Monday, July 19, 2010

Edinburgh Central Library Tour

After our visit to the National Library of Scotland, we crossed the street for a tour of the Edinburgh Central Library. This visit was an incredibly positive experience--five staff members, each from a different part of the library, spoke to us about their work. Not only were they all very well-informed and passionate about their work, but they were also very glad to speak to us about what they do at the Edinburgh Central Library.

The Central library opened in 1890 and has expanded from its original building to two adjacent buildings. The Central Library has Scottish, Music, Art, and Children's Libraries, in addition to the standard reference, fiction and nonfiction departments. Further, they have special collections and a digital library. Our tour began with a talk by four staff members, followed by a tour with the fifth.

Like the library where I work in the U.S., the Edinburgh Central Library is heavily invested in keeping relevant to their patrons. Putting a portion of their photographic collections online, communicating with patrons via a blog, and tracking patron comments online is one approach they have taken to staying relevant. The other, however, is to place reading--reaching out to readers and serving their reading needs, be they for fun or information--at the centre of their work. As the librarians spoke to us about how they geared their programming and collection development to meeting these needs, I was impressed by what a strong sense they had of who they were as an organisation, and where this organisation was going.

Postscript: These brilliant librarians also gave us tea and biscuits, in real cups with saucers. At that point in the day, we had all been going since breakfast (or rather the time at which one normally eats breakfast), so having a pick-me-upper was absolutely brilliant.

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