ORGANIZATION | Inducted 1996

As a repository of gay and lesbian history and culture, Gerber/Hart Library and Archives holds more than 14,000 volumes and has a growing archival collection, said to be unparalleled in the Midwest. As a cultural center, it often mounts or co-sponsors readings and exhibitions. Recent years saw computerization, an Internet presence, and a full-time director.

Started in 1981, with the proceeds of a substantial grant, Gerber/Hart Library and Archives was able to hire its first full-time library director. It began computerization of the collection records in 1995, and the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives web site is visited by more than 1,000 persons a month. Some 30 e-mail reference inquiries are fielded monthly.

By the end of 1996, the library plans to circulate its collection on its new electronic catalog, and its nonfiction, fiction, and periodical collections will interface with those of other libraries. Gerber/Hart Library and Archives has special reference collections of materials on lesbians, on AIDS, and for teenagers.

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives has come a long way from the days when it was housed in a basement on Sheffield Avenue. It currently holds more than 10,000 titles and has an extensive and growing archival collection. Its archival materials are said by some consultants to be unparalleled in the Midwest; they are noted for their quality and diversity.

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives also serves as a cultural center, often cosponsoring readings and exhibitions with other organizations as well as mounting its own. These have included sponsorship of a A Keepin’ On exhibit about African American lesbians; A Queer Noir, a look at homosexuality in 1940’s and 1950’s films by film historian Richard Dyer; literary performances and readings; a screening of the past 15 years of gay and lesbian film- and videomaking in Chicago; an exhibition on Audre Lorde’s writings and contributions; and many exhibits of emerging gay and lesbian artists. In 1995, Gerber/Hart Library and Archives sponsored the Advocate’s traveling exhibit, A The Long Road to Freedom, at the Chicago Historical Society, including an add-on Chicago history exhibit from Gerber/Hart’s archives.

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives continues to look to the future. A new-space search committee aims to locate a new facility in two to three years that will house Gerber/Hart Library and Archives expanding collection, which is already crowding its large Paulina Street storefront. A plan has also been adopted to accelerate expansion and improvement of the archives. A grant currently supports an consulting archivist, and an archives volunteer corps is being recruited and trained.

As Gerber/Hart Library and Archives looks ahead, it should be commended for its past accomplishments. With the vision of its board of directors, who now staff 18 active committees, a bright future should be in store for this invaluable repository of gay and lesbian history and culture. (Please note: this information has not been updated since the time of the organization’s induction).