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social sciences

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Libraries and Archives  
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Reference service for questioning teens requires particular sensitivity to privacy and safety, especially since the local library is often the first source a youth consults. Yet a Canadian study in 2005 revealed an alarming degree of discomfort on the part of librarians when faced with such situations, and a concurrent lack of knowledge of available resources, prompting Ann Curry to recommend better professional training on glbtq youth needs.

Outreach to glbtq patrons--such as Pride Week displays, event posters, or free gay literature in high-circulation areas--sometimes draws the ire of conservative patrons and involves the library system in legal actions and threats of budget cuts. While the legal challenges are seldom successful, an insidious result is to cause librarians to self-censor to avoid future conflict.

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In happy contrast, the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library is the first public library reading room dedicated to a core glbtq collection.


The Nazis' destruction of Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Science in 1933 is an oft-cited event underlying the resolve of contemporary activists to fully document and preserve the record of queer experience. To this end there are now well over a hundred glbtq document repositories throughout the western world.

Typically, archivists collect personal papers, organizational records, early movement periodicals and newsletters, photographs, audiovisual materials, political literature, and ephemera such as buttons and event flyers. Some include oral histories, posters, artworks, diaries, and memorabilia such as T-shirts and matchbook covers.

Archival material does not circulate and must be examined on-site. Access is sometimes limited to credentialed scholars. However, many archives have digitized parts of their collections and made these files available on the Internet.

ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, an outgrowth of ONE Institute, is the largest research library devoted to glbtq materials. In facilities donated by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, ONE houses the records of organizations such as the Mattachine Society and Metropolitan Community Church, the personal papers of early gay and lesbian figures such as Harry Hay and Laud Humphreys, the Lesbian Legacy Collection, the Twice Blessed collection of Jewish GLBT records, and seminal periodicals.

The Lesbian Herstory Archives began in 1975 and for the first fifteen years was housed in its founders' (Joan Nestle and Deborah Edel) Manhattan apartment. It now has its own facility in Brooklyn and shelters the records of over 1500 organizations, the personal papers of Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde, and even love letters, among other one-of-a-kind materials.

The Gerber/Hart Library, established in 1981, is the Midwest's largest glbtq library. Its holdings are particularly strong in Chicago's glbtq political history.

The June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives in West Hollywood houses rare books, women's music recordings, and even 1940s baseball uniforms. The collection includes the papers of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon; they also actively seek the everyday stories and mementos of all lesbians.

San Francisco's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society (GLBTHS), founded in 1985, creates exhibits from its collection of José Sarria's gowns, Harvey Milk campaign memorabilia, a lesbian WAC's scrapbook, 1950s muscle magazines, and AIDS diaries.

In the Netherlands the International Homodok and Lesbisch Informatiecentrum have operated since 1978 and 1982, respectively. The facilities, in Amsterdam and Leeuwarden, are major repositories for European glbtq history.

Another significant archive of European glbtq material is maintained by Berlin's Schwules Museum, a private institution dedicated to preserving, exhibiting, and discovering homosexual history, art, and culture.

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