Campaign to save the Women’s Library

TUC Library also under threat in bid to save £1m
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Rebecca Atkinson
An online campaign has been launched to save the Women’s Library in London, following an announcement last month that it must find a new home or be forced to drastically cut its opening hours.

The London Metropolitan University set up a working group last December to look at the options for the future of its special collections, which include the Women’s Library and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Library Collections.  It wants to save £1m a year across the two collections.

In a statement, Malcolm Gillies, the university’s vice-chancellor, said that although the libraries’ collections are of national significance, much of their usage is from outside the university.

Unless a new home, sponsor or owner is found by December, the Women’s Library will have its opening hours reduced from five to just one day a week for three years, with a further review at the end of that period.

The university is also looking to construct a lecture theatre within the library building at Aldgate. 

“The university will, meanwhile, zealously seek a new home, owner or sponsor of the collection,” Gillies said.

Gillies also said that, in the absence of additional funding from the TUC, notice of one year would be given in July for the collection to be returned to the organisation.

Following the announcement, the London Metropolitan University’s branch of Unison launched a campaign, which includes a blog, a Twitter account (@SaveTWL) and a Facebook group.

A post on the blog states: “We want to save the library as it exists today to retain the integrity of its world-renowned collections, the expertise of its staff, and the building, which has become a vibrant hub for its users, supporters and friends.”

Meanwhile, a petition has been launched calling on education secretary Michael Gove to intervene and keep the library open. At the time of writing, 4,765 people had signed.

In a statement about the proposed closures, the London Metropolitan University’s Unison branch said: “These special collections truly emphasised the now seemingly lost intention of London Metropolitan University’s original aims to widen participation and to promote social justice by offering our students these truly unique resources."

The Women's Library was established in 1926 and run by the Fawcett Society until 1977 when it moved to City Polytechnic, now part of London Metropolitan University. It houses more than 60,000 books and pamphlets, over 500 archives and an Accredited collection of 4,000 objects documenting women's campaigning activities.

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