- Queers Online: LGBT Digital Practices in Libraries, Archives, and Museums ed. by Rachel Wexelbaum
Queers Online: LGBT Digital Practices in Libraries, Archives, and Museums is a collection of 15 essays that address the digital practices of librarians, archivists, museum curators, and information seekers around LGBTIQ1 resources, content, and information. Issues that relate to this main theme include the importance of online resources for LGBTIQ people and communities, the challenges of archiving and preserving born-digital materials, the digitization of physical objects within gay and lesbian archives, and the legal and ethical issues inherent in LGBTIQ digital collections. Queers Online is the first book edited by Rachel Wexelbaum, a librarian at Saint Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, Minnesota, whose research and professional pursuits have focused on LGBTIQ information resources in libraries.
Queers Online fills a notable gap in the literature on the management of resources and information for and by LGBTIQ individuals in the digital age. Although there is a substantial body of queer/LGBTIQ–focused work in the fields of archives and library and information science,2 Queers Online is the first book that focuses specifically on the digital opportunities, practices, and roadblocks experienced by librarians and archivists who work with LGBTIQ information and people. The compact book addresses a diverse range of issues, offering an accessible introduction to the subject as well as substantial detail on a number of specific projects, and recommendations for best practices in a variety of contexts.
The first section, "Queering the Online Realm," introduces a wide range of somewhat disparate explorations of the central topic. Kevin Powell's "Preserving the 'Nexus of Publics': A Case for Collecting LGBT Digital Spaces" explains the importance of queer digital spaces for many young people coming to terms with their identity and starting to access community. He expresses concern that the critical online public spaces into which he came out are being lost, as both archivists and contributors to those online spaces have neglected to preserve their content. The topics addressed here set up important foundations for the subsequent chapters and establish what is at stake for LGBTIQ communities. [End Page 175]
In "Pornographic Website as Public History Archive," an anonymous contributor makes an ambitious case for considering the value of Spanking Central, a pornographic website for male/male spanking videos, as a public history archive. This chapter potentially raises more questions than it answers around the ways in which subscribers and performers of the website actually engage with and relate to the material, the troubles of relying on a pornographic website as a source of oral testimony for sex workers, and the issue of preservation. Nonetheless, it makes a compelling case for broadening our understanding of what constitutes a public history archive and invites further exploration of similar sites from a public history perspective. This chapter is the only one in the book to directly address pornography despite its prominence both in the queer online realm and in the physical holdings of LGBTIQ archives.3 Unfortunately, Queers Online misses the opportunity to address the dearth of work on pornography in literature of the information professions more substantially.
Jane Sandberg's "Organizing the Transgender Internet: Web Directories and Envisioning Inclusive Digital Spaces" is one of several chapters of this book that will serve as a useful primer for practitioners in the information professions who may have limited knowledge about the specific information needs of LGBTIQ people. "Organizing the Transgender Internet" is an accessible yet comprehensive introduction for anyone who wants to provide online information services to trans people. Sandberg reviews the (relatively scant) literature on the information needs of transgender people4 and outlines the ways in which trans communities have searched for and collated online resources since the early days of the Internet. She examines how features of the Internet, such as search engines, naming practices, and web filters, can create a hostile environment for transgender people and propagate racism and "transmisogyny," a term that refers to violence, discrimination, and fetishization directed specifically at...