Campaigners plan protest for Women's Library reopening

Campaigners plan protest for Women's Library reopening

Campaigners are planning to picket the re-opening of the Women's Library tonight (12th March) at its new home in the London School of Economics (LSE).

Gail Chester of London's Feminist Library, a member of the Save the Women's Library Campaign, said the group was planning a "peaceful protest" over the opening of the new site this evening, to highlight their concerns over accessibility to the collection.

The LSE took over stewardship of the collection, involving moving the library from its purpose-designed home in Whitechapel, after the London Metropolitan University announced two years ago that it could no longer fund the library, Europe's oldest and most extensive collection of women's history.

Laura Schwartz, assistant professor of modern British history at Warwick, and also a member of the Save the Women's Library Campaign, told The Bookseller she still had reservations about the new location and the campaign would be continuing. "We want to see the collection remains as accessible as possible, not just to academics but to activists who used to use it, and the local people, from school pupils to the elderly, who interacted with the library through all the outreach work it did," she said. "LSE have said that anyone can access the collection by registering as a reader, but will people still feel welcome popping in off the street?"

The opening ceremony this evening will feature speakers such as former Irish president and UN high commissioner Mary Robinson. However, campaigners have also taken issue with the guestlist for the event,  asking why several members of the Women's Libraries and Archives Network were not invited, along with former members of staff and participating academics.

An LSE spokesperson told The Bookseller: "It has not been possible for capacity reasons to invite all of the many supporters of The Women’s Library to the Reading Room opening event, but we do look forward to seeing them using the collection after it opens on 31st March."

The spokesperson added that the collection, which features more than 60,000 books and 5,000 museum artefacts, including suffragette Emily Davison's return ticket from Epsom where she died under the King's horse in 1913, would remain accessible to the public. "Later in 2014 LSE will open an Exhibition Space and Teaching and Activity Room for the collection, both of which will be used by members of the public," the LSE said.