The Scottish Poetry Library is a unique national resource and advocate for the art of poetry, and Scottish poetry in particular
The Scottish Poetry Library was dreamed into existence by the founding director Tessa Ransford in 1984. In 1999, the Scottish Poetry Library moved into custom-built premises just off the Royal Mile, an award-winning building designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects. The Library then as now offers free access to lending and reference collections, a national core but an international outlook, and the pleasures of poetry shared in schools and through an events programme.
The SPL is one of three poetry libraries in the UK, but the only one to be independently constituted and housed, with a collection that covers 45,000 items. It is the only poetry house in the world to have an extensive lending library at its core. The SPL runs our reading groups and supports public libraries with resources to promote poetry. It opened the Edwin Morgan Archive of the poet’s published works in 2009, and work with the academic community.
Once they enter the Library, people comment on its atmosphere – ‘a haven’, ‘something magical’, even ‘my favourite library in the world’ (from a New Zealand visitor). In 2011, it was where an anonymous book sculptor left and the first and last of his or her artworks; the artist left them in venues across Edinburgh, intriguing people around the world.
The building has just undergone a major renovation. It now has an events and meeting space, sealed off from the open areas of the library; increased and improved performance space; provision of a recording space; an extended, sheltered terrace for reading, conversation and outdoor performance; additional shelving and storage for books and other items; a variety of reading and study spaces; and a welcoming entrance and increased visibility of the life of the library.
It is hoped that the Library building will be a source of calm and a source of energy, that reading, writing and listening will be going on here in traditional and newly imagined ways. As Emily Dickinson wrote, ‘we dwell in possibility / a sweeter house than prose’.