Spaces for Literacy debated the future of the library. With rapid global urbanisation, digital technology revolutionising access to information and demands on public funding, what spaces will literacy occupy in the 21st century city? We looked at the role libraries play, not only in raising literacy but also in providing invaluable public spaces in cities. Presented in partnership with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Spaces for Literacy drew on major strategy reviews both in Scotland and England; bringing together architects, librarians, thinkers and advocates; and offered perspectives from here and abroad.
The Literacy Revolution
Thursday 20th August, 15.45 – 16.45
According to UNESCO, every region of the world during the last 20 years has seen gains in literacy rates, but the situation remains highly uneven. To what extent can this improvement be attributed to the urbanisation of populations across the world and the role of libraries in the culture of cities? The panel included: Sergio Fajardo, one of the best-known political figures in Colombia who as mayor of Medellin oversaw a highly successful campaign to improve literacy in the city by placing libraries in downtrodden and overlooked barrios; and Amina Shah, CEO of the Scottish Library and Information Council.
Chair: Jenny Niven
Museums and Libraries
Friday 21st August, 10.30 – 11.30
Museums and galleries dominate as destinations, attracting record numbers of visitors to blockbuster shows. Meanwhile libraries are facing a funding crisis and are increasingly asked to justify their existence. What can libraries learn from museums, and what do they offer that museums cannot? A panel including Tony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, Richard Sennett, professor of sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science and author of books on culture and cities, and Clementine Deliss, Independent Curator, debated the complementary and contrasting roles of the cultural institutions at the heart of our public life.
Chair: Ken Worpole
Libraries in the Digital Age
Friday 21st August, 15.45 – 16.45
With the world’s knowledge accessible from anywhere via a computer screen, why should we continue to value physical spaces for literacy? In this discussion we heard from key thinkers on libraries. Robyn Marsack is director of the Scottish Poetry Library, both the world’s only purpose-built library for poetry and an online repository of the best Scottish poems. Claire Warwick is Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Research at Durham University and is concerned with the way we encounter reading and cultural heritage in both physical and digital spaces. Meanwhile Dutch architect Francine Houben, creative director of Mecanoo, believes that ‘libraries are the most important public buildings’ and has recently completed Birmingham Central – the largest public library in Europe and a new architectural icon for the city.
Chair: Marc Lambert