Monday, 14 July 2014

National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland original started as the Advocates Library in 1687.  The Advocates Library would later merge with the national collections to form the National Library.  The Library serves as Scotland's depository library.  The current building on George IV Bridge was completed in 1954.  In 1995 an additional building, the Causewayside building, was completed.  In 2009 a vistor centre was built within the main building.  The library's conservation services are performed off site, while emergency conservation services, such as freezing water damage, is available within the main building.  The library holds regular events and workshop on a variety of topics, including using the collections, creative events, and lectures.  The collections consists of 14 million books and manuscripts, 2 million maps and atlases, 300000 music scores, 32000 films and videos, 25000 magazine and newspaper titles, and over 6000 items are added to the collection weekly.
      The library collections are stored in environmentally controlled spaces according to size.  Each item is given a mark indicating subject, size, year and a running number.  Most books are stored without dust jackets in order to save space.  However, this creates a dilemma when an item is needed for an exhibition and its dust jacket is located in a completely different place and often in a group of items with no particular order.  The library has six levels of stacks, with various levels of security.  The more valuable collections, such as the John Murray archive can only be accessed by certain staff.  Several of the stacks are kept dark to prevent light damage, and are only illuminated when needed. 
      The library has a permanent exhibit space dedicated to showing the public important artifacts and materials from their collections, namely the John Murray archive.  The exhibit space is modern and very engaging to the viewer.  Displays are housed in large tubes that each contains key artifacts relating to a given person, such as Livingston or Byron.  Each display is accompanied by a touch screen which provides audio and digitized documents relating to the objects.  In selecting the object it becomes illuminated and the viewer is able to scroll through the information as they wish.
     The library also has plans to provide visitors with emails containing transcript and recording of materials they are interested in.  The emails would also contain links to suggestions for additional sources or materials similar to the requested.  The library is clearly active and proactive rather than reactive in creating services to engage their patrons.

Image from the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2014.  Available @

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