Funderburg Gives New Home to Northeast Indiana Diversity Library

Chloe Leckrone

The culturally significant Northeast Indiana Diversity Library (NIDL)—a vast literary and archival collection of LGBTQ history in Northeast Indiana—will now be housed at Funderburg Library. The first materials arrived on Feb 7.

The NIDL consists of nearly 7,000 pieces of literature, ranging from novels to nonfiction books to an archive that documents LGBTQ history in northeast Indiana. These include magazines, newspapers, audio recordings, personal letters and much more. According to the NIDL’s website, its mission is “to serve the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community and its allies in Fort Wayne and the surrounding area by acquiring, preserving and providing access to materials that embody the culture and history of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, with a focus on items of local or regional interest whenever possible." 

The NIDL began in 1978 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and has had several homes over the years. Most recently, it had a space in IPFW’s Helmke Library, until it had to be removed when the college became PFW. It was then moved to storage where the collection sat for the past year and a half.

When looking for a new home, Scott Mertz, director of the NIDL, had looked into the Indiana State Library, but the library was interested solely in the historical documents. He eventually contacted Social Work Professor Barb Burdge to see if Manchester University had any interest in the collection, as he preferred to keep it in northern Indiana.

Burdge consulted with Dr. Katharine Ings, director of the Gender Studies program and Darla Haines, Technical Services and Systems Librarian for Funderburg, and they brought Mertz to campus to discuss the opportunity. “The offer seemed like a good opportunity to supplement our collections supporting gender and queer studies, but Funderburg doesn’t have the space or the resources to take on the entire collection,” Haines said. “We suggested that after selecting materials to support our curriculum, we would do our best to find good homes for the remaining books by offering them to area LGBTQ groups and resource centers.”

This collection is an important addition to Manchester University’s library for many reasons. Burdge believes it goes hand in hand with Manchester’s mission statement. “I think having this collection reflects our values in our academic systems,” Burdge said.

Along with its alignment with Manchester’s mission, the NIDL is also a way to enhance the knowledge of LGBT and feminist history in Indiana on campus. “We can continue to make those materials available to the public so that they won’t be lost to future generations,” Burdge said. “It’s also important that this collection exists and can tell the story of the struggle for women’s rights and LGBT rights in northeast Indiana because we’re not thought of as a hotbed for feminism or queer activism.”

Burdge briefly discussed some Indiana LGBT history that may not be common knowledge among students and faculty. The LGBT community’s response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s led to the foundation of the AIDS Task Force in Fort Wayne, IN. This task force is now called the Positive Resource Connection. “For such an effective nonprofit organization to form, to care for and support in so many ways, people who were HIV-positive, it’s stunning that the queer community in Fort Wayne was able to pull that off,” Burdge said. Now, with the NIDL, the Manchester community has the resources to learn even more about this history.

Burdge hopes that students and faculty take advantage of having this collection available to them. “So much of the material would be excellent sources for students or faculty who are interested in doing local research into queer history or history of the women’s movement as it played out right here in our backyard,” Burdge said. “And to read the fiction is just fun, even if it’s not serious literature, it’s entertaining. But some of it is serious literature that can be used in literature courses.”

Haines acknowledges that while the collection might not be what one would think of as academic, the works are important. “They were created by and for the LGBTQ community,” she said, and “they provide an important added dimension to our current collections.”

At the moment, the collection is together and located in the southeast corner of the lower level of Funderburg. Eventually, they will be integrated into the library’s regular circulating collection. For the remaining months of the semester, the collection will only be available for use in Funderburg. Over the summer, selections will be made, and the books and documents will be added to the library’s catalog. The collection will be able to be checked out this fall.