Women’s Library in East End to Close

LSE’s PR machine has been in firing away, shamefully attempting to whitewash the closure of The Women’s Library and present themselves as it’s saviours. When in fact, they have simply taken the valuable collections and integrated them into their academic corporate library in central London. This means an end to community and outreach work and the closure of the purpose-built reading room and gallery. At least now emminent professors won’t have to dirty their shoes with a trip to Tower Hamlets! We re-print below the press release of the campaign, which vows to keep the building open.

 Save The Women’s Library campaigners vow to fight on

Women’s Library supporters have vowed to continue their campaign, following an announcement by LSE and London Metropolitan University that The Women’s Library will leave its purpose-built home in the East End of London.  

The decision to close the building follows a series of protests by the Save The Women’s Library Campaign and the presentation of a 12,000-strong petition against the Library’s closure. The Library’s current home opened just ten years ago, with £4.2m funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and contributions from other supporters. It encompasses purpose-designed collections storage, education and exhibition space, and light and airy reading room facilities.

A rare monument to women’s lives, learning and scholarship designed by a woman architect (Claire Wright MBE), it was purpose-built on the site of an old Wash House off Petticoat Lane to provide safe housing for its unique collections, open up access to the public, and contribute to the regeneration of Tower Hamlets. Its high quality, sustainable design, and contribution to the local environment was recognised with an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 2002 it was named RIBA Journal’s building of the year, the Brick Award’s Best UK Public Building, and winner of the Liveable City Sustainability Award. A dedicated, high-quality building for The Women’s Library’s collections recognises the importance of the fight for women’s equality to national life.

A statement from the Save The Women’s Library campaign said: “Moving the collection out of its purpose built premises on Old Castle Street will limit and reduce access to this powerful collection. Access is more than opening times, and we find it hard to see how current plans will accommodate the vibrant exhibitions, education and events programmes that have opened up this collection to the wider public over the past decade. The closure of this building would be a step back for women’s equality, as well as an enormous waste. “We do not accept that ensuring professional care and custodianship for this library can best be ensured through removing its contents from their home. The Women’s Library must maintain its building, staff, accessibility and commitment to the community. It is an institution of national and international importance which deserves secure funding in its own right. It would be senseless to close it because London Met is in trouble. “We remain confident that a viable alternative to closing the building can still be found. We intend to pursue the full range of available options and to work with all supporters to ensure that The Women’s Library stays where it is, open and accessible to all. As the LSE runs respected archive and library services, we’d be delighted if they wanted to be part of this solution”

Rushanara Ali, Bethnal Green and Bow MP, said, “The Women’s Library provides a crucial hub for local women, researchers and students, contributing to the East End’s vibrant intellectual and cultural life. London Metropolitan University and the Government need to make every effort to keep The Women’s Library open.”

Further support for the Save The Women’s Library campaign

[callout title=] “The Women’s Library is an international treasure and must be kept intact and open to researchers and visitors.” Karen Offen, Historian & Senior Scholar, The Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Stanford University, USA [/callout]

[callout title=]“The closure of The Women’s Library would be a real step backwards for all of us who fought to end the invisibility of women in history. The Women’s Library must be kept open not just to academics but also to the local community and anyone interested in finding out about our rich history of women’s struggles for equality.” Prof. Barbara Taylor, Professor of Humanities, Queen Mary, University of London [/callout]

[callout title=]“The process by which London Met has conducted the ‘bidding process’ for the irreplaceable Women’s Library is a national scandal that merits an enquiry.” Prof. June Purvis, University of Portsmouth [/callout]

[callout title=]”I hope that this magnificent purpose designed building for The Women’s Library by award winning architects Wright & Wright finds a future which keeps it all together, including the dedicated staff and collection. There has got to be a solution out there! It would be most regrettable if it all gets lost after so much effort and enjoyment of its success.” Angela Brady, President, Royal Institute of British Architects [/callout]

*Click for more information* 

Address for TWL visitors: The Women’s Library, London Metropolitan University, Old Castle Street, London E1 7NT; nearest tube Aldgate East, Aldgate or Liverpool Street; open Mon to Fri 9.30am-5.30pm, Thurs until 8.00pm

Follow us on Twitter: @saveTWL, #savetwl