Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dunfermline Library Tour

The first tour on our second day in Scotland was across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh, in Dunfermline: the Dunfermline Carnegie Library. This is Andrew Carnegie's birthplace, and the site of the first Carnegie Library. This library was a quintessential example of the paradox that I have found in many of the libraries we have visited thus far--a strong connection with the community of the often-distant past and an equally strong commitment to their present community.

The Dunfermline Library opened in 1883, and at that time, the librarian actually lived in the library. The library was so popular that on the first day they ran out of books and needed to apply to the town council for the money to buy more. Now, over 100 years later, the Library lends out 20,000 books per month. I was not surprised; even as early as our class tour began, we were already getting in the way of patrons coming and going with bags full of books.

Today, the Library's collections include fiction, nonfiction, a children's library, a family history library, special collections, and an exhibit space. The special collection houses an extensive Robert Burns collection comprised of images, books, papers, and artifacts.

Another area in which the Library would seem to be absorbed in the past is in their local history collection. However, this department's extensive collection of newspapers, books, census records, parish records, council minutes, and photographs is actively used by family history researchers, and records for most of the objects in the collection are available on a digital catalog with an extremely simple user interface. In this way, the Dunfermline library uses the history of the region to connect with 21st century patrons.

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