The National Library of Scotland conveyed a distinct attitude of dedication to and investment in its surrounding community of Edinburgh. What stood out to me most profoundly was the optimism the librarians clearly portrayed of their library’s current and future services.
The Library itself has an extensive history. The original Central Library is the successor to the historic Library of the Faculty of Advocates, which opened in 1689 (Places, n.d.) and continues to be the most used section of the Library today. The Library is also one of the four libraries in the UK to be a legal deposit library, which means every book published in Great Britain and Ireland automatically goes into its collection (about 5,000 per week). This copyright act was granted by Queen Anne in 1710 and still remains in place even now. In October 1999, the Central Library was closed during a five year £12.7 million refurbishment program (Places, n.d.) when it was joined with the neighboring building to create more space. The newly attached building became the Art Library and Reference Library with forty study spaces.
The Library is also available to host events such as author visits, concerts, talks about artists, and even weddings. During the refurbishment program, the NLS also updated their children’s room. A storytime is held every Thursday in the new children’s area and the craft room is utilized for parents who can bring their children to create planned projects together. The Library also maintains a Teen Zone filled with graphic novels and magazines and even a WWI “hub” with wifi and coffee. The largest collection on the history of Edinburgh is kept at the NLS, including not only books, but maps, photographs, ephemera, published articles, genealogy materials, and newspapers.
While I was impressed with the Library itself, it was not until the “lecture” the staff members gave (with complementary tea and biscuits) after the tour that I began to truly appreciate and more fully understand the challenges the Library faces and how they are approaching their responsibility to meet the needs of the community. The business development manager explained in detail the Library’s efforts to work with Dyslexia Scotland. The Library approaches the issue of dyslexia in four stages.
The Library also organizes events like Chatterbooks, Edinburgh Reads, the Reading Rainbow Programme, and Gourmet Reads to encourage people into the Library. Large events take place in the beautifully designed Reference Library while smaller events are in the surrounding community libraries.
Another interesting aspect of the Library for me personally was Edinburgh Libraries Online. As I am keen to learn about digital technology and how libraries are utilizing these tools to promote their services, understanding what the NLS is doing with their online resources peaked my interest. The NLS provides 24/7 online service. It was the first library in the UK to have a digital portal: Your Library. Tales of One City is a social media blog the Library uses to promote events, together with their Twitter account and Facebook page. In addition to ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines online, the Library hosts a site for information about the community of Edinburgh called Your Edinburgh. Another intriguing aspect of the Library’s online services was Edinburgh Collected, a place where members of the community can continue donating their information to the city to sustain the preservation of the digitized or born-digital history of Edinburgh as it happens day by day.
The National Library of Scotland is invested in their community. In addition to the energy they put into planning their programs, hosting their events, and designing their digital resources, the Library intentionally seeks to support staff and patrons through the transition into digital technologies, promote libraries through multiple channels, and increase the use of Edinburgh Libraries (succeeding by 9% in 2014).
Here is an introduction to the National Library of Scotland:
Places to Visit in Scotland: National Library of Scotland. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.rampantscotland.com/visit/bldev_visitnls.htm