Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Study in Contrasts

Track 7/16: Belle and Sebastian: "Wrapped Up In Books"

Edinburgh Central Library
"Knit Your Own Scotland" project completed
by the crafty librarians here!
For our second full day in Scotland we had a busy itinerary with 2 visits on the schedule. After an early bus ride in to Edinburgh (after a night spent on a couch in a lounge area... sooo over my stay in Dalkeith), we walked over to the cornerstone of Edinburgh City Libraries, the Central Library. While the Central Library, opened in 1890, was the first public library in the city, there are now 25 other neighborhood libraries in the system. The libraries operate within the City of Edinburgh Council, and Edinburgh City Libraries was awarded the honor of Library of the Year by The Bookseller in 2012. They are very proud of this distinction, and they have every right to be as they work so very hard to create comprehensive and innovative programming to encourage literacy across all demographics in the area. These programs include those catering to youths such as Bookbug for under 5's and Tiger Tales for ages 5-8, Chatterbooks for the 8-11's, Glitz Lit for teens, and also programs to encourage the elderly called Get Up & Go for those that are mobile and Library Link which is transport assistance for those that need it. Additionally, they have 5 bookmobiles and 1 book bus for outreach. Most notably, they have partnered with Dyslexia Scotland to foster awareness, engagement and support for specialist library services to encourage literacy for dyslexics. They offer a full slate of digital lending in their Library2go framework, and there is a staff of 6 devoted to digital activities and social media. First in the UK to have a library mobile app, they are committed to providing patrons 24/7 access to quality information.
We enjoyed a thorough presentation by members of the library staff and then toured the facility. The reference area is beautiful and largely unchanged from its opening in 1890. While we spoke about all of their modern services during the presentation, we were also treated to a table loaded with some of their rare antiquarian holdings to peruse as a part of our visit. Along with books they had a volume of interesting historical photographs from the 1850's-60's depicting how Edinburgh's Royal Mile has now transformed over the last 150 years from a very derelict trail of poverty to a bustling and beautiful tourist district. This experience really was one of contrasts exploring the juxtapositions of young versus old, traditional versus modern, and serious versus the downright silly. 
This Cyberman is so ready for Banned Books Week
Time was short between appointments and I needed to visit the train station to amend my rail ticket for the next day, so I hopped a bus down the hill to find out that they could only help me by providing a telephone number to dial. The issue then was that I needed to be in front of a computer when making the call to change my itinerary since I booked online, and changes had to occur by 6 PM... So I set off back up the hill on foot to our afternoon visit panting and fretting about making it back to Dalkeith in time...

Our second tour of the day was at New College Library which serves the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity. The facility is appropriately located in a neo-gothic structure (c.1864) very close to Edinburgh castle which functioned as a church until 1934. The library consists of 5 levels which house one of the largest theological collections in the UK. It is fascinating that these theological works are utilized in such surroundings, with the reading room furniture made from the oak of the pews which resided in the church all set beneath the stained glass windows which were installed between 1911 and 1934. Three floors of basement stacks were added during the conversion to a library, and the bottom two of these comprise the closed access portions of the quarter million volume collection. Because so many of the materials are rare and antiquarian, they added a CCTV system for security purposes. The majority of their annual funding is allocated to conservation measures for special collection materials, which is not surprising as they have sooo much of it. We descended to the closed access stackroom III (furthest underground) and got to tour this area which was most definitely book heaven. I'd like to think when librarian's die, eternity is spent in a place like this, where the air is thick with the perfume of rotting leather, which is simply divine. Or perhaps all of this is just the special collection of 631 bibles affecting my brain.  

Back on the surface we had a short talk about their services which presented quite a contrast from this morning's public library experience now being in such a specialized academic library where due to their sacred roots they are not even open on Sundays! While the Central Library was set on its mission to foster literacy and promote constant access for all, New College Library seeks to offer access in a controlled environment with ensured security for their valuable collection. While they do lend materials- borrower beware: it's a 2 pence PER MINUTE fine for overdue books.  

First edition of Calvin's Institutes of
Christian Religion, 1536
Galileo's Dialogus de Systemate Mundi, 1663
(The book that earned him imprisonment)
Book of Common Prayer, 1637

Again we had the opportunity to handle some rare volumes and also some time to enjoy the library. I'd been taking a lot of pictures of ceilings and I took a shot here, too, I suppose it was bound to happen that I ended up caught in the act in someone else's photos eventually!
Photo credit: Catherine Boddie

After we were done here I nabbed the first train back to Dalkeith so I could try and get my ticket sorted out, which turned out to be right down to the wire as the bus didn't get to our stop until after 5 and it's still a short hike back to the estate from the center of town. I made it, and I amended my travel plans so I can leave first thing in the morning in order to arrive back in London and start my mini-break as soon as possible... I have a guest coming to spend break with me!!!     

No comments:

Post a Comment