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Q&A with The Feminist Library

Q&A with The Feminist Library

By Gabrielle Johnson |

We spoke to Magdalena Oldziejewska, Fundraising Coordinator at the Feminist Library, about the history and significance of the library, and their upcoming move to Peckham.The Feminist Library is a large archive collection of feminist literature, particularly Women’s Liberation Movement materials dating from the late 1960s to the 1990s. It supports research, activist and community projects in this field. The Library is also an autonomous feminist community space. The Library is trans-inclusive, welcomes visitors of any gender, does not require registration or membership, and provides an intersectional, non-sectarian space for the exploration of feminism.

Tell us a little about the Feminist Library and your recent crowdfunding campaign

The Feminist Library has been around since 1975. Over the past forty-four years, it has collected tens of thousands of items in its collection – books, periodicals, archives, ephemera and art work. Although it has had four different spaces, it has never had both a stable and suitable home. That’s what makes the current campaign for the new home in Peckham very exciting – we have already identified a new home for the Library, which is fifty percent bigger and has a long-term lease. Now we just need to raise enough money for the move. 

When you receive donations and recommendations, how do you determine what constitutes feminist literature, especially considering the speed with which feminist terms and concepts are developing?

The Library aims to be an inclusive feminist space, and that applies to the literature as well as the community. Our collections policy is anti-sectarian, in that it tries to embrace all feminisms. Ultimately, we believe that all women’s history is important, even though some strands of theory and practice might be more or less applicable at different times.

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What role does community play in the Feminist Library?

The library plays a very important role in providing not just access to feminist resources, but also a space for feminists, activists and local community members to meet, talk and organise. We work closely with many community, activist and creative organisations, providing space for talks, book launches, workshops, life drawing classes, drumming, yoga, and more. 

You’re currently campaigning to fund the library’s move to Peckham. Could you tell us more about why it is so important to preserve the library?

The library aims to preserve women’s/feminist history, which in our wider society is still too often in a precarious situation. There are only a handful of resources with a similar mission to that of the Feminist Library in the UK, and only three which are autonomous like the Feminist Library (with only one in London). The Feminist Library’s mission is to save and preserve women’s history for future generations of feminists. We have already saved upwards of thirty archives from individual feminists and organisations, and the number is constantly growing as we receive frequent queries about donations. 

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The library has always been run entirely by volunteers. What do you think this tells us about the continued need for women’s spaces and collectives?

The Feminist Library has not only been volunteer-run, but also managed on a very small budget over most of its forty-four years. This is also in the context of wider pressures on the community and community spaces, especially in places like London, where land and property are at a premium. Women’s and feminist organisations specifically, have experienced immense financial pressures, with cuts to legal aid and with third sector funding being adversely affected by the politics of austerity. The Feminist Library has been lucky to survive these difficult times and to have successfully funded it’s new long-term home (although we are still raising funds to help with the new exhibition space). But the wider context in which this happens is not as bright, as many organisations have had to close. We stand in solidarity with those who have lost spaces, and try to provide an accessible and affordable space for meetings for feminist and community groups, regardless of their income. 

On the 14th of March the Feminist Library are having their annual general meeting and
forty-fourth birthday party. The celebration will take place at the current Feminist Library home, and will be the last event to take place at the library’s home of thirty-three years. If you would like to attend please email [email protected] to reserve a place.

To find out more about the Feminist Library, visit their website, Facebook, Twitter or  crowdfunding campaign.

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