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Gerber/Hart officials discuss move, financial challenges
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Matt Simonette

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Officials from Gerber/Hart Library and Archives, 6500 N. Clark St., held a community meeting Oct. 8 to discuss, among other issues, its acquisition of papers from activist William Kelley, its upcoming partnership with Howard Brown Health Center ( HBHC ) and its current financial challenges.

The library will house papers belonging to Kelley, who passed away in May, and his partner, Chen Ooi, according to Board President Carrie Barnett. Kelley left behind three storage spaces filled with documents, she said.

"[Kelley] was a collector, so we worked with Chen for a few months, and came to an agreement about the best way to house the collection, and our primary goal is to make it available to the public as soon as possible," Barnett explained. The staff is inspecting about 500 boxes and is currently separating Kelley's personal materials from those that will be pertinent to scholars.

Barnett also unveiled Gerber/Hart's new logo, which was designed by a volunteer. "We think it's classic and contemporary at the same time—it's an update of what we've had," she noted, adding that Gerber/Hart attached three of its core values—history, culture and community—to its tagline. "It really speaks to who we are and what we do."

Gerber/Hart announced its partnership with HBHC in September, when HBHC also announced that it would be taking over most of Gerber/Hart's building for a new North Side branch. The library's lease was signed over to HBHC, and Gerber/Hart will curate additional exhibits throughout the facility and expand its current space.

Barnett called HBHC "partners in an idea that I'm really intrigued by, the mixture of culture into the wellness experience. … I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to have more space to show the amazing things in our collection. I think we'll learn a lot, and I wonder if we are the first two organizations doing that together."

Fundraising challenges still remain. The organization has a deficit of about $33,000, according to Barnett. "There's still time to make that up, so I'm hopeful, but it's a significant issue," she said. "Awareness is a key to that."

Board member Charles Katzenmeyer added, "Libraries are really fragile organizations—they don't have revenue streams. There are no tickets to sell or spaces to rent. Private libraries have no tax base [for the public] to pay into."

To jump-start its philanthropic giving program, Gerber/Hart plans a small-scale fundraising event in the first or second week of November, at the Union League Club. Former Ald. Mary Ann Smith will spearhead the effort.

Gerber/Hart also continues its search for a new executive director. They have received two resumes so far; anyone interested should inquire by sending an email to, Barnett said. Gerber/Hart is still looking for additional board members as well.

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