Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Library For The World

The Edinburgh Central Library reminds me a bit of how the Public Libraries in New York City are laid out. There is one central library and then there are several branch libraries throughout the city that are connected to the main branch. While Edinburgh is not as large a city as New York, it does boast 27 branch libraries that are connected to its Central Library.

Our visit allowed us to tour and learn about the Central Library, which almost acts as one of the large learning institutions in Edinburgh. It almost reminded me of the Barbican Library in London, but with more branches, more employees, and more services. Founded in 1890, The Central Library is a Carnegie Library. Carnegie gave 50,000 pounds for the construction of the library, which translates into about 45 million pounds today. His gift and vision allowed the library to grow into what it is today. Here are some numbers and facts about the library:

The stacks are really quite beautiful
- It has about 1/2 a million items and the libraries get about 1/2 million visitors each year
- The library gets about 8-10,000 new members each year. The membership is free and anyone can join. Even if you don't live in Edinburgh or Scotland. You are allowed to join the library and use their online services.
- They are strong advocates of self-service and allow their patrons to check out books by themselves. They can be renewed online as well.
- They are pioneers in the digital world for public libraries. They have a very interactive website with online newsletters, access to some of their large collections of documents and photographs, as well as learning resources, such as language courses and driver's licenses classes. All of this is available online and free with your library card, which is also free!
- Their Reading Champion Program is really awesome and it attempts to get books to looked after and accommodated children. This can kind of be equated to children living in foster homes in the United States. They focus on those living in Edinburgh and it helps foster a desire to read among these children, thus to lessen the high number of illiteracy in the city.

Overall, the Central Library of Edinburgh is a great organization. They really reach out of all of their patrons and are a step ahead of the curve in the digital world. It is truly a library for the world.

Photo Courtesy of The Edinburgh Public Libraries:

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