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First look inside Scottish Poetry Library after £380k revamp

First look inside Scottish Poetry Library after £380k revamp

Number 5 Crichton's Close is a haven for all things poetry.

As you veer off the busy Royal Mile and down a quintessentially Old Town street, bright lights emit from its windows onto the cobbles below.

Get a little closer to the Scottish Poetry Library's new glass façade and you will be greeted by row upon row of books - around 45,000 to be exact.

  (© STV)
via STV via STV

The library opens on Thursday, October 29, following a £380,000 renovation and expansion to house the world’s largest collection of Scottish poetry.

'A space for sound'

This motto is not the first thing you would associate with a library but as Colin Waters from the Scottish Poetry Library explains, the new design was made with the future at the forefront of their minds.

“The name we gave to the renovation was ‘space for sound’ because we wanted to have space for books and to add to our book collection but we also wanted to have space so that people could listen to poetry and also make noise as well," Colin said.

“In libraries now, you can't just have books. It is about computers and technology.

"It is also about performance and being able to listen to poetry as well as being able to read it.

“The philosophy for the redesign is to look forward to the next 15 or 20 years so that whoever is working in a library 20 years from now looking at the demands of their time, the space in here will be flexible enough.

“Who knows, in 20 years, there may well be a holodeck where a holographic Rabbie Burns could read you poems."

via STV via STV

Closed since May this year, a soundproofed room, a recording space to encourage spoken poetry and ‘sound lounge’ for listening to recorded poetry or a collection of vinyl records have all been introduced.

There will also be a new balcony for people to grab a book and relax outside, and various spaces with comfy chairs dotted around the library to encourage people to spend time relaxing in the library.

  (© STV)
via STV via STV
  (© STV)
via STV via STV

Marking the reopening with some poetry by National Poet of Scotland Liz Lochhead today, Colin says the bold move is in keeping with the rising popularity in Scotland’s spoken word scene.

“Right now, in the central belt in Scotland, spoken word poetry and performance is really popular," he said.

“You saw that during the referendum, you couldn't have a meeting within a poet there to do some poetry as well.

“Scottish poetry right now is in a real golden generation. People like John Burnside, Kathleen Jamie - they have won every poetry prize going and there is a really young generation of poets coming up as well.

via STV via STV

“So this refurb feels to me in-tune with the spirit of what's going on with poetry now.

“It is a very confident expansive time and we wanted to reflect that and help people take it to the next stage.”

The Scottish Poetry Library, a charity, was inspired by the late founding director poet Tessa Ransford who helped open the first Scottish Poetry Library in 1984 with around 300 books – mostly donated – and a part-time staff of two.

In 1999, the Scottish Poetry Library moved into custom-built premises in Crichton’s Close, a building designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects which was awarded for its design.

Within the newly refurbished library, in a quiet corner, there is condolence book for Tessa, who passed away last month, a tribute Colin says people are being encouraged to share their words in.

  (© STV)
via STV via STV

There is also a nod to Scotland's poetry history with the anonymous book sculptures proudly on display as well as a writing table by the late Scottish poet William Sydney Graham Even.

  (© STV)
via STV via STV

The new frontage, which was designed to put books into the eyeline of passers-by, is also lined with the same blue tiles and wood previously used within the building.

via STV via STV

"Visit Scotland used to call us a hidden gem. We don't want to be a hidden gem any more; we want to be a gem gem,” Colin laughs.

“It is not an ivory tower; it is a library for the community.

“I think Scotland is very interesting culturally now whether you like Young Fathers or like reading Don Paterson's new collection. And there are great Scottish artists working. It is a great buoyant time.

“We are part of this cultural revival or renaissance right now and the fact we are expanding at a time of contraction is in line with this general sense of confidence that Scots feel."

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