Claire Stewart, Reader Development Coordinator for Scottish Book Trust

Hello there,

My name is Claire and I’m a bookaholic. Well at least I’m admitting I have a problem.

I work as Reader Development Coordinator for Scottish Book Trust, we’re a national charity who work to spread a love of reading for all ages. Scottish Book Trust’s HQ is based on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s literature-soaked old town. I’m also part of a collective called Electric Bookshop along with Peggy Hughes and Padmini Ray Murray, together we’ve been exploring the future of books and reading in the digital age through debates, workshops, discussions, with New Media Scotland.

Edinburgh is the world’s first UNESCO designated City of Literature because of it’s rich literary tradition. Near the Scottish Book Trust offices, up a little windy stone staircase is a dwelling where Daniel Defoe stayed, round the corner is the National Library of Scotland and Edinburgh’s enormous Central Library. We’re cheek by jowl with the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Scottish Poetry Library, the Writer’s Museum, and Canongate Publishing, who this week celebrate their 40th birthday with a literary cabaret. Between my workplace and home is a street called West Port, packed to the gills with bookshops – a street so alive with literature that it hosts its own book festival.

Around my community are creative hubs of activity that have nurtured unprecedented and brilliant literary creativity. The Forest Café which birthed The Golden Hour, Inky Fingers and Forest Publications, a grass-roots creative publisher, Summerhall which hosts Neu Reekie!, and The Counting House, home to Rally and Broad. Not to mention the aforementioned West Port Book Festival, a little further down the road, The Traverse Theatre, dedicated to nurturing Scotland’s latent playwriting talent, and a wee bit further still Charlotte Square which in August hosts the world’s biggest book festival. Edinburgh International Book Festival is thriving in its 30th year and shows no signs of slowing down.

Occasionally I wonder how it is that I’ve become so involved with literature over other interests, but then I remember where I am and it isn’t so surprising.

In other words, bookaholism was inevitable.

My connection with libraries is in one very specific area of work, reader development. I work on projects that reach out to readers and a lot of my work is doing this in partnership with public libraries. Encouraging readership through a number of projects and events all year round, such as Book Week Scotland, national writing projects, podcasts and book lists, national book give-aways and supporting creative people in library residencies.

I love what libraries I work with are doing to contribute to a reading culture, their enthusiastic participation last year in the first ever Book Week Scotland was proof, if ever that were needed, of passionate teams with creativity and can-do attitudes.

In recent years libraries in Scotland have hosted events as diverse as a Teddy Bears’ Sleepover, (with the Teddies’ antics snapped and shared on twitter), an event about poetry and perfume (featuring a celebrated perfume expert and hosted in a botanic garden), literary cabarets, literary death matches and poetry slams. Authors and poets, storytellers and illustrators, historians and journalists visiting to read their work, discuss their stories and ideas, give advice to writers and inspire new readers.

I’m going to be tweeting from the Voices for the Library account about some of the brilliant things that I’m seeing happening in libraries here and around the world, and I hope to instigate some interesting conversations about what libraries are today.

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