July 15th- Edinburgh Central Library

Day two of Edinburgh, Scotland! Our class began this day at the National Library of Scotland. At this location we did not have a tour or talk with any librarians or archivist; instead, we walked through the gift shop and exhibition gallery. This summer the library has put on an exhibit about Scottish food through the centuries. The exhibit was very interactive and showed the diversity in Scottish food not otherwise thought of by common stereotypes.

After the National Library, we walked across the street to the public library of Edinburgh Central Library. For this tour our class broke into three groups. My tour guide, Graham, works with the online and digital library and collections. He took us up the main staircase while giving us a brief history of the library. The library opened in 1890 by Andrew Carnegie. He wished to have open access libraries for the whole of the public. Even though the library was available to the public, men and women had different entrances. The women even had a room with a fireplace for their more “delicate sex.” With the building of the library, Edinburgh became the last large Scottish city to gain a public library.

Entrance to the Edinburgh Central Library.

Entrance to the Edinburgh Central Library.

At the top of the staircase, we walked into the reference library. The room acts as a study area for the public and contains open access computers. Under the domed ceiling of the reference library there only housed one third of the reference collection. After viewing the reference room, we moved to the children’s library. The children’s library used to be in a separate building but in recent years moved into the main building. They took over the part of the building that used to be a computer lab and resource center with technology for those with sight or hearing disabilities. This resource has now been moved outside into the community by giving iPods and resources to smaller libraries around the city. The program has become very successful. As for the children’s library, there are shelved book rooms, a storytelling room and a craft room.

Domed ceiling in reference room.

Domed ceiling in reference room.

Hidden staircase in the reference room.

Hidden staircase in the reference room.

Children's Library.

Children’s Library.

The library also consists of a lending library through the main entrance on the third floor. The library lends about 20,000 items a month through circulation and uses the Library of Congress cataloging system. The library still contains catalog cards because not everything has been placed online.

After the walking tour, we moved to a conference room for a presentation with coffee, tea and cookies. The first presentation was lead by the head of acquisitions. She gave information specifically on the central library. They have over one million items in the library and everything in the library is open to the public. When the library first opened about 10,000 pamphlets were donated to their collection. Some pamphlets go back to the 15th century including information on the Jacobites and golf. The special collections at the library are unique because they are meant for the public not just for preserving the past, but for future use.

The next presentation was from the library system’s Business Development Manager. Her role is distinctive because she does not have a library degree but a business background, therefore, she operates in a more cooperate mindset. In her presentation, she explained some programs that have been developed for the whole library system that are successful and unique. The first being the library’s program for dyslexia. They have partnered with the organization Dyslexia Scotland to form book clubs for ages 8-12. Volunteers trained in reading with dyslexia run the groups. The club’s are successful enough for the library to start forming teenage and adult groups. Another program is Edinburgh Reads and Reading Rainbows for kids ages four. In rainbows, kids are given two books each year then the libraries centered on the books put on events. The library gives about 1200 kids books each year.

The last presentation given centered on the digital and information team for the whole library system. The team has created many digital and online resources and programs for the library. They have developed a library portal for patrons to access all online services. Additionally, the library involves itself in social media to advertise events and sources and to interact with the public. Moreover, the team has set up eBooks, audiobooks and online magazines. The presenter also have us the main goals of the digital team to better themselves for the public. They strive for 24/7 accesses to library services, promoting libraries through multiple channels and to increase use of Edinburgh libraries.

Overall, the trip to Edinburgh Central Library was enriching, fascinating and welcoming. No doubt the public that uses the library also feels this.


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