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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Gerber/Hart LGBT library has announced plans to move to a new site on Clark Street in Rogers Park.
The library announced in a news release earlier this week that that it will move to the 3-year-old Clark Point Plaza building at 6500 N. Clark St., next door to the Rogers Park District police station.
Questions have been swirling since January about the library’s plans to move from its current location at 1127 W. Granville Ave. in the Edgewater neighborhood, just south of Loyola University. When a “for rent” sign appeared in the window, some patrons worried that the library might shut down altogether.
Library officials quickly emphasized that the library was only relocating, but would not initially say where.
In announcing the move on Tuesday of this week, library board of directors Karen Sendziak said it was a matter of outgrowing the current space.
“In 1998 we moved to the Granville location knowing that we would eventually outgrow the space,” Sendziak said in the library news release.” Our needs have changed and the library board feels that the time has come to move.”
The Chicago Phoenix reported that financial factors were also a major consideration, and the library was able to take advantage of the current market conditions to find what library board member John Landers called a “superior” rental agreement.
The new facility will include a sitting area and meeting room that will double as an exhibit gallery, and special rooms to protect its special collections, the news release said.
Clark Street just north of Devon Avenue is also home to an assortment of other gay and lesbian-oriented businesses, including the popular bars Touché and Jackhammer. The Leather Archives and Museum, founded by pioneering openly gay business owner Chuck Renslow, is located a couple of blocks to the east at 6418 N. Greenview Ave.
The original library location was at 3255 N. Sheffield Ave. in the offices of Gay Horizons, and it moved five times before settling in its current double storefront on Granville Avenue in 1998.
The library includes 14,000 volumes, 800 periodicals and 100 archival collections documenting the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Chicago and throughout Illinois and the Midwest. The collection also includes sound recordings and films.
General collections are available for checkout, as at a public library.
The library also includes a special collections section that features periodicals published before the gay rights movement began in earnest with the Stonewall riots in 1969, as well as T-shirts, buttons and other memorabilia from local and national LGBT groups. The library’s archives is composed of papers collected from people, organizations and businesses, documenting this history of Chicago’s gay community.
The library also sponsor a lesbian women’s book group that has met continuously since September 1987, and a gay men’s book group that goes back to February 1993.
The name of the library honors Henry Gerber, a German immigrant who founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago in 1924. The group served a goal to teach others about the gay community and attempting to change laws that made homosexuality illegal, but it was quickly shut down by authorities.
The name also honors Pearl M. Hart, a Chicago civil liberties attorney who became the first woman to be appointed public defender in Morals Court. She was known as a strong supporter of gay rights and immigrant rights.