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Gerber/Hart updates public on progress, gift

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By Matt Simonette

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives President Carrie Barnett and other library officials met with the public June 18 for an update on the organization's progress since new leadership took over in late 2013.

Barnett said that she was interested in fostering an atmosphere of transparency and wants the new administration to be as forthcoming as possible about the organization's challenges and accomplishments.

The period since Dec. 5, 2013—the date of Gerber/Hart's last public meeting—"has felt like a 're-engagement' with the community and our funders," Barnett said.

She noted that volunteerism has been one of the Gerber/Hart's bright spots in the first half of 2014. Volunteers logged about 800 hours on the archives' behalf, with 72 people volunteering occasionally, and 16 people working regularly. About 213 persons visited the archive in that time period as well.

Many of those volunteers, Barnett added, "are people in their 20s—they are here and excited, engaged and learning."

Development remains a high priority, and Gerber/Hart in June received a $2,500 grant from the Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board ( ISHRAB ), as well as a bequest of over $19,000 from the estate of activist James Bussen, who died in July 2013. Bussen was a Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame member who was active with Gerber/Hart, Dignity Chicago, and a number of other organizations.

"Jim had chosen five organizations, who, in addition to his family members, he wanted to leave his money to, and we were one of those five," Barnett said. "It's really exciting that people are thinking of us, and thinking of our future, and what we give to the generations that come after us."

Gerber/Hart also is trying to reach out to community members to donate materials they think might have historical importance, she noted. "We're interested in talking to anyone—you don't necessarily have to be someone in the Hall of Fame."

Other projects for the organization include completing the rooms housing its special collections and archives, and reviewing organizational by-laws.

Former President Dave Howser—who was one of several members to voice dismay over Gerber/Hart's previous board and management in early 2012—said that, although some projects at Gerber/Hart can still move at a slow pace, he has been pleased with the strides the organization has taken this year.

"It is a different organization than it was five years ago, thankfully," Howser said. "The influence from the previous administration has been contained."

The financial report that Barnett distributed was unaudited and goes until May 31, 2014, before the ISHRAB grant and Bossen gift were received. It shows that the organization had $138,023 in assets, $15,916 in income and $60,242 in expenses—showing that they had been operating at a loss of about $44,326.

"We're very serious about the transparency now, and I'm not afraid to show that we have a loss of [just under] $45,000—the community needs to know that," Barnett said.

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