This article by Library Page Tara Wright was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on October 22, 2017.
The Arizona Daily Star Monthly Library Series offers an insider's view of Pima County Public Library and the ways in which we're transforming lives in our community. This month, we hear from Tara Wright, Page at Dusenberry-River Library.
I never thought I would work at a library. I always loved spending my time in the different ones I encountered throughout my years in school, but I never pictured it as a choice. “Librarians have to go to school for it,” my brain provided, “so that’s not really an option.”
But after I graduated high school, I was lucky enough to get a job a few months later, and it ended up being in the Pima County Public Library system.
I’m a page at the Dusenberry-River Library. Pages are jacks-of-all-trades: we shelve books, pull hold requests, set up the meeting rooms, and that’s just to name a few of the tasks.
I was a bit stressed when I first started. I had never had a job before, and all the advice I had been given had been from people with office experience, so I didn’t really know what to expect at the library. But people were patient with me as I learned the ropes. My boss helped me work out a schedule that fit with my college classes and, all in all, I really started to fit in.
I’d gotten used to the workplace, but in my personal life I hadn’t quite gotten there yet. I had started trying to “figure myself out” back in high school, because something always felt a bit off, but I really started doing research and allowing myself to try out a new identity during my first years of college.
I realized who I was, what the words were, why I felt the way I did, and I started the process of becoming OK with it. It took a while, in all honesty, and I’m still working on it. I hadn’t even heard of the word “agender” before I started looking into gender identity, and even after I had, I always worried about people not taking me seriously.
For the record, agender is a term often used to indicate someone is genderless or gender neutral. There are other reasons one would use the term, but those are the most common. I use the latter definition.
I started to get there eventually, but at the time, I was still afraid to be “out” at work. It wasn’t because of anyone’s behavior toward me or any rules or regulations. Rather, it was because the whole situation was just so new to me.
So I watched for a while. I listened to my colleagues’ conversations, kept up with internal library discussions, and read through all the library policies I could find. The library has always been called an inclusive place, but I wanted to be sure.
What I saw was comforting. People spoke of family members in kind words and with respect. The Rainbow Storytime program was (and is) going strong. The library participated in the Pride On Parade.
And I saw another member of the library system going through the process, too. Nothing officially stated, no big fanfare, but I saw a gradual change. And since I was about to go through the process, I recognized it immediately. That was the final proof I needed to convince myself that it was safe to make the leap.
It was actually surprisingly easy to come out. I scheduled a meeting with my boss and the library manager, and I told them. I told them about my pronouns (I use They/Them/Their pronouns), about my identity and about how I wanted to be able to be “out” in the workplace. There were a lot of questions, but I knew there would be, and questions were fine. After the meeting, I sent out a library-wide email telling everyone about my pronoun switch and giving a brief explanation why, and that was that. I was out.
A few months after that, a systemwide email was sent asking people to join the LGBT Services Committee, which is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. As soon as I read it, I decided I wanted to be the representative from the Dusenberry-River Library. When I approached my boss about it, she had already saved the hours of the first meeting for me, pretty sure once she had read it that I would want to be part of it.
It’s been great. We’ve discussed different issues that could come up in the workplace and how to help avoid them. We’ve planned events and discussed how we can be more visible at other library events. It’s been an amazing experience to see just how much the library cares about our community.
This past June, I decided I wanted to do something special. At the Dusenberry-River Library, we didn’t have a display up in our front area yet, so I brought up to a coworker the possibility of having a Pride Month display. I immediately started planning what I wanted our display to look like.
Our display was a learning one, showing different flags from the LGBT community and sharing what they mean. Of course, it also had books from our collection on display for customers to check out. With 10 flags covering well- and lesser-known genders and sexualities, and a variety of books that feature LGBT characters or themes, the display was as informative as we could be.
I was inspired by a Pride Month display of asexual titles that I had seen at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library a few years ago. It had meant so much to me to see something that I identified with and that was so rarely discussed on display at the library. That’s part of the reason I included so many flags in my display: I remembered that feeling, and wanted others to feel it, too.
The display was a success. We had so many compliments on it, and not a single complaint. We even had people wishing that it could have stayed up after the month! It was a rewarding experience, and something that I’m glad I got to do because of the library.
I’m still fully getting used to being out. It’s a continuous process, one that I’m going to be going through for my entire life. But when it comes to feeling safe, and included, the library is one of the best places for me to just be me.
Tara Wright is a page at Dusenberry-River Library. They are proud of their role on the Library’s LGBT Services Committee, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Among their favorite books are Cornelia Funke’s magical epic Inkheart and the exciting fantasy Greyling: The Prophecy.