It is incredibly sad news that, after decades of contributing locally, nationally and even internationally, the Feminist Library on Westminster Bridge Road faces eviction on 1st March – coincidently the first day of Women’s History Month. I find it deeply concerning that there is the potential for the library to be lost permanently.
The Feminist Library has been open for over 40 years in the borough and houses a collection of over 8,000 works of feminist literature and resources as well as having a long history of campaigning, community work and hosting a variety of different groups at its premises. Whilst Government cuts to Southwark Council’s budget mean £70 million needs to come out of the local authority’s activities, the very steep increase in rent is very unfortunate for the library and could force its permanent closure.
The library provides a vital space for discussion, debate, learning and sharing ideas at a time gender equality has not been realised and feminism needs its voice. The Government has rolled back rights in a range of areas and its pernicious agenda has hit women far harder than men in a whole range of areas, including welfare and tax credit changes. It would be a huge shame for the local resource to close at such a crucial time.
I am in the process of investigating how best to secure a future for the library. I have already asked the council about the rent increase and also to examine the possibility of relocating the services and resource to a local, bigger library. Southwark Council are actively investigating the feasibility of this proposal – which I hope will bear fruit given pressures on other libraries. Whilst I am pleased that Southwark Council has not closed a single library since 2010 despite significant budget cuts (worth about a third of its 2010 total), other libraries have had reduced hours and are also under great pressure. It would be a huge shame to lose such a valuable resource.