From Kings Cross to Mardi Gras and Priscilla, the gay and lesbian community has long been at the heart of Sydney’s culture. Now the City of Sydney is hoping to preserve that history and take it to the wider community with plans for the City’s first gay public library collection.

The City will use a $35,000 State Library grant to set up the collection across three of its libraries -“ Kings Cross, Newtown and the new branch at Surry Hills due to open in April 2008.

The collection, expected to showcase rare books and other material, some for the first time publicly, is scheduled to open in the next 18 months, a City spokesperson said.

At least one local resident has offered to donate a variety of rare reference material for the collection and it’s hoped that more people will also offer donations, the spokesperson said.

The donor did not wish to be identified before their contribution was finalised.

The library plan won the backing of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore, who told a council meeting last month the gay collection would safeguard a major part of city history.

The aim is to build up a significant collection and it would be a way of permanently acknowledging the role of this important community in city life, Moore said.

I think calling upon gay and lesbian academics and community groups [to donate material] is really important so this history is not lost.

Moore was responding to a question from councillor and Surry Hills business owner Phillip Black, who also backed the library plan.

Black told the Star this week he hoped the collection would lead to a stand-alone gay library similar to ones overseas.

I think maybe that’s a longer-term project, Black said.

The Pride History Group is also supporting the library plan as a way to keep the gay past alive.

It’s the whole issue of why we exist as a Pride History Group, to pass on the knowledge from one generation to the next, secretary John Witte told the Star.

A lot of these books are out-of-print -¦ the younger generation hasn’t even seen them.

The Pride History Group is working on its own gay and lesbian archives. It is due to start assembling the collection early next year.

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