February 18, 2016
London’s Feminist Library to be evicted on first day of Women’s History Month
by Chad Felix
For 30 years, the Feminist Library has made its home at 5 Westminster Bridge Road in London, making available a large collection of literature from the Women’s Liberation Movement, as well as maintaining facilities for women and other community groups, and supporting research and activism relevant to the field.
Unfortunately, as The Independent’s Radhika Sanghani reports, the world is cruel: the Southwark Council, which represents the London borough in which the library is located, has decided to increase the building’s rent from £14,000 to £30,000 a year. Worse yet, according to representatives of the library, the council’s decision is non-negotiable.
And so, on March 1st—the first day of Women’s History Month—the completely volunteer-run library, which has been providing services to London and beyond for over 40 years, will be evicted.
Unless, of course, this 38 Degrees campaign—“Save the Feminist Library From Eviction!”—works. The campaign is pretty straightforward. It has but three demands of the Southwark Council:
- Withdraw your notice to evict the Feminist Library on 1st March – the first day of Women’s History Month.
- Enter into negotiations with the Feminist Library to gradually implement the proposed threefold rent increase.
- Work with the Feminist Library to keep it open as a community space, in line with the aims of your Voluntary Sector Strategy, announced on 10th February.
Discussing the Feminist Library, Dr. Laura Schwartz, an associate professor of Modern British History at the University of Warwick, explained:
[It] is a wonderful cultural resource that needs to be defended at all costs. Generations of my students have used it for their academic research, as well as informing themselves about the continued oppression of women in our society and how to fight against it.
The Library is now the only archive in London where a wide array of feminist publications are truly accessible to the general public and available on the open shelves. It also provides one of the few spaces in central London where women and feminist activists can come together to meet and organise for a better world.
If the Feminist Library is evicted from its current premises, Southwark Council will not only be guilty of cultural vandalism but also of silencing women.
As of this writing, the petition has garnered 2,266 of the 3,000 signatures needed—which is great. But still, the Feminist Library is preparing for the worst. They’ve set up an emergency fund on their website, which will help the library to secure a new location and resume their activities, should it become necessary.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.