In September 2016, members of the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project began providing assistance to the Roanoke Diversity Center in a long-term project to digitize the catalog of the Roanoke LGBT Memorial Library. Some say it is the largest LGBT library on the East Coast! (We are doing research to find out more about that.)
The library catalog is currently live (but it is a work in progress)!
The LGBT Memorial Library began with approximately one thousand volumes that were the private collection of Jim Ricketson of Roanoke. At the time of Ricketson’s death in 2000, he had arranged to transfer the collection of books to his friend Ed Harris who shared with Ricketson the idea of the collection blossoming into a public library for the LGBTQ community. The Ricketson GLBT Library opened to the public in the basement of the Lifestream Center in Grandin Village on December 6, 2000. In 2002, the library moved from Grandin Village to a storefront on Kirk Avenue in downtown Roanoke. By the time the library closed to the public in 2003—due to a lack of labor and funds—it had grown to nearly 3,000 volumes. Following Harris’s death in 2005, the books moved to the Drop-In Center (an HIV-testing clinic) in downtown Roanoke and operated there as a community library until 2011 when it was all moved again to Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of the Blue Ridge in Southeast Roanoke. Eugene Drayton helped to reopen the library to the public at MCC for several years, until it fell into disuse again in the mid-2010s. As of 2017 the library is be incorporated into the newly expanded space of the Roanoke Diversity Center (RDC). The Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project is assisting the RDC in digitizing the library catalog and putting it online.
We work on the library every Sunday afternoon. We’ll be researching more of the history of the library, so that we can tell its story at sometime in the future. For now, we’re just doing a lot of cataloging, book by book! Contact us to get involved.