Sunday, August 8, 2010

Edinburgh Central Library

On the same day as the visit to the National Library of Scotland we also visited the Edinburgh Central Library, which is directly across the street. Opened in 1890, the library is a Carnegie Library, which I will speak about more in the next post.

We were greeted by the supremely friendly librarians and staff in a conference room where they spoke to us about some of the library's initiatives. I really liked this because though we have visited other public libraries, the people there didn't speak much to what the library actively does to get users in the door.

Alison Stoddart spoke about the library's use of Web 2.0 and their upstart virtual library. The library is making a huge effort to expand their usefulness to the people of Edinburgh. This includes making their website more comprehensive and accessible. They've started a Your Edinburgh section that makes it easy for residents to find information about living in Edinburgh. I think this is a great idea because the purpose of a public library is to support the community and I feel like sometimes libraries can lose sight of that. Then two librarians (whose names I didn't get. Apologies.) who work with reader development talked. Reader development is something that I never really thought about because I have been concentrating on archives and academic libraries pretty heavily. I liked hearing about another aspect of librarianship that I don't know much about. The Edinburgh Central Library has a lot of author events that seem to draw quite a crowd. These events focus on Scottish writers.

I really enjoyed hearing about the library's conservation and special collections. Last semester I took a class on preservation technologies and did a project on deacidification so I was very interested to learn that the central library deacidifies some items. The woman who spoke to us, Karen, mentioned that it cost 500 pounds to deacidify the book she showed us. I hoped for the chance to talk to her about the process they use in the UK but I didn't get to.

Finally, we got a tour of the library. The music and children's libraries are not in the same building as the adult library, which poses some problems. A lot of the librarians that talked to us mentioned the wish lists they had for the library if the funding ever appeared. One of these missions would be to integrate the libraries into one building, which would be much easier for users and librarians alike.

Overall, the visit to the Edinburgh Central Library was a good look into a large public library. They seem to face the same challenges that libraries in the US face; I see some definite similarities to the current crisis in the Boston Public Library system.


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