Stonewall Library & Archives (SLA), the largest independent circulating library of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) materials in the US, officially opened its new facility in downtown Fort Lauderdale today with a cadre of city and county elected officials and dignitaries on hand. Easily moving past its onetime designation as a “controversial” gay library, SLA was presented with proclamations from both the City of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County.
“Today, we’re setting Stonewall Library & Archives on a national course,” said executive director Jack Rutland. “We’re a lending library, a cultural center, an art gallery and museum, a research facility, and a place for everyone in the community to learn about our past and chart our future. Stonewall Library sits in Fort Lauderdale, but our impact is felt on the national stage.”
Moving SLA to this new space became a national story during the anti-gay campaign of Fort Lauderdale’s former mayor, who opposed a city building, which is leased by Broward County, providing space to the library. The move into the ArtServe building located at 1300 E. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale required the approval of the Fort Lauderdale City Commission and the Broward County Commission. Both panels easily approved the move in 2007.
Although the budget for the building’s renovation and reconfiguration was set at $500,000, SLA’s two-year Capital Building and Endowment campaign raised over $750,000, entirely from individuals and foundations. The funds were used for the building alterations and to establish an institutional endowment. The most significant donations came from the John C. Graves Trust of the Community Foundation of Broward, George Hester and Alfredo Piniero, Paul Fasana and Dr. Robert S. Graham, the Sunshine Athletic Association and Charles L. Ross.
In addition to Executive Director Jack Rutland, today’s event featured an appearance by Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler; Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts, who presented a proclamation from the city; Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom; openly gay Broward County Vice Mayor Ken Keechl, who presented a proclamation from the County; Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti; and Stonewall Library Board President Chuck Williams.
“The history of Stonewall Library tracks the history of the GLBT movement in the US,” Williams said. “It took a long time for us to get here, but now that we’re here we’re not going anywhere.”
Stonewall Library & Archives is a museum, gallery, and cultural center for locals, tourists, researchers and scholars, and has an impact far beyond South Florida. With exhibits touring the country, and leading literary supporters such as the legendary Edmund White, SLA honors the past while striving to engage, inform and inspire the next generation of GLBT leaders. The official opening of Stonewall Library & Archives’ new space continues with a building-wide open house tonight beginning at 6:00pm, followed by the Gay and Lesbian Literary Arts Festival April 24 and 25.
More information can be found at www.stonewall-library.org. Tax-deductible donations can also be made online.