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Volunteer of the month: Dietgard Salein

1. November 2019

„I feel like I’m surrounded by friends here“

Dietgard Salein, 54, teaches conflict management, art and philosophy of the Renaissance-  and she works voluntarily in the library of t he Gay Museum. Here she talks about her favourite books, her daughter, who brought her into the museum; and why she always feels among friends, with us

SMU: Dietgard my dear, tell us a little bit about your life before you came to the Gay Museum.

Dietgard: Alright to make it short: I was born in Berlin, went to university mainly focusing on Italy and the classic period. I lived one year in Rome and after finishing my studies I landed in a big German bank. I told them, that art always has a lot to do with money and this seemingly convinced them.

What did you do there?

I’ve been recruting future leaders, which I liked a lot. Later I also worked in marketing and stocks. Then I wanted a kid, planned that out, and had one in 1998.I kind of liked the idea of just being a housewife and mum. Yet as it happened I suddenly had the next jobs. That’s how I got into adult education and I took more and more jobs as a consultant, advisor or concept developer.

When was the first time you got involved with the Gay Museum?

Actually as early as 1984 with the big Eldorado exhibition about gay and lesbian history, which was the beginning of the Gay Museum. I had just begun my studies and this exhibition was like my Coming-In: Suddenly there was this world,which I was about to discover for myself, and soon I realized that I’m not the only one in it. After that I often intended to go to the Gay Museum but I simply had no time for it during those years at the bank.

How did you happen to work there as a volunteer?

This was just a coincidence or rather: destiny. In May 2017 my daughter went to a volunteer exchange, because she wanted to do something related to theatre. That‘s when she went by the stand of the Gay Museum to ask them: Do you have anything for my mother? The answer was: Sure just tell her to get in touch, we’ve got something for everyone. So I took a chance and had a look at their website and there I saw- in my eyes- flashing in neon pink: Come to us! We are looking for someone for our library.

Why did you want to work in the library?

Quite simply: I love books and I love libraries. There isn’t anything more important than knowledge and this is where to find it.

What exactely do you do there?

I sit there waiting for users to force my help upon them. I particularily like it when there is someone with little experience in library research like people who are still in school or are  new in college. I help them to find out what they can do with their topic, make some suggestions myself and search with them to see what can be found that is related to the subject. At first I thought I would just sit there and take care that no one takes away those books. That would have been satifying enough for me. I would never have hoped, that there is such a rich social life attached to it.

What does this social life look like?

I come here and I feel like I’m surrounded by friends. Sometimes I’m there two or three times times a week, sometimes not at all for two weeks in a row. It’s nice to be able to organize it like that.When I don’t have any time that’s okay too. And when I feel like I have to escape my own home I can come here and there is always someone to talk to.

What do you like the most about the museum?

That really open minded, relaxed and appreciative communication with each other. Sure there are also discussions but I’ve never known a place where people pay so much attention to getting along with each other. I feel that everyone makes an effort to be kind with each other and reduce prejudice. That’s quite unique.

Finally back to the books: What do you like to read personally?

Everything from the Mann family especially Thomas and Klaus. I love Fontane. And of course Ralf König.