Fantastic Queer Books and Where to Find Them

Have you ever wondered who is influential in bringing new books to the shelves? 
The answer might surprise you:
It’s you, the reader!

Customer service officer and one of Bibliotheek Neude’s collection specialists,
Marc Conraads,
tells us about the impact of our reading habits – and about queer books and where he finds them.

“We are customer driven – we look at how many books are on loan, and the more books are loaned, the more money I get. So if you borrow a lot of queer books, I get more money for queer books, for instance”, says Marc Conraads, who is responsible for aquiring literary works.

Collection specialist Marc Conraads is shown working behind the scenes at the library. They are in a bright white lofty attic space, with crossbeams in white and black. Brown cardboard boxes labelled 'nbd biblion' are shown piled up in the foreground. One the boxes is open and Marc appears to have taken out one book, which is in his hands.

“We get a lot of book requests from patrons. And then most of the time, we buy them.”
Picture by Bas van Setten.

“Yesterday I bought one after a tip from a patron who wanted a book about asexuality in English. Two months ago we got a new queer fantasy book someone asked for: two lesbian girls having adventures. And two years ago, there was a title called Confetti Rain, by a queer author and son of a famous Dutch author, and it was a huge success in the Netherlands. I had to buy 50 copies, I think, for 13 branches. 50 copies! And that’s quite a lot for a small novel, when even of the most popular books, we tend to need 100 or 120 copies…”

“Diversity is one of our main pillars of the library. Queer books, by queer authors and about queer people are quite popular, so every queer book I get my hands on, I buy. Usually, we buy from NBD Biblion, which supplies the books to most public libraries, with etiquettes on and ready to go. But they don’t have a lot of English books or from small publishers”.

A young person reaches their right hand towards an art installation of a golden hand. The golden hand seems to be handing them a book. The book is white with a pink drawing, and the title of the book, Paper Girls, is written in black. There are book shelves visible in the background. The background is grey felt on the left, and white and honey-coloured on the right.

Reaching for queer books at Utrecht’s Bibliotheek Neude.

“Most of the requests are for books in English, which we have, but not a lot. A lot of requests for books are about the Black Lives Matter movement, and LGBTIQA issues. And fantasy books are also very requested – young adult fantasy is the most popular by far, with a lot of young readers. I’m a fantasy fan myself”, he adds, smiling.

So, how did you solve this?

“That’s where Savannah Bay comes in: they have a huge collection about LGBTIQA issues. It started with non fiction books. About three years ago, me and my colleague Jan ten Ham, who is responsible for non fiction, talked about getting new books”.

A young person is walking towards the Savannah Bay bookshop. They are shown to be walking at brisk speed and with purpose, just stepping onto a purple carpet, a couple of feet from the door. The door of the bookshop has a wooden, dark blue frame, with glass in the middle. On both side of the door are windows that are displaying books.

One step closer to finding queer books in Utrecht!

A person's hands are seen holding a red book. They are about to turn a page. There are other colourful books around this book in the middle. The picture is taken from above, so it looks like we are in the place of the person looking at the books. A young person is sat smiling behind a dark wooden table. In front of them are colourful books, a display of the latest queer and feminist books the book store has to offer. A light green wall and white bookcases can be seen in the background.

Choosing books in Savannah Bay.

In 2019, Marc and Jan turned to the self proclaimed last feminist bookstore of the Netherlands, which happens to be right around the corner. “We knew Savannah Bay had a special collection and we thought, well, let’s try! We went there, looked at books, and we asked them if they could supply us with a list of books for our library. I think we bought 100 or 200 books at once, most of them non fiction and in English, which we otherwise couldn’t have added to the collection. We respect their specialist knowledge, and without them we would miss a lot of titles. We also have a colleague at the library who works as a volunteer in Savannah Bay, and they sometimes give us tips!”

Tips from Tilburg

“We have a collaboration with the collection specialist on Diversity and Inclusion from Tilburg, Anouk Jacobs. She wrote a critical report on the state of Diversity in the book collections, and she made a list of 300 LGBTQ books from around the world which she sent to several libraries in the Netherlands.

Queer books and where to find them in Utrecht’s library?

“Most of the people who come to the library for queer books know what they want”, says Marc and admits: “We have discussed marking these books to make them visible, but we don’t want to label them, and we don’t want to label the people, you know? We don’t have a special LGBTQ+collection, because we think queer books should be normal. At certain times we have them on display, but they are just part of our normal collection shows”.

A person's hands are holding a colourful book. There are many other colourful books on the wooden table.

A book display at the Bibliotheek Neude, showing the latest arrivals.

Marc’s suggestion is to look at the new book displays to browse and stumble upon new books. “We also do posts on Instagram, Facebook, and every month we have topics we want to make more popular. Sometimes that’s LGBTIQA books, sometimes it’s Black Lives Matter. Searching the collection using search terms like queer and lhbtq will return some results. You could find a queer fantasy novel in our catalogue if you searched right.”

Marc Conraad’s perfect day is “when a customer leaves happy with a smile on their face – I think that’s my only goal.  And then I leave the library with a smile, too.”

About The Author

Annemarie Müller

Learner, teacher, educator, student. When I graduate in 2024 from cultural management in Helsinki, I'd love to work in a museum or in a library to make culture and art more accessible for all.