LGBTIQA in Film: A Content Analysis of the Library's DVD Collection

June was Pride Month, and it happened to fall at a time of year when we reflect about our collections, looking at how library materials are being used and if they still represent and fulfill the intellectual needs of the Tulane research community. This coincidence of timing led our Head of Media Services librarian to spend a good portion of June wondering about the representation of LGBTIQA films in Howard-Tilton's DVD collection - what percentage of our DVD collection deals with LGBTIQA topics? Of that group, is there fair representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, and allied topics? These questions led to a mini-content analysis of the library's physical DVD collection.
With the assistance of several library colleagues, the project began with identifying which search terms we wanted to look for. We began by reviewing terminology defined on We Are Family’s LGBT A-Z (Glossary). After a thorough review, we selected terms specific to sexual orientation and gender identity which we then cross-referenced against available terminology in the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). LCSH, in brief, is a controlled vocabulary intended to facilitate description and discovery of materials dealing with the same topic. We recognize that controlled vocabularies, while helpful, pose certain difficulties, are sometimes biased, and are not-well suited to the fluidity that is a hallmark of queer studies (for a deeper discussion of this issue, see Emily Drabinski’s article “Queering the Catalog: Queer Theory and the Politics of Correction”). Our final terminology list looked like this:
The asterisk (*) after each word indicates the word is truncated, meaning the search will look for all variations of the term. For example, a search on bisexual* will pick up items that include the terms: bisexual, bisexuals, bisexuality. 
What We Found
With assistance from our Systems Librarian, we ran a search of Howard-Tilton Memorial Library’s catalog of media items, looking specifically for video recordings (library speak for DVDs and VHS tapes)  that had instances of these terms in their LCSHs. After a little data cleanup, this is what we found:

  • 335 DVDs included one or more of our search terms in their subject headings
  • Out of roughly 14,000 DVDs, the library has 191 unique titles on LGBTIQA topics, or 1.36%.
Of the 191 unique titles, topical representation looks like this: 

Total Unique Titles 191  
Bisexual* 4 2%
Gay* 103 54%
Homosexual* 32 18%
Intersex* 4 2%
Lesbian* 69 36%
Transgender* 10 5%
Transsex* 16 8%
What Do These Numbers Mean? We're still working that out.  Our next steps include a closer review of the films with only one of our search terms in their subject headings to ensure the subject headings provide a fairly accurately portrayal of content matter (as representative as Library of Congress Subject Headings permit, that is!). In our initial analysis, though, it looks like we have very weak coverage of films dealing with intersexuality and bisexuality. We'll take steps to address this gap while also examining course offerings to ensure our collections continue to meet the shifting research, learning, and teaching needs of the Tulane community.

This content analysis only looked at our collection of physical DVDs. All Tulane affiliates are welcome to check DVDs out of the library but you may also be interested in our extensive collection of streaming movies. You can access over 300 movies and documentaries about LGBTIQA topics through Kanopy's LGBT collection