Did you know that London has its very own Feminist Library? Few do, but this vital piece of London’s literary landscape has had to fight for survival this past year due to soaring rent costs. On December 23rd 2015, Southwark Council asked for an immediate increase in rent from £12,000 to £30,000 a year meaning the library was faced with imminent eviction, on the 1st of March (ironically the start of Women’s History Month). Despite celebrating it’s 40th anniversary at the site on Westminster Road this past year has marked the end of an era and the beginning of a search for a new home. However some good news comes following protests and a petition to the Council and the library will no longer be evicted before it has finalised and begun to move to a new premises.
At the Library they have an incomparable collection of over 7,000 books, 1500 periodical titles from around the world, archives of feminist individuals and organisations, pamphlets, papers, posters etc. Alongside this the library provides a space for meetings, readings, and other events throughout the year encouraging research, activism, and community projects. Run solely by volunteers they are completely self funded and protecting our feminist heritage.
The catalogue is available to browse online via their website and their collection is very strong in the areas of arts, politics and the Women’s Liberation Movement, women’s history, and mental and physical health. Their non-fiction collection is some 5000 books strong and they have a further 2500 works of fiction including 500 publications of poetry, a significant number of little-known and/or self-published female poets. There is also a collection of over 1500 periodical titles from the 1960s until the present, offering a core resource in academic research. Additionally in 2009, the Feminist Library Pamphlet Collection was donated to the Bishopsgate Institute, where it is being catalogued and cared for in a temperature-controlled environment.
The collections on offer at the Feminist Library are fertile ground for researchers or those merely seeking to further their own interest. You can also support the Library through your time or by donating to help them secure a new home. All information regarding how to support the Library can be found here. The Feminist Library is run entirely by volunteers. A core group of management committee members are supported by a strong collective of regular volunteers, who donate their time and skills to make the library what it is.
They are looking for people to help develop the Feminist Library online catalogue, research, order and review new publications, connect with other feminist groups and organisations, contribute to their newsletter and help the fundraising effort.
The Feminist Library is always looking for new volunteers and all feminists are welcome to get involved. If you are interested in helping the library in any capacity, please email at [email protected] for further details or come to the library on Thursday between 7-9 pm.