Save the Women's Library outside the London Met. Credit: Martin LeSanto-Smith

LSE to take over the Women's Library collections

Rebecca Atkinson, 01.10.2012
Critics say move will reduce public access
The London School of Economics (LSE) will take over the Women’s Library collections and staff from 2013 despite concerns that the move will limit access to the general public.

London Metropolitan University has been the custodian of the Women’s Library since 1977, but earlier this year it announced it would be seeking a new home for the collections as part of plans to save £1m a year.

Last week it confirmed that the LSE’s bid to take the collections had been approved. LSE said the collections, which will be rebranded the Women’s Library @ LSE, will be housed in a new reading room connected to an exhibition space.

Its archives and museum pieces not on display will be kept in a refurbished and extended secure store with material made accessible on request. Work will also begin on digitising the Women’s Library collection and providing access to it through the LSE digital library.

Craig Calhoun, director of LSE, said: “There are numerous synergies between the Women's Library collection and LSE's existing holdings. Combined, they will undoubtedly make one of the best international collections for the support of research on women's lives and gender issues.”

But the move continued to provoke criticism from the Unison-led Save the Women’s Library campaign.

“Moving the collection out of its purpose-built premises on Old Castle Street will limit and reduce access to this powerful collection,” it said in a statement.

“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.”

Save the Women’s Library said it would continue to campaign to find an alternative to closing the building and moving the library collections. It has already held a number of protests and presented a 12,000-strong petition against the library’s closure.

It is unclear what the London Met intends to do with the building currently housing the Women’s Library collection, which opened 10 years ago with £4.2m funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and contributions from other supporters.

A HLF spokeswoman said: “HLF has been a major supporter and investor in the nationally important Women’s Library. Our concern is to ensure it continues to be properly cared for and remains publicly accessible. We will not consider the implications for our past investment until proposals for the future of the library and building are clarified.”

Malcolm Gillies, vice-chancellor of London Met, said: “We’ll be working with [LSE] to achieve the best continuity to ensure library users are not inconvenienced.”

A full schedule of the transfer process will be available on the London Met website from late October.

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