9th Jul 2012
Saving The Women’s Library
Remember back in March, when we reported that The Women’s Library was under threat? Well, last week, there was a meeting to discuss its future. Our Beulah Devaney went along to find out what was happening. Here’s her report on what went down:
It’s an old joke but;
Q. Why do women need their own library?
A. Because men have got the British Library.
Earlier this year, London Metropolitan University revealed themselves to be the true Lord Voldemort; The Women’s Library was engulfed in slow magic spell that attempted to mothball a vital institution while feminists across the country engaged in a slow-mo WTF.
After a back-breaking two meetings in three months, the London Met Death Eaters decided that the The Women’s Library was only going to be opened one day a week.
Despite the fact it is the only library in this country where men and women can access the full spectrum of female fiction and non-fiction.
Despite the fact it’s one of the only resources for feminists activists and still one of the only libraries to have a respectable zine collection. As one of the librarians said; The Women’s Library is not antiquarian, it’s alive.
After extreme pressure was applied, London Met decided to sell The Women’s Library off, rather handing it a cyanide capsule and quietly closing the door. Awesome.
Or, yuh know, not. Because actually selling off the collections is bullshit and The Women’s Library was given their building by The National Lottery, not by London Met. Ipso-facto please stop He Who Must Not Be Named-ing all over our library.
So on Friday, there was a meeting to discuss the future of The Women’s Library. I walked in to hear Bea Campbell saying “anybody who writes will find themselves knocking on [The Women’s Library] doors”. There was a trestle table full of booze and a disco ball twinkling on the ceiling. It was an auspicious beginning.
The questions following the traditionally brain-crushingly boring speeches were to be expected. They went along these lines: “Yes, I have a question but first let me tell you about my entire employment history; I’ll do the short version and start in 1979….”
Then they went something like this: “My thoughts on hearing The Women’s Library might close were mainly thoughtful. My feelings, however…”
And then went on to: “Now let me ask you; what happened to the promises that were made by people no one cares about who probably didn’t even exist? Well?!?”
Then someone asked: “What do you want us to do? Do you need coverage? Do you need more pressure to be applied to London Met? Do you need fundraising?”
The response? “Good question, I’m going to cover it at the end once we’ve heard 40 more opposing but equally long-winded theories on the state of higher education”.
The chunks of deliciousness that eventually floated to the top of this incredibly dispiriting meeting were as follows:
Three objectives have been agreed;
1) To maintain the integrity of the collections, rather than letting institutions cherry-pick them.
2) To make sure that the staff and their expertise are safe.
3) To retain The Women’s Library dedicated building.
In addition to that there is a campaigning committee that everyone speaking at this event seemed vaguely embarrassed by.
Retrospectively the questions I should have asked were as follows;
Why do you look surprised that someone has asked what we can do to help?
Why isn’t there a member of the campaign committee here tonight?
Are they… ok?
Why is your Ideas Board black when this entire venue is black?
Why is the Ideas Board hidden behind a curtain?
Why are you camouflaging the Ideas Board?
Why haven’t you given out any contact details for the campaign committee who you say are understaffed and dying for us to help them?
Why haven’t you mentioned the fact that they have a blog and Twitter campaign?
Why didn’t The Women’s Library Facebook page mention this event with more notice than 2pm today?
Are they having a fight with the campaign committee?
Is there… beef?
To clarify, my own beef is with the way this meeting went down, not with The Women’s Library or its amazing staff – I actually got a bit teary when one of the guys started talking about their zine collection.
S0 what do you think, For Books’ Sake readers? Do you feel inspired to get involved or does this all sound a bit confused and disorganised? And if you’ve got the inside scoop, we’d love to know some suggested answers for the above questions…