Making Space for a Library of Diverse-City

When people think about Adelaide’s queer venues, Mary’s Poppin or My Lover Cindy might be the first places that come to mind. Diverse-City founders Sue and Sarah had something different in mind when opening on Grote St in 2019.

“We wanted to broaden the age group here. Sarah and I have a vision about bringing the LGBTQ community and the mainstream communities closer together,” said Sue.

In addition to ticketed shows, free community events on offer at Diverse-City run the gamut from book clubs and LGBTIQ+ social nights to 1800s musical afternoons and a ukulele group doing interactive plays.

“There is no limit to the crazy things that I will do.”

Between events, Diverse-City is where people of all sorts can come and be themselves in a safe space.

After the Darling House LGBTIQ+ Community Library in Norwood closed, part of the journey for Diverse-City included providing resources to inform and uplift communities.

“That collection had been lost over time. And there was nothing. Some of the local [queer] press had gone, and so I particularly wanted to create a place where people could go to sit and read if they wanted,” said Sue.

Community members donated materials and their time to build a library and catalogue resources upstairs at Diverse-City.

“I wanted the material to be appropriate for the community rather than read mainstream books that might have a little bit of a queer character in there. I wanted to have books that were gay, lesbian, intersex, transgender, non-binary, gender diverse. We even have kids books.” said Sue.

Retired librarian Dee used her experience in specialist and public libraries to later add extra depth to the collection and cataloguing system, but she also was keen to grow the collection from what was originally donated.

Dee loves the separate lounge upstairs where people can get comfy with a book from just down the hall.

“Transgender and non-binary [resources were] almost non-existent. So I concentrated on building out those areas and working out what’s still really relevant. The most important thing for any community is to be able to pick up a book, either by someone like them or with characters that they relate to,” said Dee.

With the limited shelf space, Dee has to make the hard decisions about which books can stay, and which can make way for more relevant resources.

“It’s looking for those things that will appeal to a range of ages and a range of interests and with particular subjects in mind and trying to balance it. An important part of what we do with the collection is listening to what people can’t find and then trying to meet that need.”

Near Diverse-City’s street level entrance is a small collection for anyone who can’t make it upstairs to the full collection.

Sue said that not enough people even know the library exists since it’s out of the way, upstairs away from the entertainment and social space.

“It gives people more than just a book to read. It gives people social connection. And that’s part of why we wanted the library to be in place. We wanted people to have access to materials, but we wanted people to have access to community. And that’s what the library actually does.”

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