Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Central Library of Edinburgh: A Library Ahead of Its Time

Entrance to the Central Library and our lovely guide Vesna Rajacic
This was such a treat to see.  Of all the libraries that we visited I have to say that this was my favorite one.  This library has everything that I would love to have in a public library. I was surprised, not to mention impressed, by their technological advances in the library.  It was delightful to see and really got me excited about all that a library can do.  The Central Library have goals that they want to reach such as their online presence.  They are driven.  They are compassionate.  They genuinely enjoy what they do.  You sense their excitement and it was wonderful to be able to witness it.


 General Details on the Edinburgh Central Library
  • There are 28 total libraries in the system throughout the city.
  •  George Washington Brown was the architect of the library.  The original design used to be three main rooms; reference, lending and newspapers.
  • They provide mobile library services to hospitals, prisons, etc
  • They recently went to self-service with the addition of RFID tagging.  They outsourced the initial transition in tagging materials.  The whole effort took about a year to do.  All new tagging is done in-house at this point.
  • They receive about 200 book requests a week.  The shelves for arrived book requests are accessible to library patrons to retrieve on their own.
  • The library has taken a ‘computerized library’ route.  LCD TVs are located throughout the library displaying library events.  They also have a large interactive directory/map terminal in the entrance.
  • They rely mostly on government funding.
  • They rightfully have the most comprehensive collection on all things Edinburgh and Scotland in the United Kingdom.
  • They still maintain the old style card catalog for the Scotland collection.
  • The music and children’s libraries are located in a building next door.
Inside a Reading Room
Strides in Technology
We were fortunate enough to have a member of the Digital Information Team speak with us;  Alison Stoddart .  Formed about two and a half years ago, the team has made tremendous strides in making the Central Library a strong presence online.

  • They now have a mobile app that allows library users to renew items online.  They are the first in the U.K to create such an app.
  • They provide various online tutorials such as language, driving instruction, etc.  They have found that the public prefers tutorials such as those instead of informative database.  People want to learn something and gain something from it.
  • They began providing eBooks about a year ago via OverDrive.  It is popular but would be even more popular if Kindle owners were able to use the services.
  • In the future they will be providing e-magazines.  It will be introduced soon.
  • I was quite impressed by the addition of e-magazines into their online collection.  I think they are correct in determining that the public will be very pleased with the new addition.  I was tremendously impressed by the digital team.  They are clearly ahead of their time in regard to online services to the community.  They are for sure an example to lead for all public libraries around the world. 
Original tile re-purposed as a wall decoration

Reading Champion Project

The Reading Champion Project is a fantastic program that hopes to bring a love for reading to troubled youth in residential care homes.  Workers provide library access to children that are experiencing oppression, are being stigmatized and ostracized from society.  They focus on reading for pleasure rather than reading for literacy.  They are correct in assuming that along with reading for pleasure follows improvement in literacy.  It is a noble task that those involved are undertaking.  I whole-heartedly admire their valiant efforts at working with troubled youth and striving to instill a love of literature suitable to their interests.   I was very glad that they provided us with this presentation because it was the only one of its kind that we saw throughout our trip.  The demographic benefiting from the Reading Champion Project is often a demographic falling on the back burner for librarians.  However, the Edinburgh Central Library still maintains a strong hand in the admirable endeavor with the hard work and compassion of Niall Walker.

Take a close look at a great library:  www.edinburgh.gov.uk/libraries/

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