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AIDS Committee of Toronto shutters library after more than 20 years

Resource centre tells story of epidemic

Credit: Marcus McCann photo

After more than 20 years, the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) is shutting down its library.

The library, which holds thousands of books, VHS cassettes and periodicals, is one of the premiere HIV/AIDS resources anywhere.

It was “a difficult decision,” says Hazelle Palmer, ACT’s executive director, because as she points out, the library tells the story of the epidemic.

However, after ACT conducted a needs assessment of the library, they found that people simply weren’t using it, says Palmer. Meanwhile, clients were lining up to access ACT’s three public computers.

“We were finding that people were saying, ‘Yes, the library was great back then, but now, wouldn’t it be great if you played a different kind of role for information technology?’” says Palmer.

The decision was not made for financial reasons, Palmer says, although closing the library frees some resources — money, space, volunteers — for other projects.

The announcement leaves at least one big question unanswered: what’s going to happen to the books, magazines, and artifacts in the collection.

Palmer has put out feelers to the city’s libraries and archives about the possibility of taking the collection wholesale. While Palmer says it might not be possible, she’s hoping that there’s an organization that can take, at least, “the bulk” of the material.

“We want to make sure we find a home for the collection, as much as possible,” says Palmer. “Right now, as we’re winding down the service, we’re trying to find a good home for the resources.

The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA) is a natural fit, says Palmer.

Jenn Finan, the CLGA’s general manager agrees. She confirms that talks have already started, but she cautions that there is likely a significant overlap in the materials at ACT and the CLGA.

“We’re looking at it and trying to figure out what we can use and what we already have,” says Finan.

Palmer and Finan agree that, no matter the outcome of ACT’s search, they won’t let items of historical importance molder.

“We certainly wouldn’t want that that to happen,” says Finan.

Access to books, audio-visual materials, periodicals and journals ended May 1, according to ACT. Winding down of the program will continue until July 2.