Tuesday, 4 August 2009

National Library of Scotland

*photo from http://www.nls.uk/info/readingrooms/index.html

What I love about a library is that at any time, and anywhere, a library can exceed its own expectations. This is what happened when I visited this particular library. One would expect a library: stacks of books, librarians, media, maybe special collections, local treasures. Little did I know I was in for so much more.

History of Library:
In 1689 a group of six lawyers began the Library of Advocates. In 1925 it became the National Library, one of Europe's major research library and later the largest in Scotland. The National Library became a copyright library in 1710 to give an indication as to the size of their collection. Today their focus is on the history and culture of Scotland rather than collecting every book published in the UK. The visitor center was just opened this year and boasts a new exhibit area, gift shop, cafe, computers and information point. Their goal is to increase and improve access to the library collection. The staff works on educational programs with schools and families, outreach programs and retrospective acquisitions. According to the website, the library is governed by a board of trustees and managed by a team of directors under the guidance of the National Librarian (http://www.nls.uk/about/nls/index.html).

The library aims to build relationships with local authors to keep modern Scottish culture alive and preserved. The atmosphere here is more interactive than most libraries I've visited. Their goal is to engage people and get them reading and this is done through the various exhibits and collections. With 14 million books and manuscripts, 2 million maps, 32,000 videos, 25,000 magazines and 6,000 new items per week, this can be daunting but incredible to materialize! Their collection ranges from British collections, business, digital, foreign, manuscripts, maps, music, newspapers, rare books, publications, science and technology, and film and video from the last 100 years. Preservation is done on site-and is nationally and internationally recognized as a "centre of excellence" (http://www.nls.uk/about/preservation/index.html).

There was a fantastic exhibit called "The Original Export: Stories of Scottish Emigration". This is what I love about a library-that it can take it's collection and arrange it in such a matter that it tells its own story. There were suitcases filled with letters and journals - you can listen to them being read on a phone nearby. Artifacts like clothing and mementos of the time, poetry, maps, film and music outline the four stages of the emigration. These stages include Preparing to go, Getting there and settling in, Building a community, and Identity and belonging. It was a very heart wrenching exhibit and I felt the hope of the emigrants through their letters. I loved how they used luggage tags to display text for each item displayed-it made it feel much more personal. Toward the end of the exhibit there was a large display showing how people who immigrate are connected. People from all over the world filled out luggage tags with their story of emigration and hung them on the wall to share. The people behind the items were really brought to life.

Visit them online at http://www.nls.uk/ Their digital collection has many interesting items.

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