Chatting on purple couches with The Women’s Library

The Women’s Library catalogue is now on Trove
Profile picture for user rarmstrong
The Woman's Library Logo

Trove staff member Rochelle Armstrong sat down with Denise, The Women's Library librarian. The Women's Library, is a Trove Partner based in  Sydney. Rochelle and Denise chatted about the Library and how they used Trove.  


Tell us a bit about The Women’s Library? 

The Women’s Library has been in Brown St, in the heart of Newtown since 1998. If you’re looking for us, we’re right behind the Newtown Branch library. The idea for The Women’s Library was conceived in 1991 by a group of dedicated women who recognised the need for a library with material for women and about women, with a focus on lesbian and feminist literature. All of the books, journals and other materials in the collection have been donated over the years. Members of the library can borrow books and DVDs, access our wifi, and generally hang out in the space – they can even have a cup of tea and a biscuit. The Women’s Library operates as a community space, hosting a variety of women’s community groups. Book clubs, choirs, art therapy classes, and many other social and support groups have all made use of the space, and once we even had a wedding. Over the years the library has held special events, such as the Herland art exhibition, book launches and live performance. The library is completely volunteer run, including a dedicated committee who work hard to keep it all going. Thanks to the support of City of Sydney Council and our wonderful volunteers, The Women’s Library continues to be an accessible and valuable community space.  

Two exhibits Herland art exhibition at The Women’s Library, 2019
Two exhibits Herland art exhibition at The Women’s Library, 2019. Pictured: Te Mamaeroa by Gina Ropiha and Solitude in the Café, by Amani Haydar


Why did you choose to use Trove to allow people to browse your collection online? 

The Women’s Library Catalogue is on an in-house database, so our collection wasn’t available to view online. In 2019 the Committee decided to begin a subscription with Trove, so our collection would be available to view by the wider community, which in turn would let people know about the library and find where we are. The Women’s Library collection is organised by subject area and doesn’t use Dewey or regular subject headings, so attaching a book to a Trove record also allows for standard and detailed subject searching. So, as well as sharing the collection with members of the public, and adding to search options, Trove would also promote awareness of The Women’s Library. 

The Feminist Theory section
The Feminist Theory section is a core part of the library's collection, and can be found on Trove

Tell us a bit about the project to do this? 

As fate would have it, by the time the library was signed up and ready to go with Trove, COVID-19 happened. The Women’s Library, like many other organisations, closed their doors to the general public. After the first lockdown, the library remained closed our volunteers could work behind the scenes on the mammoth task of adding the collection to the Trove database. Our volunteer coordinators prepared a basic user manual and instructions, and over the next year the library volunteers managed to add the entire non-fiction holdings. The present count according to Trove is over 7000. That’s a pretty amazing effort. The Trove project proved to be a great way to keep volunteers onboard and engaged with the library during the months that the library remained closed. It was also a good way for volunteers to get to know the collection better, and provided plenty of browsing and reading opportunities. Along the way we have discovered some rare books, and books held in only one or two other libraries. Now, any newly donated books that come in are added to Trove as part of the accessioning process. 

Do you have any stories of people who use your Library using Trove either with your collection or outside it?

Sometimes new visitors to The Women’s Library tell us they have browsed our collection on Trove beforehand. This wouldn’t have been possible before! Our website has a 'Browse the Collection' page, where our administrator has added links to Trove for some of our core subject areas, such as Feminism, Biography and Health. This is a really inviting way to sample our fabulous collection and give people an idea of what The Women’s Library has on the shelves.

The Women’s Library is open Monday to Thursday 11am to 3pm, Saturday and Sunday 12 to 4pm. Please check our website, Facebook or Instagram for news and updates.