The Journal Gazette
Saturday, April 14, 2018 1:00 am

Diversity Library on the move once more

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

The Northeast Indiana Diversity Library is looking for a new home.

Scott Mertz, the library's director, said that's OK. The clearinghouse for books, videos, newsletters and other information about LGBTQ history and issues in Indiana has lived a nomadic life, he said, and the next move is another step in its journey.

But the next stop for the library isn't clear.

“We're probably going to have to go into storage, but we're looking for a home,” Mertz said this week. “This is the sixth time I've moved this library.”

The library opened eight years ago at IPFW and since 2011 has used a 950-square-foot space in the basement of the university's Helmke Library. The volunteer organization has been run separately from the IPFW library as a resource for students and others to learn more about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues as well as a place for friends to talk and groups to meet.

Mertz said university officials, citing IPFW's July 1 transition to Purdue University Fort Wayne, recently asked the diversity library to consider moving. Either that, he said, or deed the nearly 7,000-piece collection to the university.

Both options were considered, Mertz said, but volunteers opted to move from its free space rather than give up control to an entity they were not sure would keep the library or run it properly.

“We were like, 'We're not quite ready to just give you our library,'” he said. “We still are at the point where we feel we need to keep our history and not give it to them.”

An IPFW spokeswoman said the basement space “has experienced serious flooding recently,” and taking over the library's collection was a way to save it.

“Because the university doesn't own the NIDL collection, we can't invest resources to move and house it in a better environment,” Nicole Hahn said in an email. “The university offered to take the collection and use funds from the collection management budget to move and preserve the collection, and make it accessible.

“Unfortunately, that was not a viable option for the NIDL.”

Hahn did not respond to a question about how the transition to Purdue University Fort Wayne might have been tied to the request to the diversity library.

The diversity library stopped circulating materials March 31, and volunteers are packing items to be moved by May 31.

The diversity library began life as two shelves of books at the Open Door Chapel on Leith Street in 1978, according to the library's website. Four years later, the Gay and Lesbian Task Force partnered with the chapel to create a community center on West Jefferson Center.

After at least one move, the center filed for nonprofit status. Mertz began working with the library in 1997.

Those who have used the library say its collection of books and other items detailing topics ranging from religion to legal options for gay couples is valuable.

Open space to talk or hold meetings is also valuable, they said.

Veronica West, a transgender woman from Silver Lake who attended meetings at the library, said she felt welcome there.

She said the library houses a unique history not housed in other places.

“The library is a resource for everyone,” she said. “Every time we lose a library, we lose. This library's special.”

Nikki Fultz, director of Fort Wayne Pride, agrees.

“It is very unfortunate that the Northeast Indiana Diversity Library is losing its space at the Helmke Library, but I definitely understand why they are leaving,” she said in an email. “The resources housed through NIDL are a very important part of the LGBTQ community and our history.

“I really hope that NIDL can find a new home, but until then our area has lost a great resource not only for LGBTQ folks, but our community in general.”

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