By Jade Baker
The Women’s Library, which has been housed by the London Metropolitan University for ten years, could be facing closure. The library holds the biggest collection of literature dedicated to the history of women and attracts around 30,000 visitors every year.
In March London Metropolitan’s Board of Governors decided to find The Women’s Library a new home or sponsor, or to run it as a skeleton service from December, reducing opening hours to one day per week.
Vice Chancellor Malcolm Gillies has said the university can no longer fund a service that is used by so many from outside the institution and that the university needs to save £50,000 a year.
What will happen to the collection if it is moved? Will it be split up? If fragmentation starts now, who knows where it will end. If private collectors gain ownership of the resources it quite possible that some (or all) of this collection could become completely inaccessible to the public.
If the collection leaves London, this will end all the great work the Library has done with the local community.
The collection includes papers and archives from Sylvia Pankhurst and Sheila Rowbotham; a prized first edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 A Vindication of the Rights of Women; suffrage banners; leaflets from the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s; records of women war workers and so on.
The library also boasts an audio collection which tells the stories of centuries of struggle by women and the working class.
There is still much to research among all the donated materials which makes it all the more important that it should be kept open as a resource particularly for the people whose lives and struggle it celebrates.
What you can do:
The “Save the Women’s Library” petition has collected 10, 351 signatures: bit.ly/wom-lib4
Follow the news (including prospects for an Early Day Motion) at Save The Women’s Library blog: bit.ly/wom-lib5.
National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts Women is promoting a mass protest letter writing campaign: bit.ly/wom-lib.
London Metropolitan Student Union has set up an email account on the website which enables you to send that letter to the Vice Chancellor’s email directly. It’s a good pressure tactic and takes under a minute to sign and send off: bit.ly/wom-lib2
Royal Holloway Feminist Society have produced a brilliant awareness campaign video. Check it out here: bit.ly/wom-lib3
A “visit-in” to boost the numbers going to the Women’s Library has been also been discussed.