About Us

What is LAMBDA?

LAMBDA is an acronym for Library Anchor Models for Bridging Diversity Achievement.

Library Anchor Models for Bridging Diversity Achievements (LAMBDA) brings together the University of Tennessee’s School of Information Sciences and the Center for Literacy, Education & Employment with the San Diego County Libraries and other public libraries in California and Tennessee to provide education, training, workshops, and materials to support public library staff members who serve LGBTQA+ homeless youth.

Activities and materials will focus on educating library personnel about the needs of LGBTQA+ homeless youth who come to the public library to access the Internet, read, find employment, contact family, or socialize with others. Activities will help libraries build partnerships with community organizations that work with homeless populations.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded the grant of $189,416. Dr. Edwin Cortez, professor and former director of the School of Information Sciences at UT will lead the research team along with co-PI Dr. Suzie Allard. Cortez

“We continue to give our students extraordinary learning experiences which also serve the greater good of the communities we serve,” said Cortez. “This research speaks directly to the core of UT’s Vision for ideas that advance society through discovery, inquiry, innovation, research and scholarship.”

Who Is Involved?

LAMBDA Project Team

LAMBDA is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Through grant making, policy development, and research, IMLS helps communities and individuals thrive through broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage, and lifelong learning.

LAMBDA’s one post doctoral researcher will interact and work with faculty and staff from the University of Tennessee’s College of Communication and Information, School of Information Sciences and the the University of Tennessee’s School of Information Sciences and the Center for Literacy, Education & Employment, as well as the San Diego County Libraries, San Francisco Public Library, Clinch River Regional Library, and Ocoee River Regional Library. The faculty and staff primarily responsible for the management, organization and overview of this program, include:

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Ed Cortez

Professor and Former Director

University of Tennessee

School of Information Sciences

453 Communications Building

1345 Circle Park Dr.

Knoxville, TN 37996-0341

Phone: 865.974.2148

Email: ecortez@utk.edu

Co-Principal Investigator:

Dr. Suzie Allard

Email: sallard@utk.edu

Post Doctoral Researcher:

Julie Ann Winkelstein

Email: jwinkels@utk.edu


Dr. Bharat Mehra

Email: bmehra@utk.edu

Graduate Assistants:

Katie Booher

Email: kbooher4@vols.utk.edu

Kittie Crittenden

Email: ntk224@vols.utk.edu

Four Public Libraries:

San Diego Public Libraries

820 E Street

San Diego, CA 92101

San Francisco Public Library

100 Larkin Street

San Francisco, CA 94102

Clinch River Regional Library

130 North Main Street

Clinton, TN 37716

Ocoee River Regional Library

718 George Street, N.W.

Athens, Tennessee 37303

Statement of Need

LGBTQA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual) youth occupy an overwhelming percentage of homeless youth on the streets today, often due to family conflict related to their sexual orientation and/or bullying and discrimination at school. In 2010, the number of homeless youth in the United States was estimated at 1.6 million to 2.8 million. Of this number, up to 40 percent identify as LGBTQA+. However, less than five percent of government funding for homeless assistance programs is allocated for homeless children and youth, and is even less for unaccompanied homeless youth. LGBTQ

These youth have pressing needs that put them even more at-risk than other homeless youth. Harsh circumstances on the street are often magified for LGBTQA+ youth as they face discrimination, violence, and poor health. LGBTQA+ youth from highly rejecting families are at far higher risk than other young adults for major health and mental health problems. They are more than three times as likely to be involved in survival sex work and/or unprotected sex than non-LGBTQA+ peers, putting them at higher risk for HIV and STDs. In addition, homeless LGBTQA+ youth are coming out at younger ages than in the past, usually in the mid-teen years. This makes it more likely they will become homeless younger, and thus even more vulnerable on the streets. Federal grant awards for homeless youth services often do not include anti-discrimination policies for sexual orientation and gender identity, leaving youth vulnerable to harassment from staff and other residents and thus more likely to reject their services.

Safe Zone Libraries, as a hub for free access to cultural, informational, educational, and community resources, have been recognized as existing resources from which to launch new initiatives for LGBTQA+ homeless youth. In fact, many of these youth often do frequent public libraries, using them as a respite from the world as well as to access the Internet and other resources: to read, find employment, contact family, or socialize with other youth. The library also serves as a major information resource for those youth who feel marginalized and are attempting to find themselves represented in literature. In many cases, a rift exists between these youth and library personnel: library staff may hold negative views toward the youth or see them as “problem patrons”, and the youth may maintain invisibility, rarely engaging with staff from a mistrust of those they view as authority figures. Training is an ongoing necessity to achieve the expertise needed to create and administer adequate support services, yet many libraries struggle to find the time and resources for staff training.

Project Plan

LAMBDA focuses on building the capacity for library staff to serve this population in the following ways:
  • Develop the cultural competence of staff to encourage trusting relationships with homeless LGBTQ youth.

In order to create the “culture of respect” that is necessary to reach these youth, LAMBDA provides materials and training to break down the misunderstandings and discrimination that may occur when library professionals encounter homeless LGBTQA+ youth. Training and support material covers topics such as linguistic awareness, legal and social issues in the LGBTQA+ community, tips on how to approach a youth they believe to be homeless, and suggestions on ways to balance personal beliefs with professional responsibilities in order to create an environment of acceptance and respect. Training also covers aspects of collection development and placement of materials in the library.

  • Empower LGBTQ youth.

LGBTQA+ youth themselves can provide unique perpectives on the types of services they need and prefer, as well as give instrumental input on the effectiveness of services currently being offered. Through the community partnerships developed by LAMBDA, library professionals will be connected to these youth and encouraged to seek out their input, through both anonymous means such as questionnaires as well as through personal interaction. The input of youth will be invaluable because it will help to make the changes in library services partially self-driven. Library professionals can use this input to provide tailored programming that is flexible enough to accommodate the unique needs of all sexual and gender minority youth.

  • Build Community Partnerships.

If you would like to discuss this project plan in greater detail and what kind of activities it entails, please contact the co-principal investigator, Suzie Allard at sallard@utk.edu or the post doctoral researcher, Julie Winkelstein at jwinkels@utk.edu.

LAMBDA has now completed the following three year timeline:

Year 1: (May 1, 2013- April 30, 2014)

May-August Beginning of grant period:

–Meetings between project personnel

–Postdoctoral researcher teleconferences and travels to Knoxville to plan project

–Contact libraries and organizations; identify librarians and youth to help with planning

–Launch project website and add content


–Create modules and disperse to participating libraries

–PI’s and project manager visit libraries to meet with personnel

–Invite participants to California and Tennessee workshops

–Postdoctoral researcher travels to Knoxville to plan workshops and summit


–Continue to check in with libraries in each location; modify module content as needed

–Conduct first year evaluation

–Plan content and logistics for workshops; Create curriculum and presentation materials

–PI travels to Washington, D.C. to meet with IMLS

Year 2: (May 1, 2014-April 30, 2015)


–First workshop in San Diego: May 2014

–First workshop in Tennessee: July 2014

–Evaluate first workshops; Adjust curriculum and schedule as needed

–Invite participants to summit in Knoxville


–First San Francisco and Alameda County workshop: October 2014

–Evaluate workshop; Adjust curriculum and schedule as needed

–Plan logistics and create materials for University of Tennessee, Knoxville summit


–Evaluate summit

–Conduct second year evaluation

–PI travels to Washington, D.C. to meet with IMLS

Year 3: (May 1, 2015-April 30, 2016)


–Second workshop in San Diego: May 2015

–Second workshop in Tennessee: July 2015

–Evaluate workshops; Adjust curriculum as needed

–Visit participating libraries and organizations in each location to assess the progress of the project


–Second workshop in San Francisco: October 2015

–Conduct final evaluation of workshops; create list of best practices


–Summit in Knoxville: March 2016

–Visit libraries; meet with librarians, youth, and community organizations to conduct final evaluation and assessment of continuing needs

–Modify modules and website content as needed

–Prepare and submit final report to IMLS; disseminate results at conferences and to journals

–P.I. travels to Washington, D.C. to meet with IMLS

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