Collection of LGBT books from Waltham’s Little Queer Library

A small library that provided books to the public in Waltham on LGBT issues was targeted on February 5, leading to a collection of new titles taken by one person.

For the past two years, Katie Cohen and Krys Petrie have provided books to the community that focus on LGBT issues, as part of their Little Queer Library. The library is located outside the couple’s home, Trapelo Road.

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Cohen said she saw someone accessing the library and after they left she came out to see if they had taken anything. It was then that she noticed that a large number of new books, those placed in the library only two days before, had disappeared.

Cohen said they don’t know who took the books. The books could have been taken by someone looking to resell them, a common occurrence in small libraries, or they could have been taken by someone who did not want other people to read the titles.

“They were all books that had LGBT+ in their titles,” Cohen said.

The loss of the books comes at a time when books banned from public libraries across the country have been making headlines. A Texas bill would ban more than 850 books to be read in public schools. Titles that specifically target LGBT issues were among the most requested books to ban, 62% of which contain LGBT content.

In Waltham, two books are being reviewed by Waltham Public Schools, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “This Books is Gay” by Juno Dawson. Cohen said the books are important in helping people understand their gender identity.

“We always try to have certain books in the library at all times, one of them is ‘This Book is Gay, which is one of the challenged books right now in high school,” Cohen said. types of books are resources that answer questions people might have. I wish I had those kinds of books when I was trying to figure things out. Personally, I identify as bisexual, and I didn’t even know that identity existed until I was in college.”

Following the disappearance of the new books, Cohen said he received a record number of donations from concerned residents, which will allow the library to rebuild its collection in greater numbers than before the books were taken.

“The good part is over the past few days we’ve had a ton of donations. At this point I think we’ve had around 50 books donated, we’ve had people knocking on our door and letting us know. given money as a donation to buy There are people in Waltham and even across the country who have heard of it, and they are invested in what we do,” Cohen said.

Visibility in Waltham

Cohen said when she and Petrie first moved to Waltham and bought a house on Trapelo Road, they put a rainbow flag in front of their house. Cohen said they received letters from people thanking them for being visibly gay in the neighborhood.

“When that happened, we realized there were people looking for community in Waltham, LGBT people looking for other people to connect with,” Cohen said. “We kept that in mind and right before the pandemic, when I decided I wanted to start a little library, we wanted to include queer books in it.”

A “little bookcase” is a small birdhouse-like box that individuals place outside their homes. People passing by are encouraged to take books and leave books, either returning books they have “borrowed” before or leaving new books to read. Petrie made the bookcase herself, and the bookcase was painted rainbow to match the aesthetic of the house.

“When we released it, a group of people were really excited about it. They were excited that there was a space where there would be at least a few queer books,” Cohen said. “When I saw this I realized this was something people really needed. Representation in what they read and finding high quality books where you can relate to yourself as a queer person in the pages, is sometimes very difficult to find.”

Books available range from informative non-fiction to witty memoirs, novels, and children’s books.

“It was great for people who want children’s books, to showcase what it means to be LGBT,” Cohen said. “This is a great resource for people looking for information on how to support their child who has just come out. There are people who just want to read about people who are different from themselves. .”

The Little Queer Library offers books ranging from informative non-fiction to memoirs to children's titles.

Cohen said some of the books came from their personal collection, some came from people leaving books, and some were donated directly to the library.

“Having books that they want to share with other people. They’ll contact us and tell us that the book was really important to them when they came out, that it made them feel like they weren’t not alone,” Cohen said.

Cohen said that in the past they had received negative messages, including a letter left at the library stating that the books were inappropriate, but that the positivity and support of the community that embraced the message outweighed any negativity. .

“Just being more visible in general, we’ve had people stop and yell things at me and my wife. It’s been tough, but being visible, doing things that would make people react that way. uncomfortable way, that’s what I think is fine,” Cohen said. “Being someone who’s out there, proud and visible makes it easier for the next generation to exist, without that kind of thing doesn’t happen to them.”

Colin L. Johnson