In the popular imagination, the year 1969 conjures up images of anti-Vietnam War protests, Woodstock, and other countercultural happenings. For Mark Silber, the seminal event of that year was the Stonewall Riots in New York City, which marked the birth of the modern gay-rights movement. Four years later Silber, an 18-year-old gay man in Hollywood, made his own contribution to the struggle when he created the Stonewall Library, a collection of literature on gays and gay issues.
When Silber left Florida some years later, he entrusted the library to a committee, which relocated the collection to the Sunshine Cathedral, a Metropolitan Community Church in Fort Lauderdale. For a while, the church proved to be an adequate space, but then gay historian Joel Starkey, a friend of Silber's, was diagnosed with AIDS in the late 1980s. Starkey had been keeping his own collection of gay-oriented pamphlets and newspapers; in 1990, two years before his death, he donated his material to the library. With this influx of stuff, the newly formed Stonewall Library and Archives became entirely too big for its britches. The Gay and Lesbian Community Center welcomed the library to a new 1000-square-foot space in 1997. In 1999 the library expanded to a 1500-square-foot space. And Saturday, February 17, the library's staff of volunteers will celebrate the grand opening of the library's new 2300-square-foot home.
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The new library boasts more than 10,000 books, videos, and CDs and more than 50 periodicals. For the first time, the library's extensive archives, which date back to the early gay and lesbian civil rights movement, will be open to the public. The library's Hard-Hat Party begins at 4 p.m. with book and poetry readings, raffles, and food and drink, along with a glimpse of what has, with hard work and time, become the largest gay library in South Florida.