Book Club Emphasizes LGBT Topics

A selection of books in the Gulfport Library’s LGBTQ Resource Center, which was just recognized by a national award from the American Library Association. The center opened on June 4, 2015 and was the first of its kind in Florida. The collection size and use has doubled over the past year, said Gulfport’s Director of Library and Information Science, David Mather. “Now, the collection has about 2,300 pieces. And 3,000 items go out each year. That’s significant,” he said.

The purpose of a new Gulfport book club is to have a safe place to have conversations about LGBT topics with like-minded people, said Greg Stemm, founder and coordinator.

The club met for the first time on Monday, February 5 to get organized and the 12 people who attended represented diversity between men and women with ages ranging from “30s to 80s,” said Stemm.

The book club is sponsored by the LGBTQ Resource Center, which is a project of the non-profit Circle of Friends of the Gulfport Library. Stemm is also a member of the center’s committee.

“The group was all in agreement that we need to read about the whole spectrum” of gay culture, he said. “We’ll discuss story development, characters, gay terminology, perspective and how well the author deals with issues.”

The group of enthusiastic readers “cannot be everything to everyone all the time, but we will be reading lesbian- and gay-themed literature along with material about transgender and bi-sexual people. Any straight allies that would like to participate are certainly welcome.”

For the March 5 meeting, members will select a title from the library’s current LGBTQ collection and present a brief book report. For April 2, the classic 1950s title “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin will be discussed.

For each book selected for review by the group, the library director will purchase multiple copies and then make them available for check out at the front desk, said Stemm. In this way, “people don’t have to buy books. We didn’t want to put a financial burden on anybody.”

After a book is discussed, the title will be added to the Gulfport Library’s LGBTQ collection and shared with the Tampa Bay area’s library cooperative, he said.

“My goal is to get people to be familiar with the LGBTQ Resource Center’s current collection and to develop it by adding more” content, said Stemm.

Recently, the library won a national award for the center, which contains 2,300 pieces, said David Mather, library director. The center includes books, DVDs and CDs. DVDs and non-fiction books are the most popular, said Mather.

The atmosphere of the book club is one of “loving support,” said Stemm. “There is no judgment. It’s a safe place for people to talk and learn about gay literature, history and culture, and to make new friends. It will make us better gay people because we will be better informed.”

The book club will meet on the first Monday of each month from 6 to 7 p.m. at the library and the meeting will be led by a different moderator each month, he said. New members are welcome, said Stemm.

For more information about the book club, contact Stemm at 727-542-6958 or

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