This weekend I’ve stumbled upon two really inspirational book initiatives.

The first was by the MacRobert Arts Centre, which is part of Stirling University.

The second was by ‘Scotland’s Design Museum,’ the V&A Dundee.

In both cases, both institutions were putting free access to books in the hands of the public. I’m spreading the word here because they both offer such beautiful reading experiences which are worth celebrating and easily adapted to your own institution.

Firstly, Stirling’s MacRobert Art Centre (the ‘MacBob’) is offering anyone a ‘Blind Date with a Book’.

Secondhand hardback books have been wrapped in brown paper and left out for the public to take home. There are three clues on the wrapping to help you decide if the contents will be your cup of tea.

*’Coorie in’ is a Scottish expression, meaning to snuggle down and get comfy.

Inspirational Book Share #01

Stirling University gets many international students from around the world and its location of being set a bit out of the town can mean a lonely student experience – particularly for long holiday periods and especially true of the last couple of years.

The books are for anyone – student or visitor and I found this gentle gesture of goodwill and sharing simply beautiful.

The MacRobert are not just giving book aways, or rehoming second-hand books, encouraging reading & trying new things – they are giving out caring with their permission to relax and ‘coorie in,’ using language to welcome all people into our culture while looking after everyone’s health and wellbeing in the gentlest of ways.

Which book do you think this one is?

Inspirational Book Share #02

The second inspirational book initiative is the reading library at Dundee’s V&A museum. It’s part of the greater Inches Carr Resource Centre, and its shelves are full of haphazardly arranged books for anyone to rummage through and settle down to read.

The V&A’s is particularly good for many reasons.

Firstly, the building has free public access so anyone can use it.

Secondly, the building itself is inspirational. I talk in length in other places about how much I love this building by Kengo Kuma & Associates.

I was an art student in Dundee for 5 years. I’d occasionally take the train across the Tay Rail Bridge. I’d even occasionally sail on the Tay River Estuary from Broughty Ferry, but I’d never felt like I could access the river in Dundee (there’s a waterfront walk but the very tidal river thrashes against the wall of it, and much below you – you can peer down on the water but you need to leave the city to find beaches).

Kenga Kuma has given the river to Dundee by placing the museum over it and creating new viewpoints all throughout the museum; framing long-distance views of its bridges and balancing café customers right over the water.

It’s Not Always About the View

“It’s not always about the view” one of the books told me.

No, but great architecture has a presence, an ambience, an attention to detail and a choreography of elements that just helps you be receptive to the art and ideas it’s there to preserve and present.

You actually feel as if you’re in a huge, still, timeless boat – and that is a peaceful mindset -and very conducive to a right good read.

I love that the shelves are messy and not in alphabetical order – or genre order.

Covers and titles call out for your attention and you’ll end up picking up something you would have never looked for. Everything looks good in a space that great.

It’s All About the Books

Lastly, the V & A’s reading collection is brilliant. I need to go back for a week! (Who am I kidding – a year!)

There really is something for everyone too.

Young visitors are catered for, design and architecture aficionados are provided for. Causal browsers are more than served by the visually enticing range of books.

Whole families can sit together and share books because it doesn’t feel like a library. No one guards the books. No one zealously guards the silence.

The huge building swallows up individual voices and provides a wonderful, muffled soundtrack of people finding the glockenspiel in the installation downstairs, blasts of music from the wall-to-wall projection of scenes of contemporary dance (Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer); excited, thrilled shouts of children and the faint noises of the cafes all make for calming waves of sound.

You may not have intended to come here to sit and read, but you most likely will and it’s wonderful!

text Perthshire Open Studios blog

MacRobert Art Centre link here

V&A Dundee here

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, you might like ot check out our blog, Are Books Still Good Resources for English Language Class? here.