Our vision, mission and values
Bringing people and poems together is at the heart of everything we do – our mission. With this in mind, we’ll strive for our visitors, borrowers and service users to experience the SPL as a welcoming and compassionate organisation, aiming to transform people’s lives through exciting experiences and creative engagement with poetry – the ‘spark o’ Nature’s fire’ as Robert Burns wrote.
As a membership organisation, we encourage younger people and students to join and connect with us and with poetry for the rest of their lives. We also seek to reach out to communities that are traditionally underrepresented in our audiences, often the result of real and perceived barriers connected to limitations of low income, physical ability, low literacy and sense of belonging.
John Burnside wrote that ‘the more imaginative we are, the more compassionate we become’. By supporting the poetry community, creative learning programmes in schools and community settings, and offering increased access to poetry in live literature events and high-quality online resources, we support imagination. And in supporting imagination, we aim to demonstrate the compassion in poetry and affirm that, as writer and former SPL Board member Jenni Fagan puts it, ‘Poetry belongs in every community’.
Read our 2018-21 Business Plan here.
The Scottish Poetry Library was dreamed into existence by the founding director Tessa Ransford. A poet herself, Tessa was aware that few public libraries could afford to cover more than the obvious giants of 20th century poetry, and that publishers had little financial incentive to publish or promote it. A poetry library could be the missing centre; it could be both a resource of written works and a channel for the enthusiasm to read and write poetry; a place to house the written and encourage the spoken form. Gathering hard-working enthusiasts around her, she managed to get funding for that modest start: some rooms off the Royal Mile in the Old Town of Edinburgh, 300 books – mostly donated – and a part-time staff of two.
In 1999, the Scottish Poetry Library moved into custom-built premises further down the Mile, an award-winning building designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects and chiefly funded by a Capital Lottery grant. The stock had grown to about 30,000 items, and there were six members of staff. The elements remained constant: 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.
You can read more about the first 25 years of the SPL in our anniversary history.
A Large Print version is also available. To listen to the audio version of this brochure, please click this link to find all 17 short audio files on SoundCloud.
If you know somebody who would prefer a braille version, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0131 557 2876.
The SPL is one of 121 Regularly Funded Organisations whose core investment comes from Creative Scotland from 2018 to 2021..This status recognises the unique and dynamic contribution the SPL makes to Scotland’s rich cultural and creative life. The SPL also receives an annual grant from the City of Edinburgh Council, a recognition of its important contribution to Edinburgh’s status as the first UNESCO City of Literature.
We have had significant support from various trusts and funding bodies for specific projects, for example: from the National Lottery through the Scottish Arts Council, and notably from the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, for the Crichton’s Close building; from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for education development; from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for audience development and our partnerships with libraries in particular; for the Heritage Lottery and the Binks Trust for the acquisition and development of the Edwin Morgan Archive; from Creative New Zealand and from the GB Sasakawa Foundation for development of particular areas of our collection.
We work in partnership with organisations that have also contributed to strands of our work, for example: Glasgow Life, WHALE Arts in Edinburgh, Literature Across Frontiers, Oxfam, Shetland Arts Trust. These and others are acknowledged in our Annual Report.