An architect's impression of what the Women's Library @ LSE will look like. Architecture PLB & Keyframe Visuals

Women's Library bidding process was flawed, say campaigners

Geraldine Kendall, 19.10.2012
Save the Women's Library criticises London Met over lack of transparency
Campaigners have accused the London Metropolitan University of a lack of transparency over the bidding process for the stewardship of the Women’s Library collection.

The bid was awarded to the London School of Economics (LSE) in September but the campaign group Save the Women’s Library believes there should be a judicial review into the London Met’s handling of the process, though it does not have the resources to fund a review itself.

Campaigners have said that, in the bidding criteria, London Met did not specify keeping the Designated collection within its £5.5m purpose-built facility in Aldgate, east London, despite originally pledging that this would be an option.

The group also said that the process was rushed and several other bidders dropped out because the London Met had “moved the goalposts”.

Campaign spokeswoman Wendy Davis said: “We feel the bidding process was flawed. No-one seems to understand the importance of keeping the collection in the building that was designed for it.”

The LSE plans to transfer the collection next spring to a reading room and exhibition space on the fourth floor of its existing library in Holborn, central London.

The campaign group argues that the collection has greater public access and impact in its current ethnically-diverse, low-income neighbourhood than it would if moved to the more affluent borough of Westminster.

The award-winning Aldgate facility is seen as an exemplar of women’s architecture, but its architect Clare Wright also warned it could be demolished after the move because of its specialised design. “It will be difficult to find another use for this building,” said Wright.

Campaigners have asked the LSE to negotiate with them to keep the collection in east London. Davis said they were looking at setting up a community interest company that could manage the building and lease it to LSE as a tenant.

An LSE spokeswoman said: “That is not an option. We’ve been quite clear that the building has never been part of our bid.”

It is unclear what London Met proposes to do with the library building once it is vacated by the Women’s Library next year.

A spokeswoman from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which gave the London Met a £4.2m grant to build the facility a decade ago, said: "Every case is different but we might consider clawing back some of the money if the building was sold."

The London Met was unavailable for comment.

Clarification
20.10.2012

This article was amended to clarify that the Women's Library campaigners are not pursuing a judicial review themselves.



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