Call for the government to earmark funding for the Women’s Library:
Just over a decade ago, in early 2002, I attended the opening of the Women’s Library in Old Castle Street, East London, in a fine new building constructed on the site of some former wash houses. It was a wonderful event. Antonia Byatt, the library’s first director, gave an upbeat address, as did Tessa Jowell, who was culture minister at the time. Women and men from all sides of the political spectrum were there. The great and the good gladly rubbed shoulders with us lesser mortals, wine glasses in our hands. We all felt that at long last, this unique collection about women’s lives in the past and present had a proper home. That it all came about was due to a £4.2 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the support of London Guildhall University, and (especially) the enormous efforts of a large number of people, including the Friends of the Library.
What a difference a decade makes. On 14 March this year, the board of governors at London Metropolitan University (formed in 2002 by the merger of London Guildhall and the University of North London) announced that the institution could no longer afford to maintain the Women’s Library, nor the Trades Union Congress Library, at a joint cost of approximately £1 million a year.
It was proposed that if by the end of December 2012 a new home, owner or sponsor of the Women’s Library could not be found, then opening hours would be limited to one day a week for a period of three years, with a further review after that. It was also decided that further investigation would be undertaken into the feasibility of constructing a lecture theatre within the library building to meet the demand on that campus for a medium-sized lecture space.