The Valley’s LGBTQ+ Library Houses Books Open to All
since 2020, the Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Center has built a collection of books
author & photos by McKenna Scherer |
The Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center has moved around quite a bit over the past few years, and with the pandemic, has frequently shifted its hours of operation, too. Now settling into August, the center is open most days of the week and also by appointment for whatever needs folks reaching out may have – including access to the center’s library.
The library is dedicated to connecting Valley folks to diverse works by LGBTQ+ writers in order to recognize, celebrate, and share their voices from throughout history and all over the world, as is explained in its mission statement. Matt Klein, vice president and head of the library and resources at the center, launched the library in 2020.
However, due to several relocations and the COVID-19 pandemic, the library was operating mostly remotely throughout 2020 and 2021, even arranging times to drop books off at people’s doorsteps. Now, people of all ages can stop by the center to check out anything from the library, which has more than 200 publications.
The library has graphic novels, cookbooks, poetry, nonfiction, children’s books, and more, most of them available thanks to donations from various places, like its local authors’ section, whose authors donated many of their own books themselves.
“We’ve been very conscious of trying to build up a wide variety,” said Charles Payseur, vice president and head of operations. “I think it’s important to show people all the different stories that queer creatives tell. It’s cookbooks, poetry; It’s everything.”
Klein also pointed out not all of the library’s books are about LGBTQ-specific topics either, though all of its publications come from LGBTQ+ authors. “(The books) don’t always have to be about queer-specific stuff,” Klein said. “Like, there’s one about fermenting food, and the author just happens to be queer and an AIDS advocate.”
Finally slowly getting back into more open hours and participating in more events, the center’s book club, the Queer Reading Guild, is offered online for now but hopes to transition to in-person meetings again. They also plan on doing a pop-up sale and fundraiser by selling different books they have too at some point, either before the end of the year or next year.
“We’re at the point where we don’t necessarily have consistent hours week-to-week, but we do post our hours for sure each week and a reminder of them on Mondays,” Payseur explained. “We get walk-ins, and walk-ins are welcome, we just have the mask requirement.”
Anyone can borrow from the library, and the snug area near the bookshelves offers seating for folks who want to browse for a while and even read there. Items can be checked out electronically or through library slips available at the center.
“A big part of (starting the library) is that you know, being able to see that a queer person can do, creatively, anything. Sometimes you feel like, ‘Oh, I’m queer, I can only write books about a queer-focused or informational subject,’ ” Payseur said. “And that’s not the case. There have been people who have gone before you who have done it, and those paths are open to you.”
Klein agreed, expanding by sharing that was a core reason why he wanted to start the center’s library. “I came here and I wanted to read things by other queer people. The (public) library wasn’t as well fleshed out back then, so I was trying to make it available to other people too.”
The center has an Amazon wishlist of books for its library and a donation link for anyone who may be interested in supporting it that way, with the library open to all during open hours and by appointment.