Fugitive Libraries

As an intersectional feminist museum, Glasgow Women’s Library works to highlight and redress structural inequalities, ensure that lived experiences are reflected in our collections, and enact change. We unequivocally stand in solidarity against racism, oppression and inequality. Over the coming days we will be reflecting, interrogating and further educating ourselves whilst sharing content which amplifies Black women’s voices.

Reading Fugitive Libraries as a team

A few months before the COVID-19 crisis hit, our colleague from the National Library of Scotland, Andrew McDougall, shared a brilliantly thought-provoking article, Fugitive Libraries by Shannon Mattern.  Andrew had kindly hosted our friends from Book Bunk when they were visiting Scotland, and was so pleased to see their change-making work featured in the article.

Fugitive Libraries explores how (mainly USA-based) public libraries, whilst defining themselves as a democratic commons, continue to exclude Black voices and perspectives. As well as looking at the history of African-Americans’ fight for access to libraries in the USA, the article shows how communities in the USA, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa have created their own independent, itinerant libraries, and spotlights some of these ground-breaking organisations in the 21st century.

After reading it, I literally couldn’t stop thinking about it. It challenged me to think more deeply and critically about my profession as a Librarian, and the work that we do as an intersectional, feminist organisation. Ultimately, I took great inspiration from the work of these incredible libraries.

As we prepared to close our doors in March, we started thinking of ways for us to stay connected as a team during lockdown. Inspired by Book Bunk’s shared reading, when the whole team reads the same thing and comes together to discuss it, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something similar.  And what better piece of writing to start with than Fugitive Libraries.

A few weeks ago, we held our first discussion via Zoom, sharing all the ideas, feelings and reflections sparked by the article.  We could have talked all day, there was so much food for thought.

On Thursday 4th June, from 2pm we’ll be talking about Fugitive Libraries on @womenslibrary Twitter account. Please join us.

To find out more about the libraries discussed in the article, just click below:

The Free Black Women’s Library

The Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind

Kameelah Janan Rasheed

Chimurenga Library

Reading Zimababwe

Book Bunk


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