Places for all? Cape Town's public library services to gays and lesbians
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The article reports on an investigation of the provision of gay and lesbian literature and of information services to gays and lesbians in Cape Town’s public libraries. Although by definition public libraries serve all members of a community, the international literature suggests that they neglect the reading and information needs and interests of gays and lesbians. The progressive South African Constitution views the rights of gays and lesbians as human rights; yet homophobia is prevalent. Using a questionnaire, the study explored attitudes and practices of 69 senior librarians, responsible for collection development, across all six of Cape Town’s library districts. The situation was found to be “spotty” with only 26 respondents believing that their library service is meeting the needs of gays and lesbians. The survey found contradictions between stated beliefs and behaviours. Thus, although most agree that LGBT rights to information and equal services are human rights, only 55% consider LGBT people in their selection procedures and very little material is acquired. Information services are thin with, for example, only 10% of the libraries in the survey providing LGBT related information in their community information files.