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The QSCC, a fixture of the University of Minnesota campus, has existed since the late 1960’s. The QSCC aims to provide a safe space for queer and trans students and community members, as well as respectful allies. As such, it includes many different resources, one of which is the library housed in the space. With a few hundred books and other materials, the QSCC library is invaluable, especially arising from a history of censorship in regards to queer and trans content and representation.





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.

Adler, Melissa A. 2015. “‘Let’s Not Homosexualize the Library Stacks’: Liberating Gays in the Library Catalog.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 24 (3): 478–507.

Barker, Martin. 1999. “Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code.” Labour / Le Travail 44: 274–76. 

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. 

Bjornson, Lars*. 1972. “Baker Wins Re-Election on Campus.” Advocate, no. 84 (April): 2. 

*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.

Ciszek, Matthew P. 2011. “Out on the Web: The Relationship between Campus Climate and GLBT-Related Web-Based Resources in Academic Libraries.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 37 (5): 430–36. 

Cronin, Mary M. 2006. “The Liberty to Argue Freely: Nineteenth-Century Obscenity Prosecutions and the Emergence of Modern Libertarian Free Speech Discourse.” Journalism & Communication Monographs 8 (3): 163–219. 

Drabinski, Emily. 2013. “Queering the Catalog: Queer Theory and the Politics of Correction.” Library Quarterly 83 (2): 94–111.

Edge, Samuel J. 2018. “A Subject ‘Queer’-y: A Literature Review on Subject Access to LGBTIQ Materials.” Serials Librarian 75 (1–4): 81–90. 

Frame, Robert. 2012. “Minnesota Led the Two Coasts on Marriage Rights, and Should Do So Again: Jack Baker and Michael McConnell.” Quatrefolio 23 (2): 5–7. 

Hewetson, Dick, and Matthew Stark. History of the Gay Movement in Minnesota and the Role of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union. Minneapolis, MN: Friends of the Bill of Rights Foundation, 2013.

Johnson, Matt. 2010. “Transgender Subject Access: History and Current Practice.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 48 (8): 661–83.

Kaczorowski, Craig. 2015. “Censorship in the Arts.” GLBTQ Arts, January, 1–5. 

Kidman, Shawna. 2015. “Self-Regulation through Distribution.” Velvet Light Trap: A Critical Journal of Film & Television, no. 75 (Spring): 21–37. 

Kurz, Robin Fogle. 2018. “Out of the Closet but Not on the Shelf: Questions and Concerns about Collection Development of LGBT Books for Teens.” Young Adult Library Services 16 (4): 20–25. 

O’Connor, Thomas F. 1995. “The National Organization for Decent Literature: A Phase in American Catholic Censorship.” Library Quarterly 65 (4): 386. 

Pizmony-Levy, Oren. 2016. “Out on the Bookshelves and in the Files: Libraries and Archives as Places for Social Change: A Review of Serving LGBTIQ Library and Archives Users: Essays on Outreach, Service, Collections, and Access.” Journal of LGBT Youth 13 (3): 293–99.

Todorinova, Lily, and Maria Ortiz-Myers. 2019. “The Role of the Academic Library in Supporting LGBTQ Students: A Survey of Librarians and Library Administrators at LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities.” College & Undergraduate Libraries 26 (1): 66. 

Wexelbaum, Rachel S. 2018. “Do Libraries Save LGBT Students?” Library Management 39 (1): 31–58. 

“The Comstock Act Rises Again.” 1996. Sojourner: The Women’s Forum 21 (9): 14–24. 

“Hall of Fame: These Heroes Made the Lgbt Rights Movement-- and the Advocate Itself -- What It Is Today.” 2017. Advocate, no. 1091 (June): 52–71.

“U. of Minn. Recognizes Homophile Group.” 1970. Advocate 4 (2): 6. 

“Marriage Applicant’s Job up to Judge.” 1970. Advocate 4 (14): 23. 

“Homosexuality Isn’t Valid Reason to Deny Job, Court Tells University.” 1970. Advocate 4 (16): 1. 

“Job Decision Appealed.” 1970. Advocate 4 (17): 1. 

“Librarians Ask McConnell Case Probe.” 1970. Advocate 4 (19): 3. 

“Minnesota U. Senate Backs Gay Librarian.” 1971. Advocate, no. 56 (March): 8. 

“Baker Urges Equal Future for All Grads.” 1971. Advocate, no. 63 (July): 12. 

“Minnesota U. Senate Renews McConnell Hearing Demand.” 1972. Advocate, no. 76 (January): 14. 

“Baker Seeks Second Term as Student Body President.” 1972. Advocate, no. 81 (March): 13. 

“Top Court Rejects McConnell Job Case. (Cover Story).” 1972. Advocate, no. 84 (April): 1. 

“Library Group May Still Condemn Gay’s Firing.” 1973. Advocate, no. 106 (February): 7.

Image Sources(Click to expand) with permission

Maxine Britt with permission