Magazine article American Libraries

Lesbigay Librarians Share Their Stories

Magazine article American Libraries

Lesbigay Librarians Share Their Stories

Article excerpt

As ALA once again converges on San Francisco for what promises to be another mammoth convention, we are at the threshold of new ideas and visions, reinventing libraries for a whole new generation of librarians and users.

Libraries have begun to see the need to preserve history through such institutions as the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library. Jim Van Buskirk is the director of the center, and his "A Queer Career" is one of 35 contributions to a monograph forthcoming from McFarland titled Liberating Minds: The Stories and Professional Lives of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Librarians and Their Advocates, which it was my privilege to edit.

Van Buskirk noted that close to double the amount needed to fund the research center has been raised - $2.8 million - and most of it came from the city's vast gay community, with $500,000 from local philanthropist James C. Hormel. The center has "fueled a renewed effort to improve library service to lesbian and gay users," Van Buskirk said.

The papers of Harvey Milk, San Francisco's first gay supervisor, who was slain in 1978, and the papers of journalist Randy Shilts, author of And the Band Played On, are housed at the center. Barbara Grief and Donna McBride, who founded the nation's largest lesbian publisher, Naiad Press, have also contributed large amounts of unique materials, including early lesbian pulp novels.

Libraries have always been places where people have sought to nourish their emotional, spiritual, and intellectual passions. Liberating Minds seeks to highlight the importance of gay and multicultural literature in the lives of these users and librarians. Without librarians ensuring such access over time, "coming out" prior to and beyond the pivotal Stonewall Riots of 28 years ago would have been all the more difficult for gay Americans and their families and friends.

Why ALA members should take notice

Why should librarians and ALA take notice of Liberating Minds?

It has been 27 years since the founding of the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Task Force (GLBTF) of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of ALA. In his speech to mark its 25th anniversary in 1995 (included in Liberating Minds), Israel David Fishman remarked how the GLBTF has "helped us to use our libraries for the liberation of our brothers and sisters." Now, ALA has for the first time in its history committed an enormous amount of money to an all-out diversity effort to recruit and provide scholarships for minority librarians. "Diversity: the 21st Century Spectrum" (AL, Mar., p. 32) will be an important conference topic.

Lesbigay librarians have had to move past the name-calling that appeared in letters to the editor in 1992 following the Bast ALA conference in San Francisco, when American Libraries had what some considered the "bad taste" to put librarians who marched in the Pride Parade on the cover of the magazine. …

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