IN A tiny shop unit in Garnethill, 30 years ago, Glasgow Women’s Library was born.

No-one involved in this groundbreaking project back then could have imagined that three decades later, the small, unfunded group would have become a national treasure, respected internationally and much-loved by its local community.

Glasgow Women’s Library opened its doors on September 21, 1991, the offspring of arts organisation Women in Profile which made sure women’s contributions to Glasgow’s history, life and culture were part of the city’s reign as European City of Culture in 1990.

Glasgow Times: GWL 109 Trongate

In 1993 it launched its first publication, Women & HIV/AIDS: A Bibliography, which is shortlisted for a Library Association Award. A year later, with collections and activities increasing, the library made its first of many moves, to bigger premises at 109 Trongate, and launched its first volunteer training scheme

In 1995, GWL welcomed its 500th member, and author Mary Wings facilitated a crime writing workshop at the Trongate hub - among the participants was soon-to-be-famous Scottish crime writer Denise Mina….

Glasgow Times: Adele, Sue and Kate at 109 Trongate

That same year, the National Lesbian Archive relocated to GWL from London.

In 1996, GWL starts to produce a quarterly newsletter with the announcement ‘from these humble beginnings we have high hopes that the newsletter could become a really exciting networking tool and a good read….’

Membership was now at 700. In 1997, Glasgow City Council honoured the work of the library with a Civic Reception held at the City Chambers.

In 1998, GWL went digital and joined the world wide web, welcoming its 1000th member.

A year later, at a time when hardly any research was being conducted into the histories and contemporary experiences of homophobia, GWL published the major report ‘Poverty and social exclusion of lesbians and gay men in Glasgow’. The museum continues to deliver hugely significant research – in 2018, for example, its report ‘Equality in Progress’ focused on the health of equality diversity and inclusion in museums in Scotland.

In 2001, GWL’s innovative Lifelong Learning Project received funding for the first time, enabling the organisation to provide a resourced, expanded range of learning opportunities, courses, events and activities for women and two years later, GWL launched its Adult Literacy and Numeracy Project.

By 2004, GWL had outgrown its premises at 109 Trongate, and so rented an additional floor in the building. That same year, it became the first Linked Library of the Scottish Parliament and appointed its first full-time Scottish Arts Council funded Writer in Residence, Raman Mundair.

In 2006, Women Make History launched, a major Lifelong Learning project which has since developed six women’s history walks across Glasgow that have been enjoyed by thousands of locals and visitors. In the same year, GWL moved to Parnie Street. (It would not be the last move – in 2010, the library moved to the former Anderston Library space on Berkeley Street and after years of planning and fundraising, moved to its beautiful, permanent home on Landressy Street in Bridgeton in October 2018.)

In 2008, GWL launched Women on the Shelf, which gave individuals and organisations the chance to sponsor a Library section, shelf or book and dedicate it to a woman of their choice.

Merch arrived in September 2011 to coincide with GWL’s 20th anniversary. The online shop sells assorted merchandise, books and exclusive artworks.

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Today, GWL is a multi award-winning national organisation, the only Accredited Museum dedicated to women’s history in the whole of the UK and a designated ‘Recognised Collection of National Significance.

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