Should Libraries Update Author’s Names if They’ve Gone Through a Legal Name Change After Publishing a Book?

Should Libraries Update Author’s Names if They’ve Gone Through a Legal Name Change After Publishing a Book?

Photo by Olena Bohovyk on Unsplash

Social and legal name changes are a popular topic within the queer and trans community. But, while it’s become easier to change your name on your government I.D. in certain states/countries, it is much harder to change your name as an author in a well-established career. 

This question came up when N.D. Stevenson changed his name after his book “Nimona” was published. I am unaware of whether his book cover design received a name change, but I do know that many people own his book with his dead name on the cover. As a respectful solution to this problem, some of my friends have put tape over his dead name and written his correct name over the tape. 

I personally don’t like putting stickers or tape over my books because I am extra particular about damaging books, but I can see how that could also be an issue. Similarly, as a library employee, I attach labels to the back inside cover of all my books labeling their genre, author, title, and publication year. This is where I fixed the author’s name. In my copy of Nimona, I’ve left the front cover original but wrote “Stevenson, N.D.” in the author spot of my label. 

This brings me to what libraries should do so they don’t dead-name the authors of their beloved books. When thinking about this issue, I came up with one important point as to changing the author’s name in the online system, and that is if people (patrons and library employees, alike) only know the author by their dead name. How could they keep their dead name in the library system while also respecting the author’s real name? 

I propose that both names be listed online as an author, making for easier search results. Another solution would be to put their dead name as part of their name, title, or description, except I don’t know the proper way to add it while still respecting that author’s identity. To get to the best solution, the best answer would be to have an open forum including queer, non-binary, and transgender author’s opinions. If you, as my reader, have any better ideas on how to update author’s names in the library search tools, please leave a reply!

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