Queer Archives Project

The Worn Out Carpet: A History of LGBTQ+ Literature at Lafayette - Bec Stargel, Class of 2020, Lafayette College

In his interview for the Queer Archives Project, Riley Temple ‘71 told a story about his experience with Lafayette’s Skillman Library, and its books, and the powerful role they played in his life. He explains “there was a section in the library here, and it was only about yay big, about homosexuality.  And what was interesting about that section was that the carpeting was always worn down in front of that bookshelf.  And the books that talked about it...  I mean, just fell open to the same pages.” [28:00].  These books, as well as the worn-out carpet in front of them, made him realize that he was not alone. In a time where queer experiences were not, and could not, be openly discussed, the presence of this bookshelf, and the knowledge that there were other LGBTQ+ students out there, somewhere, was incredibly significant to him. 

Frank Hermann ‘59, who attended the school more than a decade before Temple, shared very similar experiences. In direct response to Temple’s interview, Frank Hermann explains “I have a – gut feeling I might’ve helped wear out your carpet.” [17:00] Later in his interview, he voices his curiosity about what this bookshelf looked like. He remembers there being some books about homosexuality in the library at the time when he attended the school, but he couldn’t remember anything else about them. 

This is where I came in. As an EXCEL Scholar working on the Queer Archives Project in Spring 2020, I was reviewing Frank Hermann’s interview before uploading it on this site. And because I was also struck by curiosity about the bookshelf in question, I decided to try to find some answers myself. Having read Temple’s interview previously, I had always been intrigued by the image of the worn-out carpet, and so I wanted to find out more about these books. What books about LGBTQ+ subjects were in the library, and when were they added? What were these books about? How did they frame the identities and experiences they included in these pages? It was with these questions in mind that I began this project.

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