Gay pride by the book
By Jamie Lynn
As any group that has fought for increased acceptance will tell, attacking the ignorance of others and of those within your own group is key towards increased understanding. This was precisely why a Western English professor, James Miller, created the Pride Library.
"The idea was to foster gay and lesbian studies at Western in a coalition building environment that cuts across traditional boundary lines," Miller explains. "I want to make our material extremely accessible to anyone, regardless of sexuality, who has an interest in gay and lesbian history, culture and politics," he says. "We also want to document, conserve and catalogue the local evidence of gay and lesbian community history. [All this] in a censorship-resisting space."
While merit for such a resource is immediately apparent, surprisingly, libraries of this kind are very rare and Western's only opened in February of this year. Located in Rm. 305 of University College, it originally opened as a resource centre with only 130 books. In a few short months, however, the collection has grown to over 700 books, which are currently being catalogued however, since it is a research facility, books cannot be borrowed. The room also contains periodicals, a new computer and a video collection.
Miller explained the Pride Library's most recent developments may prove to be its most exciting. "In the summer, I applied to the university administration to have the Pride Library formally established as a type-two collaborative research centre.
"While it has not yet been formally established, the application process is continuing and I am very hopeful it will be recognized by the university," Miller explains. "When that happens, it will be a historic event, not just for the city, but for Canada. It will be the first such research facility established in a Canadian university."
While a few other such programs already exist in the United States most notably at New York University they are still very few and far between. In order to make Western's Pride Library even more unique, Miller plans to combine his current materials with the 25-year collection of documents from the London Gay and Lesbian Community, providing an extraordinary database for the community. Once this and the formal recognition has occurred, Miller plans to change the library's name to the U.W.O. Research Facility for Gays and Lesbians.
Many may wonder why such a project took so many years to develop. Miller spread further light on this issue: "For generations, work on gay and lesbian studies didn't exist because of the closet. So if you tried to come out and do anything on gay or lesbian issues, from an academic view point, you were subject to all kinds of censoring tactics and so on," he says. "But through the '70s and '80s it changed because social attitudes were changing. As a result, from about 1980 on, there was a critical mass of gay and lesbian authors producing works of such quality, depth and intellectual challenge that it really started the ball rolling," he explains.
"Now gay and lesbian works that are all across the Dewy Decimal system have been expanding at a phenomenal rate. Inevitably, within that growth there has been a great stimulus for gay and lesbian studies."
So far Miller has been very pleased with the direction and response the library has received. He does not currently have plans for a coinciding academic major to go along with the new facility, but it certainly would not surprise him if such an occurrence were to take place in the future. He just wants to jump one hurdle at a time.