Joining an Islington library? Are you transgender?

People are being asked about their sexual orientation, any ‘hidden impairments’ and whether they are transgender when they want to join a library.

A national newspaper has learned that councils, including Islington and Haringey in North London, are asking for the information reportedly in an effort to comply with equal opportunity rules.

But critics attacked the questions, calling them unnecessary, intrusive and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Gender

In Islington people are quizzed on whether they have a “hidden impairment”, such as cancer, HIV or diabetes.

They are also asked, “do you consider yourself to be a Gypsy or Traveller”, whether they are transgender, and: “how would you describe your sexual orientation”.

Haringey Council asks people: “Does your gender differ from your birth sex?”, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Unnecessary

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be alarmed to discover that their hard-earned cash is being wasted on such unnecessary and intrusive questions for people who just want to take out a book”.

He commented that it was “astounding” in the present economic climate “that those running libraries should think that these questionnaires – presumably inspired by misguided equalities legislation – in any way represent value for taxpayers’ money”.

And Anastasia de Waal, from think-tank Civitas, said such questions could put off potential library users.

“If there is a reason for asking these questions, it does not seem to be at all clear”, she said.

Standard

Islington Council stressed that the questions were “optional”.

Paul Convery, the Islington Councillor responsible for leisure services, said: “The point here is that we want to know the extent to which new library users reflect the demography of our existing library users and our population, or not.

“This is a pretty standard business principle: know your customers – not intimate details but basic stuff.”

In July this year a grandmother told of complaining to the council about its bin collection service and being sent a questionnaire asking if she is a lesbian.

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