Rethinking Politics of Library Space Towards Diversity and Inclusivity: A Critical Reflection on Public Libraries as a Queer Space

The discourse on gender and sexuality in relation to space has not yet gained serious consideration in the field of librarianship. More often, popular narratives would typically revolve around the concept of libraries as a “third place” characterized as “a place where people choose to go that is outside of their work or home.” (Montgomery & Miller, 2011).

It should be recognized that the vital perspectives offered by these narratives helped how libraries think of space. However, the canonization of popular narratives misses looking into different perspectives (for instance, Queer Theory) that have the potential to critically enrich how libraries re-examine the idea of space and move them to take action in creating a more diverse, inclusive library space, especially for the marginalized community. This paper is a critical reflection on Edson Roy Cabalfin’s article entitled Mala-baklang Espasyo Arkitekturang Filipino: Estetika, Morpolohiya, Konteksto [Queer Space in Filipino Architecture: Aesthetics, Morphology, Context] (2000) in which he asserted that giving meaning and making sense of space as a category is a way for queer people to seize power from heterosexual dominance. For Cabalfin, his paper was a way to give power to spaces that were usually being set aside, even those who create or use queer spaces. Focusing on his central ideas, this article will look specifically at notions of multifunctional and paradoxical qualities of queer space. The author characterized multifunctionality as the integration of events or activities that are appropriated to a space expected to have a particular purpose.

In addition, specific to the definition of multifunctional programs is paradox, defined as often contrary to what is customary, but can also be considered valid and legitimate. Both of these characteristics are specific to and support in legitimizing queer space’s existence.

By understanding the concept of queer space, this paper intends to (1) relay how it can be used to challenge the existing notions of space and in turn, empower the creator/user of space to have the ability to change space; (2) illustrate that spaces are naturally dynamic and are constantly changing, and; (3) provide an attempt to enrich discourses in relation to gender and sexuality.

Ernani A. Agulto

Librarian II, Quezon City Public Library

Author Bio

Mr. Ernani A. Agulto is a librarian-teacher, a proud queer, and LGBTQIA+ rights advocate. He has been working as a librarian for ten years and is affiliated with the Publication Section, Libary and Extension Division (LED) and as the Gender and Development (GAD) Focal Person of the Quezon City Public Library (QCPL), Quezon City, Philippines. Mr. Agulto is a graduate of the Philippine Normal University, Manila, with a degree in Bachelor of Library and Information Science. He passed the Licensure Examination for Librarians (LEL) and Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) in November 2013 and May 2015, respectively. At present, he is pursuing a graduate degree in Art Studies major in Art Theory and Criticism at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. In 2015, he took an online course in Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue, facilitated by Athabasca University and UNESCO, while in 2016 he took a certificate course in Visualizing Japan (1850s-1930s): Westernization, Protest, Modernity from Harvard University – Online Learning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and edX, under Financial Assistance Program. In terms of publication, his article entitled Queering the Undisturbed: Reflections on the Construction of Queer Space Through LGBTQIA+ Materials and Programs at the Quezon City Public Library (QCPL) was recently accepted. The article will be part of the book entitled Censorship Is a Drag: LGBTQ Materials and Programming Under Siege in Libraries and will be published by Library Juice Press in the summer of 2024.