The Gerber/Hart Library and Archives, which holds collections of gay and lesbian history and hosts programs like theater groups and poetry readings, traded their West Granville Avenue location for a custom-designed 6500 N. Clark St. facility where it will house its 14,000 volumes, 800 periodical titles, and 100 archival collections, according to the library’s website.
Brad Tucker, named President of Gerber/Hart Library and Archives in September after taking a hiatus from the volunteer position, said the public should expect “a million changes” with the recent move, including a cleaner, more organized space, new computers and an increase in community programming.
Despite the upgrade, some library patrons expressed concern at informational meetings held by the library board, about things like budgetary reservations and general anxiety about their beloved library changing.
“There was concern when the library first announced it was moving,” Tucker said. “Change happens slowly in the gay and lesbian community. We were in our old space for 13 years, and people were like, ‘we were just getting used to it being there and now you’re moving it on us!’”
However, the anticipated 90-day move took nearly a year, upsetting community and board members, which Tucker contributes in part to waiting on Chicago services. Getting an elevator inspection took nearly six weeks, along with a two and a half month wait to turn on the water, according to Tucker. He added that once the landlord and contractors realized how much needed to be done on the space, it took much longer than expected. He said after 13 years in one building, he is very excited for change.
“The space that we have had for the last 13 years didn’t suit the needs of the organization anymore,” Tucker said. “We were very limited with what we could do or how we could move it around. … I love being in Rogers Park now.”
Another concern expressed by the community and volunteers was spending beyond the organization’s means, but Tucker said the lease is a terrific deal, differing only about a few hundred dollars monthly from the previous location. The new Clark Street building is also near bus and train stations and includes free parking, making it much more accessible, said Tucker.
Some individuals in Rogers Park are eager for the launch of the new library, including Jay Hand, Worship Coordinator for LGBTQ-friendly Unity Church located in West Rogers Park, which annually participates in Chicago’s Pride Parade.
“That’s magnificent, I’m so glad to hear about [the move],” Hand said. “The more integrated our community becomes, the more walls disappear and we recognize we’re all one. The more peace we will have in the city, and that can’t help but transfer to other communities.”
Although the collection has been moved into the new building, Tucker anticipates the building to open in about a month, allowing time to organize and set up the new computers and other technology.