Members of the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives board of directors met with the public Dec. 5 to discuss new directions it intends to take as the library recovers from nearly two years of turmoil.
The library will be open to the public for the first time at its new location, 6500 N. Clark St., Dec. 7, then every Thursday for the rest of December, according to Incoming Board President Carrie Barnett.
"We're going to take some baby steps," Barnett told the several dozen people at the meeting. "… We're going to start slowly and getting to be open as many hours as we need to be in order to serve the community."
Barnett came back on the board in July after serving as its president more than two decades ago. Under the leadership of outgoing President Brad Tucker, the board has been working to rebuild community trust in Gerber/Hart.
Barnett said a key goal for the organization was cultivating greater transparency and community involvement. She said library representatives will be readily available for answering questions and receiving feedback from patrons and volunteers, and will hold public meetings two or three times a year. The organization is also planning three donor events for the first half of 2014, and is committed to their fall gala, which they skipped this year.
Gerber/Hart also needs volunteers and donations, Barnett added. "We know that in the past people have volunteered or donated and we were not responsive as we should have been, and we promise you that that will change immediately."
The library is in the second year of a seven-year lease at its Clark Street location. They are still formulating a budget, but Barnett estimated that it is about $100,000 a year. "We have that money for now, but we're going to need it for next year too."
Barnett also invited community members to consider serving on Gerber/Hart's board, on which there are currently seven open seats. Other members of the incoming board include Jack Johnson, Mary Ann Smith, Norman Sandfield, Derek Truesdale, Don Friedman, Charles Katzenmeyer and Amy McFadden.
Tucker said that Karen Sendziak would remain with the library in a volunteer capacity. "What that's going to look like, we're not certain, but I think there's a lot of new opportunities and possibilities as the new board takes over."
Sendziak, the organization's longtime curator and a past president, stepped down amid allegations that the collections had become inaccessible to the public under her watch. Barnett and Tucker both spoke of her long service to Gerber/Hart however. "The woman is just tireless and selfless," Tucker said.
After the meeting, Barnett reiterated the library's renewed commitment to engaging more with the community. "For the past few years, it has been almost like a black box, and it heightened distrust. People couldn't get answers. We can't, and we won't, go on like that," she said.
As part of the new transparency, the public was allowed to tour the archives at the new facility, something that was rarely allowed in the past.
Dave Howser, a past president and one of several Gerber/Hart insiders who in February 2012 sent a letter expressing dismay over the library's management, attended the meeting. He said he was "pleased to hear Carrie recognize the need for input from the community in order to rebuild Gerber/Hart. It speaks for a change in tide that Gerber/Hart is moving away from its insular past of recent years. … Today's meeting is a large step in rebuilding trust with the community."
For info see www.gerberhart.org/ .
Videos and photos by Tracy Baim/Windy City Times
Lucas McKeever and Carrie Barnett in the archives space.
Current and outgoing Gerber/Hart board members.
The book lending portion of Gerber/Hart.
Several dozen people gathered for the Dec. 5 public meeting.
Outgoing Gerber/Hart Board President Brad Tucker.
Incoming Gerber/Hart Board President Carrie Barnett. Photos by Tracy Baim
Additional photo spread at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/photospreadthumbs.php .
Gerber/Hart Library in Chicago re-opens 12-5-2013 community meeting 1 of 4 : www.youtube.com/watch .
Gerber/Hart Library in Chicago re-opens 12-5-2013 community meeting 2 of 4 : www.youtube.com/watch .
Gerber/Hart Library in Chicago re-opens 12-5-2013 community meeting 3 of 4 : www.youtube.com/watch .
Gerber/Hart Library in Chicago re-opens 12-5-2013 community meeting 4 of 4 : www.youtube.com/watch