Streetreads is a Big Issue Changemaker

Emma Jardine, Streetreads Co-ordinator with Rachel Cowan, founder of Streetreads, at the opening in August 2021

Every year The Big Issue Changemakers series highlights the great and good, the innovators and agitators who look out for the less fortunate.

This year’s edition is jam-packed full of the individuals and organisations making a positive difference and we were absolutely delighted to learn that our Streetreads Library is included! Thank you so much to the team at The Big Issue for their support.

2021 was a huge year for Streetreads as we opened the library doors in August. We were thrilled that Andrew O’Hagan came long to read from Mayflies, his outstanding novel as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The next month Ian Rankin visited the library to catch up with Rachel Cowan, founder of Streetreads. The feature went out on STV.

Since then, we’ve quietly been introducing a timetable of classes to the library. Regular visitors come in to read in a quiet, warm and safe space, chatting to staff and volunteers. Writing and storytelling classes have been introduced and we are really excited by some of the work that is being produced as a result of these classes. The library is making a difference to the lives of people experiencing homelessness and we look forward to introducing new classes through 2022.

“I hadn’t really thought of Streetreads being Changemakers before, but yes we absolutely do want things to be different for our readers. We want them to be accepted as they are and see the library as theirs. It’s full of books and love – important stuff!”

Emma Jardine, Streetreads Co-ordinator
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Please buy a copy of the latest Big Issue if you can.

This is what they very kindly said about Streetreads.

One of the great hidden tragedies of Britain’s austerity era is the decimation of libraries and the free access to knowledge, culture and technology that has been eroded from the communities who need it most. Libraries are valuable to those who are unfortunate enough to be unable to afford books or access the internet on their own. They also offer a vital place of acceptance, as well as shelter for people without a home. 

Streetreads Library opened its doors in Edinburgh in August catering solely to people experiencing homelessness. The library is the culmination of five years of work for Streetreads, now a part of Streetwork at homelessness charity Simon Community Scotland. The group has been taking donated books out to individual rough sleepers, soup kitchens, night shelters and refuges since 2016. But now they are able to offer a safe, warm space alongside the books for the people who need it in the Scottish capital.