Monday, 16 July 2012

Let There Be Light!

Today's travels find us in Edinburgh, Scotland where the weather is a lot like the weather we had been experiencing in London; cold and gloomy. Only in Edinburgh, it's colder and gloomier. That being said, Scotland is a very beautiful place and is absolutely crawling with sheep!


**Fun Fact Alert! Edinburgh was named the first City of Literature by UNESCO in 2004. There are now five cities named, with Iowa City having been honored as the third!

But anyway, back to the task at hand. For class today, we took a look at not one, but two (!) very different information centers: the Central Library of Edinburgh and the National Archives of Scotland.

I will start with the Central Library where we visited with 3 staff members from various areas of the library who offered a lot of valuable information about the types of programs and services they offer. It was especially interesting to note those not available/offered in England. Particularly of interest to me was presentation by the library's 'Reading Champion' who works closely with children and young people living in  group homes, residential care, etc. to  get them interested and engaged in reading for pleasure.

Lots of other fun and exciting facts about the Central Library:
  • This Carnegie Library (the carving of 'let there be light' upon Carnegie's request) opened in 1890 and cost £50,000- which is roughly £45 million today.
  • It was designed by George Washington Brown (a Scottish architect) and was built on the site of a mansion owned by Sir Thomas Hope (an advocate of Charles I). Some of the original door frames and fireplace mantels were incorporated into the library building design.
  • The library currently houses around 1/2 million items, while welcoming 1/2 million visitors and adding around 8-10,000 new members each year.
  • Membership is free and open to anyone around the world! (They have lots of great online resources, too)
  • Their collection includes fiction, nonfiction, dvd, and audio- they are known for having the largest collection of audio resources in Scotland.
  • Although the Central Library was originally designed with only three areas (reference, lending, and newsroom), it now houses a variety of libraries within it including reference, fine arts, Edinburgh & Scottish, music, lending, and children's.
  • The Central Library also offers a mobile library service for those who don't have a library within one mile of their home or are in hospitals or prisons. In addition, they run a Read Aloud Project in the homes of elderly patrons.
  • The library is very advanced in terms of technological resources offering things like e-resources, e-books, mobile app, e-newsletters, and their library website which is, of course, available 24/7. Their goal is to create a genuine alternative to visiting the library in person.

Once again, the second location we visited today was the National Archives of Scotland (NAS). Here are some of the most interesting things we discussed:
  • The NAS has 3 buildings in Edinburgh. The General Register House was the original building designed to house the archives (another has since been added due to the constant increase in material). Construction  for this building began in 1774 and was finished in the 1820s.
  • History records the first person to be designated to look after records/archives in th 1280s- making archivist one of the oldest professions. Record keeping as we know it began in the late 18th century- right around the time of the construction of the Register House.
    • Now, the archives employ around 110 people
  • NAS houses a variety of official information from Scotland including church records, government records, and deeds, as well as personal papers.
    • NAS currently houses government records for Scotland dating back to the medieval period- the oldest document is from the 1140s!
    • NAS has wills and testaments from the years 1513-2000, including the will of Robert Burns.
      • 1/2 million are digitized, including 30,000 soldier's wills from WWI
  • Since 1847, access has been free for the majority of research. Most records are also available online, though they may cost to access.
  • The NAS offers an online cataloge that has approx. 3 million entries and can be searched by key words and dates.
  • As of April 2011, the NAS merged with the General Register Office of Scotland to become the National Records of Scotland.  
That's all for Scotland! Time to travel around the UK!

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