KOKOMO, Ind. — Whether reading to learn, or to escape into a story, it’s important to see someone like yourself in the pages.
For people from the LGBTQ+ community, finding that kind of book in a local library or bookstore can be a challenge — but at Indiana University Kokomo, students may find them in the LGBTQ+ Lending Library, housed in the Multicultural Center.
Benjamin Liechty, director of the LGBTQ+ Center, worked with students to choose about 60 books to include, purchased with grant funds from IU’s Queer Philanthropy Circle.
“I think it’s important to have these books available to students because it’s a chance for them to learn more about LGBTQ+ individuals, the history and movement, and about the people who were leaders in the community,” he said. “They can learn about the obstacles people had to overcome because they were part of this community and know about those who paved the way before them.”
He collaborated with students from Spectrum, a student organization that raises awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and provides a supportive environment, to choose both fiction and non-fiction books to buy.
“We wanted to be sure we were being equitable and choosing books that would intrigue students and help them understand their own identity, and other identities within the community,” Liechty said, adding that they focused on books not already available in the campus library. They were purchased from Beyond Barcodes Bookstore in Indianapolis, to support a minority-owned business.
Jessica Wooten, senior associate director of LGBTQ+ philanthropy for the IU Foundation, said the Queer Philanthropy Circle is proud to fund books for the lending library.
“We believe books have the power to bring the world to your fingertips, and in particular queer literature provides the reader a space for acceptance, escape, learning, and support,” she said. “Through storytelling, queer students, faculty, and staff can find themselves reflected on those pages.”
The books can benefit all students, Wooten added, as a resource to those who want to be allies.
Students in the Equity Ambassador program built bookshelves and placed stickers on the books to recognize the Queer Philanthropy Circle’s support. Books will be available to check out in the Multicultural Center, Kelley Student Center Room 265, starting with the fall semester.
Liechty said he appreciates the financial backing from the Queer Philanthropy Circle, not only for books, but for programming during the LGBTQ+ Center’s first year. The Center offered activities including movie screenings, discussions after IU Kokomo’s production of The Laramie Project, friendship bracelet making, a drag queen story hour, and free testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
“We are extremely grateful for their generosity and their support of regional campuses and projects,” he said. “This grant was incredibly beneficial, and we would not have been able to provide what we did without it. We accomplished a lot, and we were able to provide a safe place for LGBTQ+ students.”