Volunteers working to make LGBTQ library more accessible to public

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Julia Grider straightens up the racks in the Roanoke Diversity Center's library.

Sara Machi/WDBJ7

She's part of a small group of volunteers with Roanoke LGBT History Project cataloging what may be the biggest gay and lesbian library on the East Coast.

"There's not really any point to having all these here if you can't use them, and they can't help people learn about their history, their identity, and other LGBT people," Grider said.

The volunteers look up the codes on these books, photograph their covers, and enter in different key words for potential readers.

Volunteer Morrigan McKernan says it can be a labor-intensive process since some books pre-date the current ISBN system used by publishers.

"A lot of these books here are very old," McKernan said. "Some we have from the beginning of the 20th century, mostly from the 40s through 60s."

These books were donated -- in large part -- by one man, Jim Ricketson. His name's nestled here on the shelves and stamped into the books from his collection.

This is a labor of love, and the well worn margins show traces of the people who once flipped through the pages.

Organizers say some of these books are incredibly rare, possibly the only copy still available.

"A lot of them are not in print anymore," McKernan said. "So this is a really important project if we want to preserve our history."

The group's cataloged about 1,800 books, but that's roughly half of their collection.