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New resource seeks to link Spanish speakers with LGBTQIA+ library materials

An image of a drawing of a dinosaur standing in front of a rainbow with a title beneath it that says, "Homosaurus, An International LGBTQ+ Linked Data Vocabulary."
Homosaurus.org
Spanish Homosaurus aims to help people using Spanish search terms to find more relevant materials on LGBTQ topics than what currently shows up during searches.

Marika Cifor, a professor at the University of Washington’s Information School, is searching the library’s online catalog using Spanish terms. She types in "Lesbiana" and hits enter. The results are messy.

“And really, what you're finding is, there's a good amount of material, but that's only because it's in the title of a number of things or in the kind of description provided by the publisher and the author,” Cifor said.

During Pride month, it can be easy to find books on LGBTQIA+ topics displayed prominently in libraries. But searching in Spanish for those books is difficult. That’s because Spanish search terms for relevant topics aren’t in the catalog.

Cifor is working with a professor at Northeastern University in Boston to create a Spanish Homosaurus. It's like a glossary for Spanish terms that libraries can integrate into their subject catalog. The UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center and the Arizona Queer Archives will also help with the project.

"Our hope is to allow people to find the materials they want, and need in language that feels respectful and accurately reflects the way in which they understand themselves and their identities," Cifor said.

There's already a Homosaurus in English that includes more than 2,500 terms. The National Endowment for the Humanities last year granted nearly $350,000 to translate it into Spanish. A group of three students at Northeastern University is doing that work right now.

Sofia Zamora Morales said the work is challenging because some English words or phrases don't translate easily to Spanish and vice versa. She said she recently got stuck on how to translate ‘AIDS phobia.’

“And I was like, Okay. Phobia SIDA? Phobia El Sida? Sida phobia? Like how do you... How do you make it?" Zamora Morales said.

And Spanish words have different meanings depending on the dialect. Zamora Morales threw out the word “chupete” as an example. “Chupete” in Peru means lollipop, but in Chile it means pacifier.

"So that's been that's been really challenging, finding words that will be used and will be acceptable and recognizable, in all the other places in Latin America," she said.

The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., has been using the English Homosaurus since 2016. Megan Metcalf is a collection specialist there. They said the Homosaurus is helping correct outdated subject headings.

"Especially for like trans and gender nonconforming folks. The terminology was often medical or psychological, often derogatory," Metcalf said. "So it's been really awesome to see more and more records popping up with inclusive cataloging since we've been using the Homosaurus."

They said the Library of Congress will likely adopt the Spanish Homosaurus, too.

When the new translation of the Homosaurus is released in late 2026 and incorporated into library catalogs, people using Spanish search terms will find more relevant materials on LGBTQIA+ topics — more than what turns up now from only the words in a book’s title or description.

Freddy Monares has covered politics, housing inequalities and Native American communities for a newspaper and a public radio station in Montana. He grew up in East Los Angeles, California, and moved to Missoula, Montana, in 2015 with the goal of growing in his career.