London School of Economics announced as new home of the Women's Library

By Ruth Hazard | 28 September 2012
  • Archived article
Designs for the new Women's Library at the London School of Economics reveal a dedicated reading room and a connected exhibition space© Architecture PLB & Keyframe Visuals
When London Metropolitan University announced that it only had a few months to find a new home for the Women’s Library to avoid drastically reduce opening times and facilities, it sparked a fierce campaign to prevent these potential cuts.

It will therefore come as welcome news to the 12,000 who signed the Save the Women’s Library petition, and the many more who spoke out on social media and blog posts, that the London School of Economics has been awarded custody of the historic collection.

The Women’s Library was founded in 1926 as the Library of the London Society for Women’s Service, a non-militant organisation led by leading suffragist Millicent Fawcett.

It includes more than 60,000 books and pamphlets and 3,500 periodicals, as well as press cuttings, personal and organisational archives and other objects such as posters, photographs, badges and banners.

One of the many important items in the library collection is Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. There are first editions of works by Virginia Woolf and the Brontës, signed biographies of Margaret Thatcher and copies of Bridget Jones.

The School plans to add a selection of new items to the relocated Women’s Library, such as Sylvia Pankhurst’s The Home Front, which features a handwritten inscription from the author to Bertrand Russell.

The new site will also have its own dedicated reading room connected to an exhibition space, and pieces not on display will be kept in a refurbished secure store for use on request.

Other plans for the new library include a project to digitise the collection, making the vast array of archives accessible through the University’s online portal.

“It is of vital importance that strong historical collections are maintained and I am proud that LSE has been able to step in to keep the Women’s Library open,” says Craig Calhoun, a Professor at the School.

“There are numerous synergies between the Women's Library collection and the LSE's existing holdings. Combined, they will undoubtedly make one of the best international collections for the support of research on women's lives and gender issues.”

The LSE will now work closely with London Met and Women’s Library staff to begin relocating the collection. It aims to open the library during 2013.

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The new library is expected to open next year© Architecture PLB & Keyframe Visuals

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