New Pride Library 'an awareness creating space'
By Brad Lister
"It's a step towards enlightenment," said professor James Miller, director of the new Pride Library.
The library is Western's new gay and lesbian resource centre, which will be officially opened at a reception Feb. 18.
For students at Western the library will be a great resource, Miller said. The core content of it comes from a collection of books collected by Miller on gay culture, history and politics. The library has also had a number of sizeable donations including books from the UWO Bookstore on gay history and literature and a donation of a near-full set of The Body Politic, the premier Canadian gay and lesbian journal that was published from 1971-86.
The project has been in the works for two years and the actual physical construction began around September 1996. Miller said the library is a rarity in Canadian universities.
Miller said he predicts heavy use for the library. "I've had large numbers of students in all of the faculties who have either called me up or come by office looking to be pointed in the direction on books on a number of issues," he said.
In an effort to dispel any misconception that the library will be used only by gay and lesbian students. "It is there for anybody who is interested in a scholarly way about gay and lesbian history."
Andy Sinclair, the gay, lesbian and bisexual issues commissioner, said he encourages people to use the library and added the more visitors it has, the more legitimate it is to ask for funding. "It's a big deal," he said. "It's an awareness-creating space."
There are also collections of relevant newspaper clippings, videos and books on the social experience of being gay, and gay and lesbian youth issues. Also included are works by Western students and faculty.
"There is a local feel to the library. It is very important to be representative," Miller said. He added he hopes the library will be a cultural nerve centre.
The reasons behind the library stem from the fact that right now on campus resources are scattered in ways that are discouraging, Miller said. He explained in the gay studies section in the Weldon library "not only are there books by gay and lesbian authors but mixed up in the stacks are works by fundamentalist preachers from the U.S. that are hateful and prejudicial,"
However, Miller explained he doesn't want these items censored. "They should be read," he said, but added the problem is that the items are not clearly demarcated as works of homophobia.
"It's comparable to students looking up Jewish studies and mixed up in the stacks is a copy of Mein Kampf." In the new library there are a sections of books on homophobia including some books from the '30s.
Miller has an assistant librarian from the work/study program that has been classifying books as well as a volunteer who has been classifying The Body Politic.
"What has been missing on the campus is a space for gay and lesbian students that asserts the dignity of our work," he said.
The library is located in Rm. 305 of University College.