Tag Archives: #ELTU1

#ELTU1: Scottish Poetry Library

14 Jun

GLTU has a wee sister! Lynn Corrigan (@lynncorrigan) organised #ELTU1, the inaugural Edinburgh event, on 13th June and, following time-honoured Glasgow tradition, we visited an interesting library and then went to the bar.

The Scottish Poetry Library is just off Canongate on the Royal Mile. Although it’s in such a historic area, it’s actually an award-winning modern building (1999 – one of the first Heritage Lottery Fund projects.) Julie Johnstone, Librarian, gave us a tour and some background information about the library and Colin Waters, the Library‚Äôs Communications Manager, talked about the innovative use of social media by the Library.

Julie explained that the Library’s collections and services attract visitors from around the world and anyone can join for free. (However, despite core-funding by Creative Scotland, staff still need to raise money through sales, events and a Friends scheme.) The collection mainly covers Scottish poets or poetry published in Scotland from the second half of the twentieth century onwards, but is not wholly restricted to that. As well as books (including children’s material) there are journals, pamphlets, cuttings, CDs and archive collections (Edwin Morgan; Ian Hamilton Finlay). A lot of enquiries come from people looking for poems on particular subjects so the collection is extensively subject-indexed. (A good question was asked: Is your metadata poetic? Answer: Some of the thesaurus chains can be!

Colin, an ex-journalist, talked about the library’s social media presence which he sees as an important way of fulfilling their mission to bring people and poetry together. He thinks of SPL as a hub for to promote poetry throughout Scotland, not just as a collection for people to visit, and because poetry is a very mobile form – it fits on postcards, posters etc – it is thus ideally suited to social media. SPL tweets as @byleaveswelive, a phrase from Patrick Geddes which is reflected throughout the library, even on the paving stones outside. As a group of teeters, naturally we were most interested in Twitter which Colin thinks is the best social medium – 140 characters forces creativity. It is used for promotion, but not as mini-press releases, he tries to inject humour and personality to give the feed a specific voice. The feed has 14000 followers – not all going to be passionate poetry lovers, but reading snippets on Twitter is better than nothing!

Other media used are blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr, SoundCloud and Podomatic. Poets are usually keen to do podcasts of their own work – each one gets about 300 hits so it is good promotion for them. Colin and Julie were then asked if they had considered a poetry app, which they had – a poemgram where the user could select a poem and send it to someone as a card, either digitally or by mail. This would require specific funding which they haven’t been able to secure – and obviously a lot of hard work!

The mysterious book sculptures were greatly admired – this was my third encounter in as many weeks because I’ve recently visited the Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick and Glasgow School of Art, both of which have a sculpture from the Book Week Scotland series. And as I type this, I am reading on Twitter that a new one has just been delivered to Leith Library! Where will they turn up next?

Finally, we went round the corner to Hemma where food and drink was taken – and Lynn introduced us to the joys of Idun’s Genuine Swedish Elderflower cider. Scrummy!


PS For more accounts of the visit, see Lynn Corrigan’s blog and Claire Donlan’s blog, and for more on the newest sculpture, see Leith Library’s blog.

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