THE UK’s premier women’s library was given an appropriate send-off before it closed its doors for the last time after a group of female activists occupied the building in Whitechapel overnight.
The Women’s Library, that houses the nations most extensive collection of material on the lives of women in the UK and their struggles, was set to close yesterday (Friday, March 8) as part of an ongoing cost-cutting exercise by the beleaguered London Metropolitan University.
It’s not clear whether the decision to schedule the closure on International Women’s Day was an oversight, intentional or a sign of indifference, but the irony was.
A reading room will remain open for a further two weeks.
The staff and books will be transferred to the London School of Economics, which took over the running of the library in December. It is the third of five libraries London Met has wound up as the impact of fraudulent accounting and UKBA’s decision to revoke its right to administer student visas sets in.
The occupation began yesterday afternoon while staff and students continued to work and use the library’s facilities, according to one activist who helped with the occupation.
He said staff seemed nonchalant when they settled in for the afternoon to begin the occupation and despite security and a health and safety officer taking an interest no action was taken leaving the building to the activists when the doors were closed at 6.30pm.
The University was reported to be planning an eviction for 11am this morning (Saturday) with dozens of supporters congregating outside since this morning, but it was 3.30pm by the time it was complete when police officers and security entered the building from the back.
One-by-one police officers and security dragged the women out of the building as they sat in a circle with arms linked as dozens of supporters chanted ‘solidarity with the women’s occupation’ outside.
In a statement yesterday, the activists from Reclaim It! said: “We are an independent coalition of feminist and anti-cuts activists who think its time to take matters into our own hands. We are particularly concerned about the gendered impact of the cuts which will jeopardise safe and free access to abortion, force single mothers back to work when their children are still young, close down rape crisis centres and women’s refuges as well as many more services for women and LGBT people.”
This article was amended on 11/3/13 to point out that a reading room in the library would remain open for a further two weeks and that LSE took over the running of the Library in December 2012.