Campaigners hoping to save The Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University held their first public meeting on 6 July.
This follows the campaign’s success in garnering support with an online petition that has attracted 12, 000 signatories.
The Women’s Library, currently housed in Lottery-funded, purpose-built premises, is under threat from management cuts. This is not only about a detrimental cut to a vital women’s service but about the future of Higher Education. It will contribute to the government’s vision of a two-tier Higher Education system, in which wealthy “Russell Group” universities will have the best resources by purchasing the assets of poorer universities, such as The Women’s Library.
Some speakers from the floor said they didn’t care much about where the library ended up, as long as the collection stayed intact and was built upon to become a “national treasure”.
I argued that throughout history the women’s movement has done so much to liberate and increase the living standards of the poorest women, giving the example of the Women Against Pit Closures movement during the miners’ strike of 1984/5.
There is a clear link between this history and the working-class women studying at London Met.
Plenty of trade unionists, particularly Unison library workers and students, took the class issue seriously and argued for the Women’s Library to stay at London Met. There was a general consensus that the library should remain in the current building, which currently functions as an activist hub, and that staff should be kept on.
One of the key areas of concern at the launch of the campaign was to keep the integrity of the collection. Due to pressure from the campaign so far, London Met management has handed over the Selection Criteria, which has been presented to all interested parties, to the campaign. This has allayed some fears, as it states that the collection must be kept together, but it contains no guarantees on the building, staff or on public access after the first five years.
Although the overall tone of the meeting was “defensive” rather than “offensive”, it was suggested that pressure should be applied to London Met management to hold a public consultation process and the campaign is planning to present its own public consultation to management whether they like it or not.
A speaker from the Feminist Library also suggested more radical ideas, such as direct action.
There will be an organising meeting soon to discuss going forward.
• For more information, please visit savethewomenslibrary.blogspot.co.uk