Recently, I was looking for a copy of the Jan-March 2014 issue of The Journal of Bisexuality. I couldn’t access it online through my local university because of a database embargo (basically, the publisher won’t release it electronically until 18 months after publication) , so I decided to get a copy of the article I wanted through interlibrary loan
Folks, interlibrary loan is your secret best friend! Basically, you ask your library for a book, and they don’t have it themselves, they go and ask other libraries to send the book to them. Interlibrary loan is a great way to find bisexual books if your library doesn’t own any. If you are in the United States, most libraries will do this for free. I love interlibrary loan! I read tons of books on interlibrary loan. One of the tools for interlibrary loan is WorldCat, a catalog of library holdings across the world, including both print and electronic holdings. And that’s when I discovered we have a problem:
There are exactly 60 libraries in the world that own the Journal of Bisexuality, and only 37 libraries in the United States.
This is a huge deal. The Journal of Bisexuality is the premiere journal for bisexuality studies, and only 60 libraries have it!
The Journal of Bisexuality has existed for over 10 years now. It’s the only peer reviewed journal that focuses on the study of bisexuality and bisexual people. It’s sponsored by the American Institute of Bisexuality and has an upstanding reputation, focusing on issues such as new research, therapy, media, politics, and bisexual differences from the heterosexual, gay, and lesbian communities. Mainstream, hegemonic studies of sexuality regularly ignore or exclude bisexuals. But the Journal of Bisexuality has been one of the forerunners in establishing the respectful study of bisexual people as an academic field. If so many libraries are missing it, this is a real issue for researchers.
We’ll let public libraries off the hook for a minute – lots of public libraries don’t carry academic journals, because they are expensive and there isn’t as much demand. But college and university libraries are a different matter. There are 4,495 Title IV-eligible degree-granting institutions of higher education in the United States alone (2,774 of them traditional four-year institutions). This means that if you are at a college or university and you want to read up on some bisexuality studies, there is only 0.8% chance that your university library has it.
Just to give you some context, approximately 683 libraries worldwide own the Journal of Homosexuality – which isn’t a great number, but it’s a darn sight better than 60.
I know not every library in the world can have every journal, and the Journal of Bisexuality is not appropriate for every collection development policy. It’s an expensive academic journal and wouldn’t be cost-effective for many small libraries. I myself work at a community college library, and we’ll never buy the Journal of Bisexuality because it doesn’t directly support our technical degree programs. And it’s also possible that some libraries simply don’t have listings for it. Community center libraries may have it, but not have the resources to catalog them. Certain archives don’t list their materials in World Cat at all.
But for major universities, most of which use WorldCat and most of which have a Genders Studies program, the Journal of Bisexuality should be a core part of the LGBT collection. Several of these universities also have LGBT/Queer Studies programs as well. To have the Journal of Bisexuality missing from so many gender studies collections is a big disappointment. Anyone who claims to be doing research in gender and sexuality should have access to this journal.
Is there anything else the fills the need for bisexual studies? At this time, unfortunately, the answer is no; no other journal consistently fills the need for the study of non-monosexual identities.
Do librarians believe bisexuality is not an essential part of gender and sexuality studies? Or do they assume that bisexuality is subsumed under the study of gay men and lesbians? Both answers are possibilities, both are incorrect, and both are equally damaging.
PS: I’d also like to add that anyone who still thinks this isn’t a problem should read/listen to this first - Sarah