Rising rents charged by Southwark Council are threatening the community resource The Feminist Library. Unless the library is able to find a massive chunk of money to meet the non-negotiable costs of renewal, it will have no choice but to vacate its home of 30 years.
The Feminist Library is home to an archive of over 7,000 books on women’s liberation and gender equality. It makes important thinking publicly accessible and provides space for campaigns for social change to be planned, allowing women to discuss their ideas openly and to attend events and exhibitions.
As of March 1 (which, as the space points out, is ironically the start of Women’s History Month), the library will be evicted from its present premises as a result of its inability to absorb the rent raise from £12,000 to £30,000 a year. This increase, determined by Southwark Council, involved no consultation, no plans to allow the library to adjust to such heavily increased operational costs and no negotiations. The rent hike is also likely to impact other community groups housed in the same space.
This comes despite the claim made only last week by Southwark Council that they value their “thriving Voluntary and Community Sector that mobilises community action and makes best use of community resources, skills, knowledge and spaces“.
The Feminist Library is an important intergenerational, intersectional space, as women of all ages and varying backgrounds are involved. It ensures that the reforms and riots of the future are fully grounded in the rich history of feminism. It means we don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time a call for change becomes necessary, because old ideas found in books can be adapted into new and more diverse situations.
The library quotes Dr Laura Schwartz, associate professor of modern British history at the University of Warwick, who says it has been a resource for many of her students over a span of generations. The library is helpful for academic research but also for expanding readers’ understandings of gender issues and how to work toward greater freedoms and equality.
“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”, said Dr Schwartz. “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”.
You can support The Feminist Library by signing its petition, which demands that Southwark Council put more reasonable time-frames around implementing their rent hike and withdraw their eviction notice.
You can also donate to the library’s emergency fund to help it secure a new location and move its collection. Volunteers are also welcome to help with the operations of the library and help source funding.