Vancouver is no stranger to feminist-minded book rooms—see the now defunct Vancouver Women’s Bookstore and Women In Print—but given the political climate that’s gripping the globe, it seems that the city’s newest women-led library could not have come at a better time.
Inspired by women-run bookstores and book presses present in history and around the world, the Vancouver Women’s Library is an inclusive, volunteer-run space for self-identifying women that aims to foster meaningful dialogue through literature. From creative nonfiction, memoirs, and self-published zines to sci-fi, romance, and fantasy novels, only women-authored texts are stocked at the reading room.
“We’re sort of a reaction to the historical and present erasure of women’s spaces, especially given the steep decline of women’s bookstores and libraries,” Bec Wonders, one of the library’s founders, told the Straight by phone. “We want to rekindle and revitalize that history and facilitate communication between different women, free from this infrastructure that keeps us alienated from one another.”
Ahead of its official launch at 1670 Franklin Street this Friday (February 3), the Vancouver Women’s Library has accumulated a catalogue of over 400 books and magazines. Among these are stories centred on feminist theory, female protagonists, and a diverse scope of women experiences by writers such as bell hooks, Margaret Atwood, and local activist Harsha Walia.
The majority of these texts were sourced from the personal collections of Wonders and fellow cofounders em laurent and Andrea Wheeler, as well as local bookstore Pulp Fiction, where the group employed a grant from the Women’s Centre at UBC.
Wonders, laurent, and Wheeler are hoping to expand the catalogue in the coming weeks with donations and suggestions from the public. A wish-list function will also be set up on the Vancouver Women’s Library website so that community members can share what names they’d like to see added to the shelves.
Wonders notes that the organizers are particularly interested in tracking down vintage issues of feminist magazines, such as Ms. and Makara, the latter of which was produced in Vancouver during the 1970s.
The group is also working to build a list of books by trans women and sex worker authors, a category that Wonders acknowledges is, at the moment, missing. “We welcome all women into the space,” she said. “We want to offer writing from all perspectives.”
Following the shortcomings of the recent Vancouver women's march, Morgane Oger, chair of B.C.’s Trans Alliance Society, hopes that the library will prove to be representative of all female voices. “There are all kinds of women out there,” she relayed by phone, “and all of us need to be part of explaining and describing what needs to be included in things about women.”
Vancouverites who are interested in donating to the Vancouver Women’s Library may drop off their tomes at Bestie (105 East Pender Street) until this Friday (February 3). Books may also be dropped off during the library’s launch party and throughout the year during its opening hours.
Those who would like to donate but are unable to make it to the site due to ability-related issues may make arrangements by email for the titles to be picked up.
At this weekend’s opening event, guests will be able to browse the Vancouver Women’s Library’s entire catalogue in-person. Admission is by donation, though Wonders states that no one will be turned away due to a lack of funds.
Membership to the library, meanwhile, is free. Visitors are welcome to contribute donations if they’d like.
In addition to showcasing a myriad of women-written texts, Wonders hopes to eventually host speaker talks, workshops, writing circles, and other female-centred events in the space. “We’re not just a static archive,” she said. “We really want to become a site of engagement.”
The Vancouver Women’s Library (1670 Franklin Street) hosts a launch party this Friday (February 3), from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. It opens on Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both days, thereafter.