The LGBTQ Resource Center at the Gulfport Public Library officially opened for business on June 4. The collection, a project of the Circle of Friends of the Gulfport Public Library, is the first of its kind in the state of Florida. A large crowd participated in the opening, which included a performance by Crescendo: The Tampa Bay Women’s Chorus, who performed selections from their musical “Cabaret and Cabernet.”
“Libraries, as centers of the community, must reflect the communities in which they are in,” said David Mather, the library administrator. “We have a very large LGBTQ community in Gulfport, and once we started looking into it, we felt that the need was definitely there. From the start, we received nothing but positive support from the entire community.”
The idea for the collection began with a large donation of lesbian fiction. Phyllis Plotnick, the president of the Circle of Friends at the time, suggested using the donation to start a collection. The library was already creating an LGBTQ online resource center comprised of government and non-profit organization resources, aggregating and validating the information.
Once word was out about the resource center, donations began pouring in locally and from across the country. The library formed partnerships with civic groups, such as the Stonewall National Museum & Archives in Fort Lauderdale that is donating duplicate materials they have to the library. According to Mather, there have been so many donations, the library has not yet had to purchase any materials. Monetary donations are now being accepted to grow and maintain the collection.
The resource center offers fiction and nonfiction books, films, music, references and periodicals. The reference staff does the majority of buying for the entire collection, relying on American Library Association lists, reviews, scholarly periodicals, book journals and similarly established collections from around the country to get a sense of relevant material others are using to make selections. Patron requests are invited.
Future goals include purchasing more materials, maintaining the collection to ensure nonfiction and legal materials are up to date, a large online presence and community programs such as author talks, musical presentations and informational presenters.