Information Literacy in the Context of LGBT Community: A Survey of National and International Publications

Article Authored By: Selma Leticia Capinzaiki Otttanicar, Jean Fernandes Brito, Rafaela Carolina Silva, Everaldo Henrique dos Santos Barbosa, and Cassia Regina Bassan de Moraes

Reviewed by: Kacie Cox, Rachel Moore, Shannen Moore, Minnie Esquivel Gopar, and Patrick Washington

Link to article:

Article Synopsis

The LGBTQ community still faces discrimination in society due to prejudice, but it is important to research the difficulties that the community faces so that we can improve the community’s quality of life and access to resources. This article focuses on the ways in which literature in the library and information sciences (LIS) field has addressed the LGBTQ community in research. Specifically, the article is determining the information competence (CoInfo) of the research available in terms of creating pathways for lifelong learning for the LGBTQ community and highlighting the importance of diversity. There are two main objectives seen in this article; to understand how CoInfo can lead to respect and developments for the LGBTQ community, as well as looking at how LIS literature has included the LGBTQ community in research.

The researchers conducted a systematic literature review regarding CoInfo issues surrounding the LGBTQ community using international databases to yield diverse, global perspectives. The results showed that research in LIS still shies away from addressing the LGBTQ community on both an international and national level. Additionally, it was found that there may be a barrier to information literacy for those who are older within the LGBTQ community, resulting in a lack of access to information and resources. The researchers determined that CoInfo in LGBTQ literature can assist the community in developing more information literacy through reducing misinformation, learning how to critically interpret information, and gaining a better understanding of the community itself.

Research Questions

1. How can information competence help others respect the LGBTQ Community?
2. What research has already been completed in terms of information competence and the LGBTQ community?
3. What are the barriers information seekers face in terms of the LGBTQ community?
4. How is information disseminated to the public?
5. How can the standards for information competency be applied specifically to the LGTBQ community?
6. What can we learn from the information cycle as it applies to the LGBTQ community?


Three international databases were used for this literature review: Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA), Web of Science (WOS), and Scopus. The Brazilian database Base de Dados em Ciência de Informação (BRAPCI). There was no date limit set to the search, and all terms were searched in English. The search was limited to works from areas of Social Science and Applied Social Science. The authors then categorized and analyzed the articles they collected, ensuring that the articles contained relevant information. They then took the standards of information competency and applied them to the LGTBQ community, creating a theoretical framework to show how information competency can lead to respect for the LGBTQ Community.

Findings and Conclusions

Ottonicar et al (2019) found that information competence among LGBTQ people is a crucial element that bridges gaps in access to information. Their findings also provided some context regarding the varying information needs of the community. Transgender individuals, for example, have different information needs than do cisgender individuals. Similarly, lesbian and bisexual individual’s information needs differ from those of gay men. The variety and diversity of the individuals among LGBTQ communities offer a challenge to information accessibility because of the diversity of information needs. Ottonicar et al (2019) argued that misinformation, stereotypes, and prejudicial information create a barrier to information access regarding the LGBTQ community. They emphasized the vital importance of the dissemination of accurate information about this community in order to provide relevant context and to guide ethical information behavior by and about the LGBTQ community. The promulgation of accurate information for and about this community is essential in order to educate others and counter misinformation and thus leads to greater awareness and acceptance of the community, and to greater information competency in general.

The authors commended the information competency of LGBTQ individuals but concluded that this competency was linked to barriers to access to information. Individuals who were skilled at seeking and evaluating information about the LGBTQ community often had little recourse other than to utilize those skills. The findings concluded that the LIS community remains slow to address the information needs of this population. Even the survey of literature conducted herein contained only a few titles that directly addressed LGBTQ information-seeking behaviors, access to information, and information competency. In addition, they noted the uneven application of programming and information by and about this community, and the ways in which stigma continues to operate to preclude access to information. Access to more information, and more accurate information, is essential to reducing the stigma associated with the LGBTQ community. The more knowledgeable that people are about this community, the less likely they are to be prejudiced against them, and the more likely they are to respect them and to respect all aspects of diversity within their communities. The authors also suggest an interdisciplinary approach be taken to further research between the social sciences and information sciences.

What American Libraries Can Learn

The intersectional LGBTQ+ community experiences successes and unique adversities globally. Flores (2019), has found that the average level of LGBT global acceptance (i.e., a country’s average societal attitude toward LGBT people that is expressed in public attitudes and beliefs about LGBT people and rights) has increased from 1981-2017 (p.5). Approximately 28 countries have legalized same-sex marriage, there is more LGBTQ visibility in media and society, the Equality Act is a historic piece of LGBTQ legislation to ensure civil rights, bans on conversion therapy have been enacted by 20 states in the U.S., and there are even openly LGBTQ celebrities, public figures, politicians, and world leaders. The authors of this article clearly articulate that changes in legislation to ensure human rights and that include discrimination protections for sexual minorities positively affect public sentiment and acceptance. However, they also critique the notion that LGBTQ specific information and rights have reached a level of global acceptance or information competence that would address the historical disenfranchisement in representation and actuality. In the United States, there are varied examples of criminalization of LGBTQ existence along with historical and systemic erasure. Moreover, while marriage may be one right gained, many LGBTQ folks still face rampant discrimination and violence, poverty, displacement, and even government-sanctioned persecution. All these factors contribute to the challenges the LGBTQ community can face when searching for information about self-actualization, identity formation, demographics, health, community, or belonging. The best way for global libraries and information professionals to serve the information needs of the intersectional LGBTQ+ community is by proactively communicating to government officials, members of the community, legislators, and internal and external stakeholders that the library functions to uphold the intellectual freedoms of all intersectional diverse patrons by upholding functions of social justice and human rights. Therefore, as Ottonicar et al (2019) communicate, LIS professionals must continue to engage in subverting the stereotypes and misconceptions to then promote information competence about the LGBTQ+ community while seeking to address the barriers to access of information.

A library contains the essence of a society translated into text. It functions, in part, as a mirror, reflecting the beliefs, strengths, and accomplishments of society through the literature that lines its shelves. For this reason, it is pivotal that libraries not deny representation to any segment of society. A library is more than a mirror; it is part of an organization committed to providing equal access to information for all patrons without discrimination, prejudice, or bias. (Albright, 2006, p. 55)

Ottonicar et al and Albright justifiably assert the foundational ethics and purpose of libraries and information institutions and organizations as a cultural archive, information hub, democratic equalizer, community center, technological equalizer, etc. This understanding is imperative to serving traditionally underserved and multi-marginalized intersectional communities like the LGBTQ information community. This cognizance, promoted as best professional practice in the article, can be implemented in libraries in the United States and comparable MLIS programs. Moreover, the exigency to look beyond Eurocentric heteropatriarchal imperialistic ethnocentrism and as Schwartz (2013) deftly puts, “Learn Globally, Act Locally.”
Ottonicar et al also highlight the paucity of information regarding LIS and the LGBTQ community indicating a clear need for additional research, this is also true for U.S. libraries. In addition, the authors reported varying responses to queries about library program offerings targeted at the LGBTQ community. It is likely that American libraries, too, differ wildly in terms of their offerings for their specific LGBTQ community. Libraries must offer information about this community and programs that serve the community not just to meet the information needs of LGBTQ individuals, but also to counter misinformation, stereotypes, and negative assumptions. Doing so benefits everyone, as access to this information also strengthens the information competence of those who are not a part of this group. American libraries could also benefit from the expertise of highly competent LGBTQ information seekers, possibly by pairing individuals in a mentor-mentee manner. A similar offering aimed at increasing knowledge about the LGBTQ community would be useful in both meeting the needs of those who are developing information competency and highlighting the skills of those who have. Finally, highly developed information competency requires the ability to assess context and nuanced understanding regarding the legal and ethical ramifications of certain kinds of information. Thus, U.S. based LIS professionals serving the information needs of the LGBTQ community will educate those not a part of it on these higher-level information competencies.


Albright, M. (2006). The public library’s responsibilities to LGBT communities: Recognizing, representing, and serving. Public Libraries, 45(5), 52–56.

Flores, A. (2019). Social acceptance of LGBT people in 174 countries, 1981 to 2017. The Williams Institute, Los Angeles, CA.

Ottonicar, S. L. C., Brito, J. F., Silva, R. C., dos Santos Barbosa, E. H., & Bassan de Moraes, C. R. (2019, April). Information literacy in the context of LGBT community: A survey of national and international publications. Informacao & Informacao, 24(1), 484-512. doi:10.5433/1981-8920.2019v24n1p484

Schwartz, M. (2013). Learn Globally, Act Locally: World Library Connections.