Scotland Day Two – National Library of Scotland

It’s hard to determine which day in the UK was my favorite, but day two is definitely in the running.

On Day Two of my International Adventure I visited the National Library of Scotland and met with members of their Access and Outreach Department. Thanks to the extremely kind Veronica Denholm, Access and Outreach Officer, I was able to sit in on an Access and Outreach departmental meeting. Of the eight member department five were present, but John Coll, the current Head of Access was also present and reported on two presentations he’d recently given.

In preparation for this meeting I read the 2014 Annual Report for the National Library of Scotland so I had some background information on what they were currently doing and what their strategic plan for the next few years is. One big change is that their board was recently downsized and this smaller board would be focusing on having regular retreats to focus on strategizing on community engagement.

John Coll, Head of Access reported on his recent presentation to the board on current and target audiences as well as the results of their recent customer survey. They have decided that their 2015 Corporate Plan (or Strategic Plan) would focus on targeting strategies for non-users. I think that this is something that the National Library of Scotland has in common with libraries from around the world. All libraries want to increase access to their services and knowledge about library services but as a library user I feel like a lot of the awareness campaigns that I see are located inside of libraries, so they seem to promote increase usage of specific aspects of a library, but not necessarily to target non-users.

Because the National Library of Scotland is a non-lending library they don’t go completely within my spectrum of Public Libraries. While they are open to the public and any citizen (and those eligible for visitor cards) they do not circulate their collection as much of it is rare and extremely fragile. They also have a rule that under 16s (people under sixteen years old) cannot look at materials unless a parent or guardian is with them. Obviously this is a barrier to access and one that they acknowledge as most of their audience are students especially post-graduate students and also adults doing historical research. Veronica did note that they do tours and instructional meetings for primary and secondary school students.

One project they are focusing on is the Scotland Screen Archive of Moving Pictures. This is a collection of Scotland in moving images that will be in Kelvingrove in Glasgow. This collection is designed to capture the physical representation of Scotland in a way that will appeal to users visually. This makes sense because the rest of their collection is mostly text based.

After this excellent meeting and discussion I was given a tour of the building including the archive and was able to see one of the floors where the collection is stored outside of the use.

As a library lover this day was amazing and I was shocked to see how busy the library was at about 11:00 in the morning. Users of all ages were utilizing the collection, hovering over books, using the computers to look up holdings and meeting in the small café area within the building. I also got to explore the exhibit halls and while they could be a bit dark (in lighting) the items contained in them included clothing and letters from Scotland’s history and was just amazing. My favorite was the exhibit on Scotland and the United States Civil War which included letters from Frederick Douglass.

Afterwards I visited the Central Library of the Edinburgh Public Library, the Children’s Central Library of Edinburgh. Both located right across from the National Library of Scotland.

And I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t go into The Elephant House, one of the café’s where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novel. It was right across the street and I couldn’t resist. I mean, honestly, could you?

After that I met up with Brandi at Henderson’s Vegetarian restaurant, which was delicious and worked well for both our dietary restrictions (a vegetarian and a person with Celiacs). I have to admit there’s a small bit of me that regrets not getting the vegetarian Haggis, but then there’s the larger part of me that has no regrets about avoiding Haggis (vegetarian or otherwise). I think if I ever go again and I’m not a vegetarian I’ll probably try it just to say I have.


National Library of Scotland. (2015). Annual Review, 2013-2014. Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland.

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