Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Edinburgh Central Library 19 July 2010

After the morning excursion to the National Library of Scotland, we adjourned for shopping/lunch/site-seeing in the city. We reconvened across the street from the National Library for a visit to the Edinburgh Central Library. We were warmly welcomed and provided some really nice library schwag - only library geeks could truly appreciate how cool that is.

The Edinburgh Central Library was established by a donation of 50,000 pounds from Andrew Carnegie in 1886. Prior to this, the city was flush with subscription libraries and saw no need to establish a free public library. Many citizen, however, could not afford the subscription libraries. Requests for a free public library had been previously rejected by the Edinburgh Town Council in both 1868 and 1881, but due to Carnegie's contribution, the foundation of the current building were laid within a year of his donation.

The building was designed by George Washington Browne and opened its doors in 1890 offering the services of three departments: the Reference Department, Lending Department and a News Room. Today, there are seven departments including the three original, a Scottish Room, children's room, music library and art library. In 1922, then head librarian Ernest Savage opened the library to allow patrons access to the collection. Prior to this, patrons would consult a board with the collections' titles listed in either blue (available) or red (unavailable). Today, the collection boasts more than 850,000 items, information and enquiry services, free access to the internet, free study space, periodicals and electronic information resources, CDs and DVDs and community meeting spaces.

We were given an informative presentation by several members of the staff including presentations on special collections and reader development. We split up after a small tea and toured the library. The reference reading room boasts a magnificent dome and original wrought iron gallery. The gallery is accessible through short spiral staircases hidden within the columns at the rear of the reading room. Within the reference reading room is an active card catalog that is still used by patrons. In the lending room, the shelving is also original to the building and sports marmosets throughout the space and some of the shelves host fanciful carved monkeys. The children's reading room is cozy and inviting and brightly colored. The music library houses an impressive collection and is also host to live performances ala coffee houses. The art library is literally stuffed with all things art and architecture light from above by skylights.

While researching this particular library, I happened upon a video tour of the library by one of the staff members. The video has been embedded in this blog or is accessible at YouTube through the following link: Tour video

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