Glasgow-based artist and founder of The Nature Library discusses the inspiration behind the project and her hopes for its future
Glasgow is already home to many wonderful libraries, but there is, for a few weeks at least, a new reading room in town. The Nature Library, which is on display at Civic House until Wed 30 Oct and The Project Café on Renfrew Street from Sat 16–Sat 30 Nov, is a small, carefully curated 'collection of books celebrating the power of words to connect people with nature'. First opened at Civic House in October, the shelves are lined with classic and contemporary works, fiction and non-fiction, memoir, poetry and children's books. Titles include Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Kathleen Jamie's Sightlines, John Muir's Mountaineering Essays, Nature Sounds Without Nature Sounds by Maria Sledmere and Tove Jansson's A Winter Book. Visitors cannot take books home, but are welcome to sit and read for as long as they like.
Glasgow-based artist Christina Riley is the founder of The Nature Library. She was inspired to set it up by the John Muir Trust's recent Wild Words campaign, a month-long celebration of nature writing.
'I'm actually not sure how my interest in nature writing came about, but many summers ago I remember picking up a beautiful Henry Bugbee Kane illustrated edition of Cape Cod by Henry David Thoreau in a used bookstore in Hanover, New Hampshire,' says Riley. 'I read it under the trees next to the river that runs along the border into Vermont. Since then I've been drawn to books about nature. It started with just being charmed by different people's observations of the land and sea, but in the past year or so there's definitely been a shift with a focus towards learning, an attempt to understand what's happening.
'The aim of The Nature Library is simply to bring people together to read about nature, and beyond that, what people will get from it will be different for each individual. I think that the ripple effect from reading about the world and taking time to look at it a little bit more closely can bring a wide range of benefits, both for us and for nature.
'It feels like right now there's a real urgency around the climate crisis. The seemingly simple act of taking the time to read some of these books, whether that book is directly about the climate crisis or explores the planet's inhabitants, is a form of activism.'
The response to the library so far has been 'amazing' according to Riley. 'It's so nice meeting new people with a love for nature writing and sharing recommendations, and some have even brought in donations of books which I'm so grateful for. There's been a mix of people coming in for a quick lunch break browse and some who have sat reading for hours.'
Beyond The Project Café, no more venues have been confirmed for The Nature Library, but Riley hopes to continue to share the books and grow the collection. Plans for events and talks are also in the pipeline, including an ecopoetics workshop with Maria Sledmere.
'I've been told that people would like to see it up in Orkney, and I'd take it there in a heartbeat! It's so early that I honestly have no idea where the library will go, but I'd love to hear from anyone who'd be interested in hosting it.'