Lane Goldszer in their natural habitat (Photo/Shawna Sherman)
Lane Goldszer in their natural habitat (Photo/Shawna Sherman)

S.F.’s queer librarian on activism, identity and young adult lit for queer teens

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Lane Goldszer, 33 has been the librarian at the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center of the San Francisco Public Library Main Branch for the past year after moving to Oakland from L.A. Lane, who prefers the non-binary pronoun “they,” said the work they and their colleagues do at the Hormel Center — which boasts one of the largest public LGBTQ collections in the country — involves much more than tending to the 10,000 books and thousands of periodicals and archival items in the holdings.

J.: Why is being an LGBTQ librarian so personally meaningful to you?

Lane Goldszer: When I was going to the library as a child, I never saw a queer person working in a library. Now I get to be that out librarian.

What are the things about your job that make it interesting or fun?

We get to do tons of programming attracting hundreds of people each month. We have a reading, writing and poetry series exploring queer identities called RADAR. We also have Sprightly, which is my baby. It’s a program for queer and transgender young people ages 18 to 25 with housing and job issues. It focuses on building life skills and crafting. For San Francisco Pride, I am also writing blurbs for each title that we are acquiring for the collection. This is a total dream job that incorporates all the parts of my life.

By which you mean books, art and social activism?

Before I went to library school at UCLA, I worked a lot in bookstores. My undergraduate degree is from the Maryland Institute College of Art, where I majored in painting. I was always drawing and painting and doing paper art as a kid, and I still love making zines.

But I also come from a family of activists. I probably get my political side from my bubbe, Beatrice Goldszer, who was one of the most important persons in my life. She and my grandfather lived in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh, where my father grew up and which is still a pretty Jewish area. She was totally larger than life, a powerhouse and a big character, and was very involved in the community, running for the school board and other activities. It was always in the back of my mind to go back to library school, but she was the one who actually got me to do it. My grandmother died in 2016. She wasn’t at my commencement ceremonies from UCLA, where I had two concentrations — services to queer and transgender youth in the public library setting, and archives and human rights.

Lane Goldszer (Photo/Jona Peters)
Lane Goldszer (Photo/Jona Peters)

In what other ways do you take after her?

I’ve been very involved in political activities. I was involved in Amnesty International in high school growing up in Michigan, and I was arrested at the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver, where I was part of an anti-capitalist queer contingent. It was a huge mass arrest.

Does some of that social awareness come from your parents?

I grew up with a lot of foster brothers and sisters. There was no allegiance to the idea of a nuclear family. My mother has very strong political commitments. For instance, if you have something and someone doesn’t but needs it, she will just give it to you.

How did libraries figure in your childhood?

When I was small, we lived in Oak Park, Michigan, an inner Detroit suburb, which was a really interesting place because it was very diverse: Jewish, African American and Chaldean [an Assyrian Christian sect indigenous to Iraq]. We used to walk to the Conservative synagogue. But after we moved to the country — to this small town of Hamburg, north of Ann Arbor — libraries were my life. During the summer, I walked to the library and checked out 10 books at a time. This was before I was out, and I was obsessed with finding “coded” books [with LGBTQ subtexts]. I’d find one, and then I’d read all the books by the same person, like M. E. Kerr, the pen name for the author Marijane Meaker.

You specialize in LGBTQ fiction for teens. Anything you’d particularly recommend?

I love “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by Emily Danforth. It’s a really good coming-of-age story. It’s the type of book that didn’t exist when I was growing up.

How about any LGBTQ Jewish literature?

I love “Stone Butch Blues” by Leslie Feinberg.

“Talking With” focuses on local Jews who are doing things we find interesting. Send suggestions to [email protected].

Robert Nagler Miller
Robert Nagler Miller

Robert Nagler Miller, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wesleyan University, received his master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. For more than 25 years, he worked as a writer and editor at a variety of nonprofits in the Los Angeles and Bay Areas. In 2016, he and his husband, Dr. Arnold Friedlander, relocated to Chicago. Robert loves schmoozing, noshing, kvetching, Scrabble, reading and NPR.