What is Glasgow Women’s Library? That’s what 20 librarians hoped to find out when CILIPS organised a visit and tour of this resource one evening earlier this week. We met guide and fellow librarian, Wendy Kirk, who introduced us to the collection housed at the Mitchell Library in Charing Cross.
The Glasgow Women’s Library is the only resource of its kind in Scotland and is part of the Women’s Information Network of Europe. Its origins lie in a City of Culture initiative and this year it will celebrate its 20th anniversary having been located in Garnethill and Trongate during its long existence. As well as a lending stock Glasgow Women’s Library also has museum status and is home to a collection of memorabilia and archives celebrating women’s history and lives. Everything contained in the collection has been donated – the Library is independent of the public library network and receives no funding for core costs so has to fundraise to develop. Balance is achieved via a sensible acquisitions and disposal policy.
Yet Glasgow Women’s Library is so much more than a collection of books and journals. Around 80 volunteers assist the permanent team of 13 staff in delivering services to a diverse group of users drawn from the length and breadth of the country. Learning is at the heart of what the Library offers. It runs specialised learning programmes and activities including adult literacy and numeracy, guided heritage walks and even film screenings. The website is where you can get access to the library catalogue as well as a rich resource of other information about the library, its collection, projects and special events. The highlight of the visit for me (apart from the tea and chocolate biscuits of course) was the collection of ‘Spare Rib’ journals – an essential read when I was younger. The topics it addressed transported me to my youth.
We were also shown an incredible archive of old knitting patterns and feminist comics and introduced to the learning space where classes take place. All of us had the opportunity to join the Library and some of us left with books borrowed from the collection, after thanking Wendy for a really interesting and enjoyable visit.