To the Editor:
I am surprised by the portrayal of Karen Sendziak ("Gerber/Hart refuses to reveal group info") in your Feb. 8 issue. I served with Karen on the board of Gerber/Hart in the '90s and think she's a decent and honorable person. She was more passionate about Gerber/Hart staying open than anyone else.
Late filing of government paperwork is likely the result of not enough volunteers and/or moneynot the result of anything underhanded. From a board of probably 20 in the 1990s, interest in Gerber/Hart seems to have waned, or the library did not do a good enough job of developing new leaders. However, this is not the result of anything deceitful.
It is surprising to hear of the great concern in the LBGT community about the library and archive's future. Are these concerned folks willing to serve on the board, volunteer, become paying members and donate to the library's fundraisers? It was certainly difficult to find many when I was involved with Gerber/Hart.
You end the article with this: "…a community whose archives are in a dark locked (sic) room on Granville Avenue." I designed the rebuilding of the space and can tell you that archives must be protected from light, especially sunlight. What is supposed to an ominous ending is, in reality, a testament to the great care that Gerber/Hart Library and Archives has always shown toward its fragile and irreplaceable treasures.
I hope the community can really support Gerber/Hart instead of, once again, eating one of its own.
An open letter to the
The recent reports of the likely move of the Gerber/Hart Library and its problems with answering legitimate Windy City Times (WCT) questions about the move and the library's operations indicate to me that more questions need to be asked. Most librarians are willing to respond to questions and be helpful. Hiding or delaying the release of information, a form of censorship, seems against the librarian creed.
The questions that come to my mind, in addition to those already asked by the Windy City Times, include:
1) Is the planned move to a larger or smaller building?
2) The recent statement from the library, reported in the Feb. 8 issue of WCT, indicates to me that parts of the collection may have been damaged or about to be threatened with damage from the building itself, such as damage by water, bugs, or mice. Is that the real reason for the move? Can the library assure the community that this is not the case?
3) According to WCT, the landlord planned to donate the minor increase in the rent to the library during the first year of a multi-year lease so rent would remain the same as it has been. If the landlord is lying about this, then the Gerber/Hart Library has an opportunity to refute the landlord. What amounts to a one-year rent freezeon top the the last couple of years with no rent increaseshould sound like a very good deal to any non-profit organization. With no immediate financial need to move. What is behind the urgent need to move now?
4) Has part of the collection been damaged, vandalized, or stolen by patrons or employees? Most libraries have this problem, and the Gerber/Hart Library is not likely immune from such threats to its collection. Is the move to a more secure building? Is the library's insurance company requiring the library to move for security reasons?
5) When was the last physical inventory of the collection been done? Is it time for another physical inventory? This would help determine what is missing, damaged, or improperly filed/shelved/stored.
6) It is my understanding that Illinois law requires nonprofit corporations to have a minimum of three board members in order to still be considered a non-profit and in order to have the tax privileges to both the library and those who contribute to it. Does the library have a minimum of three board members or is it in violation of Illinois law? Are contributions to the library no longer tax-deductible?
7) Is a problem with lack of board members the reason the library is late in filing its most recent non-profit corporation tax form? If not, what is the reason for ther delay: Lack of staff? Poor bookkeeping? Missing records? In addition to the WCT question of who is the law firm or lawyer for the library, who/what is its accountant, CPA or accounting firm?
8) According to the Feb. 8 issue of WCT, the library has not contacted members for renewals.
Is this caused by a lack of staff or lack of funds for a mailing (why not email the form to members?), or has the membership list been stolen, lost or otherwise compromised? It seems very odd to me that a non-profit organization would forget or delay in doing this most basic annual function.
9) Other than the regular book/media sales for the library, have other parts of the collection been sold off to finance operationswith or without the approval of the original donors?
10) Is the delay in providing WCT with a list of the board of directors something that should not require the approval of an out-of-town lawyer, due to some of the board members wishing to remain private?
11) Which positions on the library's board are open, if any?
12) Is the library having a financial crisis that being open and honest to the gay community might help resolve, as happened last year with the rescue of the Howard Brown Health Center? If there is a crisis, what is the cause and extent of the it? How can the community help? What is the deadline for resolving the crisis, if any?
Windy City Times will continue to investigate the Gerber/Hart story.