The ALA Task Force on Gay Liberation: Effecting Change in Naming and Classification of GLBTQ Subjects


  • Melissa A. Adler School of Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison



The American Library Association’s Task Force on Gay Liberation was the first professional organization in the U.S. to formally organize to protect rights and promote awareness of gays and lesbians. Founded in 1970, the Task Force has evolved to become the Gay Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table (GLBTRT) of the A.L.A. In this paper I will discuss the influence of key members of the group, such as Barbara Gittings, Steve Wolf, Joan Marshall,and Michael McConnell, on Library of Congress classifications and subject headings.I will also discuss how the success and momentum of this agenda depended on the efforts of Sanford Berman, who advised the Task Force and pushed for revisions of gay and lesbian subject headings and classifications.This study significantly informs current classification research, as it documents the beginning of a movement to democratize subject cataloging practices. The actions taken by the Task Force and its individual members broke new ground, and arguably, led to present-day participatory, user-centered classification practices, such as social tagging.