Queer Student Cultural Center - Library
Backstory and Context
The Queer Student Cultural Center (QSCC) has existed in some form at the University of Minnesota since before the Stonewall Riots. Its roots can be traced back to a course, named “The Homosexual Revolution” that was offered through the Free University in Minneapolis, that first convened at the Coffee House Extempore on May 18th, 1969. There were so many attendees and such enthusiasm for queer student activism that the cofounders, Koreen Phelps and Stephen Ihrig, decided to organize a new student group. This was Minnesota’s first queer student group, rooted in community and activism, and named Fight Repression of Erotic Expression (FREE). The University of Minnesota officially recognized the student group on October 24th, 1969. According to the founders, inclusiveness was fundamental. FREE never meant to be an exclusively gay group, and continues on as the QSCC with the same fundamental ideals.
Two prominent figures in FREE’s history, as well as Minnesota’s, are Jack Baker, as well as his (then partner, now) husband Michael McConnell. Baker was the president of FREE before running for president of the student body. He won overwhelmingly in both his election and re-election, and his time at the University of Minnesota led to a lifetime of activism.
Baker and McConnell applied for a marriage license on the one-year anniversary of FREE’s formation. Baker, a law student, knew that Minnesota law did not explicitly ban same-sex marriage, and applying for a marriage license was their exclamation of love and resistence. After being denied, Jack Baker changed his name to a more gender neutral Pat Lyn McConnell, and the two were granted a license on August 16th, 1971 in Mankato, Minnesota. Their marriage has always been technically legal, though there was pushback on the city, county, and state levels. The State of Minnesota’s Fifth Judicial District Court ruled on September 17th, 2018, that their marriage was never been nullified by other court decisions surrounding gay marriage.
Michael McConnell is even more so influential in the literary sphere. He was given a job offer for a librarian position at the University of Minnesota right before applying for marriage. Out of courtesy, McConnell informed the university of his plans to marry his partner, and the Board of Regents promptly rescinded the librarianship offer. The student body and the student senate sided with McConnell, but the university stood by their unfounded decision. While initially hesitant, the American Library Association eventually backed McConnell, though when the case made it to the Supreme Court, it was ultimately rejected as well. McConnell later went on to become a Hennepin County librarian.
Baker and McConnell continued activism in their respective spheres, and the literary world, historically, hasn’t always been queer and trans friendly. As libraries are a reflection of the society that creates them, libraries have continually been impacted by censorship attempts such as the Comics Code Authority, Georgia Literature Commission, the Comstock Laws, The Motion Picture Production Code (Hays Code), and the National Organization for Decent Literature, to name a few.
Open libraries have been incredibly important and continue to be important. Having access to queer/trans materials allows people to see themselves and their experiences validated and affirmed, as well as lets people explore sexuality and gender on their own terms. Several library and information science academics and researchers have posited that access to queer and trans materials is vital for queer and trans patrons. The QSCC library contains a few hundred books, comics, magazines, movies, games, and zines centering queer and trans people, experiences, stories, and lives, and continues to grow as more amazing media is published. Through the radical inclusion of these resources and rich history, the QSCC library offers a unique space that cannot be replaced.
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Bjornson, Lars. 1971. “Minnesota Students Elect Gay President: Baker Wins Decisively in Campus-Wide Vote. (Cover Story).” Advocate, no. 58 (April): 1.
Bjornson, Lars. 1971. “HE STILL DOES THE DISHES! New President Greeted by ‘So What.’” Advocate, no. 59 (May): 6.
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*Lars Bjornson (aka Bjornsen) was the pen name of Howard Erickson, a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune. According to Jack Baker, all unsigned articles in The Advocate, which originated in Minneapolis during the period 1970-74, were authored by Erickson, their only local stringer. Erickson discarded the pen name on January 1, 1975.
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qscc.org with permission
Maxine Britt with permission