This was a mini-convention, held on May 11-12 in Maryland, and sponsored by Castle Griffin
, a local leather family. It included a handful of panels on leather topics, but as a couple of attenders confessed separately to me, "I like the panels . . . but the library is the main attraction."
Ah, yes, The Library
. It's an amazing collection. Its only rival in the United States is the fine collection at the Leather Archives & Museum
, but unlike the library at the Leather Archives, the Carter/Johnson Leather Library travels
I'd visited the library three times before and assisted at it twice (or was it thrice?). In fact, Vi Johnson boasts that I was the first person to sleep in the library. (My recollection is that I didn't do much sleeping. I was too busy scanning copies of early leather magazines.) Although the library's core collection is on leather and BDSM, the library covers a number of topics outside the mainstream, such as transgenderism.
The founding members of the library, Viola Johnson and Jill Carter, were mentored by leathermen in the 1970s. Some years later, they began meeting a new generation of leatherfolk. "Sometime during the weekend laughter, fun and food one of the kinklings invariably would ask if we had this magazine, or that book," Mama Vi reports
at the library's website. "'Did we have pictures of this march or that event?' At least twice each weekend the three or four big boxes of books and magazines that we had saved got dragged into the living room so that the 'kids' could go through them. But just as often as not, I had to apologize for what was not
in those old boxes. So very much had been thrown away with each relocation that we were missing far more than we had saved."
As Mama Vi put it at the mini-con: "[The younger generation] made me realize that my old stuff was their history, and they needed to be able to access it."
Spurned on by reports of leather writings being burned by people who objected to them, Mama Vi not only saved everything she could, she also began spending large amounts of money to rescue books, periodicals, artwork, and ephemera that might otherwise disappear from history. As the library slogan puts it, "Never again landfill. Never again flames."
The library carries everything from the latest books to rare nineteenth-century publications such as Lucifer the Light-Bearer
. "Don't yell at me, Dusk!" said Mama Vi at the mini-con as she passed around pages of Lucifer the Light-Bearer
that had been laminated so that they could be handled without damage. I told her afterwards that, on the contrary, I was delighted to encounter an archival library which understands that the purpose of publications is to be read
The library is well worth a look if you're interested in queer
literature, history, and art (including plenty of heterosexual queer material). And if you're a reader or writer who has a book, e-book, or periodical that falls within the library's scope, you might consider donating works to the library
. Based on what I've seen from four visits to the library, I can guarantee you that any works you donate will be examined with tremendous interest by visitors to the library.The friendship pin that Vi Johnson gave me on Saturday