Women’s Library occupation: fighting the cuts on International Women’s Day

James O'Nions reports from the women-led occupation of the Women's Library in London, which is due to be closed imminently
8 March 2013

Inside the occupation. Photo: Reclaim It

Down a quiet street in East London, close to the capital's financial district, sits the Women's Library, a historical archive of the struggle for women's liberation. Previously run by the troubled London Metropolitan University, which is currently being softened up for privatisation, the library was recently transferred to the LSE. The latter plans to incorporate the archives into its own library, shutting down public access and eroding the library's independence.

So when a group of feminists decided to reclaim the radical history of International Women's Day from the corporate-sponsored PR projects that have sprung up around it of late, the Women's Library was an obvious target for action.

'We're protesting the closure of the Women's Library, but also opposing the cuts, which have a disproportionate affect on women, children and disabled people,' said Kelly Bornshlegel, who has been here since the beginning at 1pm this afternoon. 'As feminists we oppose all intersecting forms of oppression, and stand in solidarity with people marginalised by the violence of the austerity agenda.'

'Despite the seriousness of the issues, it's a great atmosphere and everyone's in good spirits,' she added.

Far from barricading the door, the occupiers have left it openly accessible, and the occupation has seen lots of supporters dropping by throughout the day. A substantial core of people (both women and men) are ensuring the occupation is going strong into the night.

Workshops were being organised on everything from self-defence to 'theatre of the oppressed', with a feminist sea shanty band due to provide some entertainment later.

'We've got a programme of events lined up for Saturday and Sunday, including a kids' space,' said Kelly. We're open for anyone who's interested, so come on down.'

Updates will be posted online at reclaimit2013.wordpress.com. A great little exhibition, 'The Long March to Equality', is currently, as a result of the occupation, open 24 hours a day!



James O'NionsJames O'Nions is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective. He also manages local activism and events for Global Justice Now.


 

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Anne Summers 14 March 2013, 12.28

It is a travesty of the truth to say that LSE ‘plans to incorporate the archives into its own library, shutting down public access and eroding the library’s independence’. No institution had the will or the capacity to run The Women’s Library in its purpose-built premises, which is very sad. BUT LSE is going to enormous trouble and expense to dedicate a reading room+exhibition space+open-shelf access to TWL@LSE, and its four full-time archivists will be able to deal with the backlong which for years has blocked access to too many of TWL’s archival collections. Reader access to all the collections will be on the same terms as at TWL and other public institions such as London Metropolitan Archives (the former Greater London Record Office) which all sorts of non-academic groups and individuals use with no trouble at all (actually, rather more than was the case at TWL)



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