Glasgow Women’s Library looks to the future with new home

The interior of Glasgow Women's Library in Bridgeton. Picture: Keith Hunter
The interior of Glasgow Women's Library in Bridgeton. Picture: Keith Hunter
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IT REMAINS the only resource of its kind in the UK and is settling in to a new refurbished home in Bridgeton.

But those responsible for running Glasgow Women’s Library are not resting on their laurels and are determined to increase its visibility as a community hub in 2016.

The former lending library in Bridgeton was converted to house Glasgow Women's Library in 2014. Picture: Keith Hunter

The former lending library in Bridgeton was converted to house Glasgow Women's Library in 2014. Picture: Keith Hunter

Established in 1991, the facility combines a lending library, archive and a museum of women’s history. While there are various academic libraries dedicated to similar issues, none are as easily accessible to the public.

It aims to be more than a repository of books concerning the women’s lives, histories and achievements and organises classes, exhibitions and workshops across Scotland.

“A lot of women’s achievements are quite hidden, said Sue John, one of the library’s senior managers. “If we look around at our civic environment, for example, we see many statues, street names and memorial buildings named after men.

“We organise five heritage walks in Glasgow alone that tell the stories of some of the prominent women from the city. We also work with local groups across the country to help them organise their own walks.

“The library hosts a range of events from adult literacy classes to talks from respected writers.”

The Women’s Library began in a small shop front close to Glasgow School of Art before finding a temporary home in the city’s Mitchell Library. Its first permanent base was officially opened in December last year.

The B-listed building dates from 1903 and was renovated by Collective Architecture. It was originally a public library, one of seven in Glasgow paid for by Andrew Carnegie.

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“We’ve genuinely never been busier,” said John. “It’s a hive of activity all of the time. Our programmes and activities are bringing in more people than ever before.”

The arrival of the Women’s Library is part of a wider project to regenerate Bridgeton, a district close to Glasgow Green in the east end which suffered from depopulation and economic decline in the 1960s and 1970s.

When the local library moved a short distance to the Olympia, a former cinema that has been transformed into a community hub, the Women’s Library moved in.

“We’re so happy to be here,” added John. “It is the perfect home for us. We were originally going to move to the Mitchell Library but we have expanded so much - we have many more staff and projects on the go.

“We love our location. I think for the east end generally it’s great to have both a museum and a recognised collection of national significance based here.

“It’s a coup for Bridgeton that people are travelling from across Europe and further afield to view our collections.

“What we also love is people rubbing shoulders who otherwise wouldn’t meet. It’s about broadening horizons.”

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