Following my visit to The Women’s Art Library, this strand of the research project was somewhat overshadowed by attending meetups and workshops. It was surprisingly challenging to organise library visits to fit around these other occasions that brought me down to London.
On my first visit to the Feminist Library, I found only closed doors (I naively thought that someone might be around outside of the restricted opening hours). A different time, I had factored in a visit to The Women’s Library at the London School of Economics, buy left disappointed; in order to gain access to their collections, I had to submit an online application, which takes them five days to process. Slightly unprepared perhaps, I wasn’t always able to coordinate these visits as smoothly as I wanted to.
In June, I had finally cut some time out to revisit The Feminist Library (this time within opening hours!), where I had hoped to find books relating to women working in non-traditional occupations.
The Feminist Library is home to a large collection of Women’s Liberation Movement literature and has been a hotbed of feminist research, activist and community projects since 1975. In 2015 The library celebrated 40 years of archiving and activism. They are totally volunteer run and today they represent one of the most important collections of feminist material in all of the UK.
I arrived at the library’s Westminster Bridge Road residence not quite sure if I would find what I was looking for. After walking up to the second floor of the Multipurpose Resource Centre, I finally stepped into the library; a repurposed office space filled full of books and boxes with more books inside, zines lining shelves from floor to ceiling.
I was welcomed by one of the friendly volunteers who gave me a quick tour of the premises and asked whether I had any specific interests. To my relief, the library had a whole section of books about women and work, with some books specifically about female manual labour and women in non-traditional trades. Most of the literature I found there was printed in the 80s, as illustrated by probably the most relevant find; Hard-hatted women: stories of struggle and success in the trades (1988), edited by Molly Martin.
The librarian – I regret not remembering her name so much! – had also introduced me to a couple of local initiatives who work along similar interests, including the Power Project based at the Livesey Exchange and HI-VIS, a feminist design and architecture collective. Both of these organisations deserve separate blog posts in the future.
Nevertheless, I left the library feeling frustrated. This time, not because I couldn’t find anything, but because I hadn’t given myself enough time to explore. I realised that developing this strand of my project, just like building up a network would take much longer than I had anticipated.
Note: THE FEMINIST LIBRARY IS MOVING! They urgently need to raise the funds necessary for the move and to function beyond spring 2019. Find out more at their crowdfunder page.