Condemned Women’s Library, evicted after overnight occupation

Activists outside the Women's Library in Whitechapel before security and police evicted a group of ocupiers

Activists outside the Women’s Library in Whitechapel before security and police evicted a group of occupiers

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.

5 thoughts on “Condemned Women’s Library, evicted after overnight occupation

  1. when a cultural organization shame on london met – promoting ignorance – cut the managers noyt the culture like a university closes such an important library society is threatened

  2. Childish nonsense that only serves to alienate. Those following the situation since Jan 2012 know the place was effectively due to be shut in December last year, but LSE have kept it open. Crappy journalistic fact-checking as well because, according to the web site, yesterday wasn’t the day the doors were due to close for good. Surely this kind of action may well have just hastened the temporary ‘closure’ impacting on those who needed to use the resources prior to it being moved to its new home.

    The real shame is the associated costs and damage (reputational or otherwise) that this action has caused. There is a reason that the ’cause’ hasn’t been taken up in the mainstream media.

    Careful consideration of the history, present, and future of the Women’s Library will serve 140 char. peeps well to read – if their attention span reaches that far.

    This is not an ‘Arab Spring’ moment, and those obsessed with having such an influence on things might well be sensible to reflect on how better to direct their enthusiasm in the future; otherwise they risk misdirecting their obvious talents on peripheral issues.

    The suffragettes were fighting, quite rightly, for meaningful things. One wonders if the ladies of this fight are going to too, or if they are more concerned with making names and expending their energies on whipping up a (social) media (non) frenzy. Cos that really isn’t where it is at.

    1st world problems.

    A concerned feminist.

    • Thanks for your comment. Just one thing for me to address here, I think, and that’s the ‘crappy journalistic fact-checking’ regarding doors closing for good. Yes I checked the website too as well as speaking to people at the library and you’re right in so much as the reading room will remain open for another two weeks, but the library and exhibitions have closed, so the library (in Whitechapel) has closed for good, but the physical doors have only metaphorically closed, but I’ll add an extra line to make it clear.

      I think the rest of your points would need to be addressed by someone involved in the action.

    • “A concerned feminist”…

      … you would think that you’d also recognise the Women’s Library very important as a community resource, not purely housing an excellent collection of feminist/women’s struggle literature.

      Both the LMU and LSE have been ‘spinning’ this situation that the library is not closing for good, but the fact is that yet another women’s space is going to be lost at a time where we cannot afford this to happen, with the likes of LSE only really interested in the ‘value of the collection’ itself in its own eyes. Of course its important that such a collection is retained and preserved, but whereas the Women’s Library was also an open, accessible community meeting place for women, the LSE will now just place the collection behind more closed doors, with none of the local engagement that the Women’s Library was involved in.

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