Queering the Library

Three different challenge teams looked at how to make Berlin’s libraries more welcoming for queer communities.

The challenge

Three challenge teams explored how Berlin’s libraries can transform their spaces, literature and perspectives so the city’s queer communities feel genuinely safe, welcome and represented in their libraries. 

Tim Leik, programme coordinator at the Central and Regional Library Berlin, said: “The project was about giving citizens the opportunity to shape public spaces. The starting point for us was that a populist climate and queer hostility are not German but international issues.”

The initiative

Central and Regional Library Berlin hosted three separate challenge teams:

  • Challenge team one, run by the Oyoun cultural centre, combed through the archives of various venues and institutions looking for material documenting events by and for queer and trans migrant communities, and used this to create an installation at the library as part of their Unheard and Unseen project.
  • Challenge team two, run by the queer literature magazine Transcodiert (‘Transcoded’ in English), tested how it could map queer perspectives and narratives in the library space and explored how to develop a safer space for queer communities at the library. 
  • Challenge team three, mehr_blick, worked on ‘reading glasses’ – a tool for children to wear so they could critically examine the perspectives and assumptions of the books they were reading.

What’s next?

Each of the challenge teams’ prototypes proved successful – and led to some profound learning for the library. In particular, the work challenged assumptions of how libraries can partner with organisations without falling into colonial practices, which seek to understand but end up appropriating learning, insight and practices from communities. 

All three challenge teams plan to continue their work in alternative ways of archival and documentation, questioning the visibility of queer communities through their work and the content supplied via the library.

Queer librarian Debbie Wallace said: “Queering the library was a very inspiring project for us. We learned a lot, especially in the area of community work.”

Website by HOAX Amsterdam