Central Library/New College Library-Edinburgh, Scotland

Interesting Facts:

  • First public library in Edinburgh
  • Opened in 1890
  • Funded by Andrew Carnegie
  • One of the largest collections of works on Scotland and Edinburgh

Our tour started in the reference library which featured a pretty magical secret stairwell, hidden behind a secret door! This stairwell allows the librarians to access books on the first level. We were also shown a small door located a bit off to the side. This, apparently, was where the men would enter. The women would come through the larger main entrance in order to have immediate access to the fireplace just ahead. I found this to be rather progressive!

Space is, of course, an issue. What I appreciated was that rather than thinking of a solution that will last forever, there was a very set time limit on how long the storage holds they build will. This would seem almost as a cop out, “leave the issue to future generations,” but it is actually quite clever! By setting a time limit, you are allowing for future technologies to advance in a way that might be beneficial, and also accepting that as time goes on we could revolutionize the entire system of book storage.

The children’s room was full of bright colors, creative seating, and children! We came just as story time was beginning and if the mass of buggies parked just outside of the room is any indication, this library is doing something incredibly well with their children’s department. The atmosphere is immediately very welcoming, and despite the space issue it is clearly well maintained!

The music library, and even more so the Scottish heritage library were central points of pride. While given the opportunity to browse, we also had time to hear very candidly about the struggles of working in a public space. This I appreciated most of all.


New College Library

Interesting Facts:

  • Repurposed from what was previously the Free High Church
  • One of the largest theological libraries in the UK

Our final library on this trip! How bittersweet, but what a lovely end! This gorgeous library was a treat to explore. We were given an initial history of the building–most of which you can read in the link below–and then also treated to a bit of information about working in an academic library. This particular library is very quiet and so the students that frequent it tend to be very hard workers something we’d heard echoed in Durham. Thanks to a very generous donation from Dr. Robert Funk, there is a small exhibition space in the main reading room of the library. This space currently featured a very interesting collection of books including a small collection of religious texts that dealt with Shakespeare. The real treat came when we were separated into groups and taken downstairs to view the treasures in the stores! The pictures above do not do justice to the beauty down there. The smell of old books permeated through us, and I was happy to hear that despite their age, these books are still accessible to students.

For more information on the Central Library of Edinburgh, visit their website here.
For more information on New College Library, visit their website here.



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