Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A Good Place to Spend a Rainy Day ~ The Edinburgh Central Library

Central Library Upper Gallery Walkway: Photo by Jenny Collins

What better way to spend a rainy day than by going to the library? I'm not sure I can come up with one so that's what we did our first rainy day in Edinburgh, went to the Edinburgh Central Library.

It's a public library, located just down the road from Edinburgh castle, and is also a Carnegie library. Our guide for the tour was librarian Vesna Rajacic and Alison Stoddard who is the acquisition and digitization specialist and children's librarian.

The Central Library has 28 branches across the city and membership is both free and easy, even international citizens can join giving you access to their catalogs and some of their digital services. Their openness concerning membership brings in between 8 and 10 thousand new members a year.

The library originally contained three departments:
1) Reference Library - which has remained largely unchanged since its construction.
2) The Lending Library
3) The Newsroom - which is now the Scottish collection and houses, as one might imagine, works of Scottish origin.

The library has seen a great deal of expansion since then, adding more books, a music library, an art library as well as a inflatable Dalek who is dressed in various literary costume for the children's section. He's currently naked, awaiting his transformation into count Dalekula, but I took his photo non the less.

E-Books Rising 

Like the British Library and others, the Central Library at Edinburgh is embracing both e-lending and tablet specific apps for their library. "The Inspired Library" is an app offered by the Central Library that allows users with tablets to experience their special collections and exhibits, regardless of where they live geographically.

There are also multiple touch screen interfaces allowing patrons to interact with exhibits, explore new features and even do genealogical research. These efforts are funding mostly through the city council with more money coming in from grants and other avenues.

Digital Interface: Photo by Jenny Collins

There digital services are some of the most advanced and aggressive I have ever seen. Their goal, as stated by Digital Information Services team leader Alison Stoddard is to create a "24 hour digital library", or library2.go as many refer to it as. As of now their mobile site (link provided below) provides heritage resources, mobile apps, their catalog index and many other features meant to make a mobile, online library a feasible possibility rather than a supplement to traditional library services.

Interestingly services like dictionaries and encyclopedias, as well as other resource materials, are the least popular on the website. Users want interactive content, researching abilities into subjects like family history; services that carry quick "measurable outcomes" for the user are the most successful. Perhaps the most important key to the success of the Central Libraries Web initiative is the knowledge that digitization has to be more than simply taking an item and scanning it as an image to place on line. The web is a different medium and needs to be treated as such in order for programs to work and flourish. For patrons nervous about getting into e-content the library offers a variety of classes and tutorials to assist all age levels become comfortable with a new iteration of the library.

I highly suggest checking out Library2.go!


Central Library website
Central Library Online "Your Library" service - go here for more information on library2.go or, if you have ancestors from Scotland, check out their ancestry service!

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