Technically, the first library we visited in Edinburgh was the National Library, where several of us received readers cards (including me!). After a little bit there, we headed across the street to the Central Library.
|The main lending library|
This library was founded in 1890. The Scottish Collection room, the first room my group visited, is one of the original rooms, though the mezzanine was added in the 1960’s and was completely refurbished in 2014. You can borrow books from this room, but it’s mostly reference. The mezzanine has the music library, a small young adult section (other branches have larger ones – there simply isn’t a large demand for them at this branch), and an acoustic box for meetings. The main floor, which houses the main lending library, still has the original shelving! I noticed a fairly sizeable section of books in different languages – the ones I could spot from where I was standing were in Arabic, Chinese, and Urdu.
|Part of the children's library|
The building that the children’s library is in was bought in the 1930s. There are three main sections, as well as a crafts room: an area for babies to four year olds, meant to increase connection between parents and children, an area for under-fives, and an area for five year olds and older. A local book illustrator donated the murals on the wall. When we visited, the summer reading challenge was about to start, and this year it has a Roald Dahl them.
On our way to the reference library, we were shown something I honestly didn’t expect to see: a memorial to nurses who died during World War I. It’s the only memorial to the women of WWI in Scotland.
|The reference library - this portion was the ladies library|
The reference library is perhaps the most “traditional” of all of the rooms. Only a third of the collection is actually out on the shelves, which are split between the main floor and a gallery that only the staff are allowed to access (by hidden staircases!!!). Originally there was a ladies library located in the room, located right around a fireplace.
After our tour of the library, we were given talks about programs that the library runs. One is Youth Talk, which aims to engage local kids and teens in the library and their community, as well as creating better places for them to hang out outside of school. Another was Digital Toybox, which is funded by the Carnegie Trust. The focus is to engage kids in school and their libraries, as well as with new technology. They’re given a suite of equipment, including kits to build simple electronics, a small lego robotics kit, a mini synthesizer kit, and a 3D printer that utilizes an Xbox Kinect sensor as the scanner. There’s also the Scottish Minecraft program, which has kids building Scottish landmarks in the game. Finally, we were told about the library’s digital presence. The website essentially functions the same as my home libraries websites do – digital resources, as well as a history collection. Interestingly, the library was the first in the UK to have its own app!
New College Library
After a quick lunch at the famous Elephant House Café with some of my classmates, the café where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter books, we headed to the New College library. The collections primarily relate to theology (250,000 volumes), though they do have a sizeable collection (90,000) of rare books and manuscripts. There’s a small staff here, as it’s the principle library for the 500-student school of Divinity, with Edinburgh Univeristy’s libraries having a wider variety of items.
The library is spread across three floors, with a special collections and main library floor on onelevel, and three floors of stacks below the library. Stack one has the majority of the lending stock. Stack two is mostly periodicals and journals, with a small, locked area for special collections. Stack three has more of the special collections, including a first edition of Calvin, and many non-religious rare books. Each floor has a separate area for the books that have not yet been entered into the Library of Congress classification system. There’s currently a plan in place to renovate the college and the library – currently, there’s no climate control, and the shelves are actually supporting the ceiling, which means rolling stock can’t be put in, which limits the amount of materials that can be stored on-site.
Group photos credit: Dr Welsh