Vast Array of Gay Literature
Available at MCCR Library
DECEMBER 16, 1986 / MONTROSE VOICE 5
By Sheri Cohen Darbonne
Housed in two rooms at Metropolitan
Community Church of the Resurrection, 1919 Decatur, are over 8000 books,
and shelves and drawers filled with
periodicals up to 30 years old. But the
collection here is not just an ordinary
One of the two separate collections of
the MCCR library, the gay archives,
boasts 5000 individual book titles, all
with some relevance to gay life. The
present archives resulted from MCCR's
acquisition of the Texas Gay Archives
from Integrity/ Houston and Wilde-n-
Stein Books, combined with the
church's own collection of gay and lesbian literature.
The church's librarian and archivist,
Charles (who asked that his last name
not be used), began collecting theme
books in 1977, and the library has been
acquiring an average 7-10 books per
week since then. Some are popular, current gay titles; others are rare, obscure
or hard to find. Many are duplicates,
which are kept separately to be loaned
Charles outlined his painstaking process of acquiring desired books. Usually, books of all types are purchased at
giveaway prices at garage sales and
public library used book sales. These are
then traded to used book stores for titles
on a bibliography list kept at the
Former Houston gay publications, from left, a copy of "Tke Albatross"
from 1965; Volume 1, No. 1 of the prodecessor to the "Montrose Voice," tke
"Montrose Star;" and "Contact" a local gay paper from the early 70s
Although the process of collecting the
books is time consuming, it is usually
"I have no competition," Charles
claims. "There just aren't any stores
that buy books." Those that do, he said,
pay the traders so low that it is almost a
waste of time to bring the books in.
For this reason, and because books
don't sell quickly at garage sales.
Some of the books in MCCR's gay archival collection
Because the bibliography used by the
library is 10 years old, it must constantly be updated. Charles said he
watches for hook reviews that mention
a new gay title, and is usually adding
new books to the list even as he checks
off those that are acquired.
Rare books in the archives include
many originally published in the 1920s
or even earlier.Some covers are
inscribed "privately printed."
One book. The Turkish Art of Love,
whose listed author is Dr. Pinhus Ben
Hahum," has a notation on its inside
cover indicating that only 2000 copies
were printed for private collectors.
Another. The Sotadic Zone of Sexual
Inversion, was written by Sir Richard F.
Burton, a turn-of-the-century British
explorer who theorized that climate in
certian parts of the world influenced
sexual inclinations. Men in Womens
Guises, from the 1920s, documents historical instances of female impersonation. Other obscure titles abound.
Charles gets the books he uses for trade
credit at dirt-cheap prices. "If not for
that, I don't think we could have put this
library together," he said.
Often, especially in Montrose, desired
gay books will be found in the sales.
Another source of additions is private
collections inherited by the church from
the estates of persons who have died.
Sadly, Charles reported, the latter way
of acquiring materials has recently
Besides the books, the archives also
houses periodicals, photographs, organizational newsletters and relevant
The periodical collection was
expanded greatly when MCCR acquired
the Texas Gay Archives, Charles said.
On file are national publications and
regional newspapers and magazines
from over 100 cities.
An impressive record of Houston publications dates back to the l.tBOs. The
oldest Houston newspaper in the library
is the October, 1965, edition of The Alba
tross, probably the city's first openly
published gay newspaper.
The oldest gay periodical on file is a
1954 issue of the Los Angeles paper One.
Visitors to the library are allowed to
checkout most books, but not periodicals unless the archives has duplicate
copies. Persons wanting access may ask
the church secretary to open the rooms,
In addition to the gay collection,
MCCR keeps a library of religious literature and art books that rivals any to be
found in Houston, Charles said.
"Our theology section includes many
intellectual quality books that are probably inaccessible outside of a major
seminary," he sated. Most religious
bookstores and church libraries in town
concentrate mainly on "pop theology"
and inspirational books, Charles added.
MCCR's religious collection contains
around 3500 titles.
Having the archives at the church is
probably a tremendous advantage, the
"The church is going to be here for at
least the next 30 years," he said. "Its
budget is about as large as all of the
other gay organizations in town put
together, except the AIDS groups. To
me, this is the most logical, secure location for the collection."
Charles said he is against donating
any part of the archives to the new city
branch library to be built in Montrose.
"I don't trust the city library," he said.
"There is no absolute control when you
donate books to them. If they accept the
donations, they might not put them on
their selves ... if they do, they can take
them off if someone calls them controversial. I'd hate for all of this to be
thrown out in a used book sale."
The MCCR library accepts donations
of any kind of book, but only keeps
books with gay/lesbian, religious or
self-help/ philosophy themes. Others
are used for trade credit.
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