive and thriving community and trying to serve as a reliable community connector.”

Adult and Community Engagement Manager for the Baltimore County Public Library Julie Brophy noted that the libraries have made the LGBTQ+ community a focus for engagement and connection before the book club.

“Throughout the year we make sure that we are always thinking about diversity in all its different forms,” Brophy said. “For the last couple years, we’ve been doing work with the LGBTQ+ community in a couple of different ways.”

According to Brophy, the human library project has served as an engagement for the community.

“We have the human library where we have had a transgender man and transgender woman, and a gay mom, and sharing their stories to show how we’re all kind of the same,” she said.

Towson’s Assistant Director of LGBTQ+ Student Diversity and Development Erin Rook moved to Maryland about a month ago and noticed that there was a need for the community to develop programs like these in order to develop safe spaces and education around the LGBTQ+ community.

“I think it was my second week here when there was an email about a church that had an inclusive sign talking about being inclusive to different sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expression as well as other faiths, and that sign was defaced,” Rook said. “I think that if you’re an individual in the community, especially a younger person, and you’re even just seeing that [the book club is] something the library offers is such a huge sign of relief.”

Harlow noted that the libraries strive to seek out underrepresented groups for community engagement.

“According to the ALA website, the LGBTQ community does count as a traditionally underrepresented group, so it is in line with our goal with what we’re trying to do as a library system,” Harlow said.

Rook said developing this program at the library sends positive messages to the Towson community.

“When a library is trying to build a whole program around it, bring in the community and is willing to have these conversations, I think that’s huge and sends a really strong message. I think it’s really cool what they are doing,” Rook said.

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