Twenty-four million. That number isn’t the population of Scotland; rather, it’s how many items that the National Library of Scotland holds. I use the word “items” instead of “books” because the NLS has more than books – it contains collections of maps, music scores, magazines, newspapers, manuscripts, and much more. Some of these items were so old or so fragile that we weren’t allowed to bring even a pen in with us. We could only have pencils, because the staff didn’t want to have to worry about ink getting on anything.
We were given a brief history and tour of the library, but the best part of our visit to the NLS was getting to sit down with a selection of their LGBTQ material that they pulled out of storage especially for us. We were able to see everything from amateur newsletters to glossy magazines, from small pamphlets to big, bold posters, all on LGBTQ topics and issues. To be surrounded by all of this was amazing because so much of the content in mainstream media and popular culture is heteronormative to the point where we forget that things like lesbian newsletters and gay magazines even exist.
On the flip side, it’s kind of sad that LGBTQ media is so scarce that the NLS has a special collection for it, all of which can fit inside a few boxes. However, with the fairly recent advent of the Internet as well as increasing acceptance of non-heteronormative sexual orientations and gender identities, hopefully the National Library of Scotland can keep increasing their LGBTQ collection and preserve it for future generations to look back upon.