Saturday, August 17, 2013

The services that never stop

Tuesday 7/16 Part 1: Central Library of Edinburgh

What a library!  Not only is this library huge, it also offers an amazing array of services for its patrons and the community across all of its branches.  And the accolades reflect this... they have won, or been a finalist, for the "Best Library Service in the UK" award, and they have a 97% customer satisfaction rate.

The library's focus centers on 3 aspects: social, digital, and physical, and using this, they have branded themselves in a way that attracts users of all ages through special programs.  Reading groups, special events, and age-specific publications/newsletters are just a few examples of the social gatherings the library offers to bring together it patrons with common interests.  Their digital initiates include increasing electronic resources and access, and they are heavily invested in social media.  The suite of online services is staggering, and includes the website, eventbrite for social events, the "Your Edinburgh" site which uses crowdsourcing to gather its info, and Special Collections online exhibits, to name a few.  One could spend hours exploring all the cool things they have on their website.

Two of their largest programs are the partnership with Dyslexia Scotland, and the Reading Champion Project.  Both utilize special programs to encourage library use and reading, as well as awareness and support for issues of literacy.  They are both great programs which do a lot of good for the local community.

My favorite part of this visit was when our tour took us into the Reference Library.  This part was built in 1890, and has not changed much since its founding.  The original space consisted of two parts, one for men and one for women.  It is a beautiful room, but unfortunately the collection has outgrown the space and the library is struggling to find adequate room for its physical collection... as is the case with most libraries today.

What's in a name?

Monday 7/15 Part 2: National Records of Scotland

Ahh, archives... my favorite

The National Records of Scotland, as it is now, is a result of a recent merger between the National Archives of Scotland and the General Register Office for Scotland.  This huge institution serves as both the records management functions, for things like the census, and the archival functions which maintain the heritage collections.  It is such a large, well-oiled machine, and it represents everything that a national archival organization should be.

One of the biggest tasks that this organization handles is the multiple websites for all of the different collections.  For example, the ScotlandsPeople website is the access point for one of the largest genealogical resources in the world, and the Scottish Register of Tartans allows users to search the tartan database, compare different tartans, or even register a new one.  Some sites are now only partial, but it is a major priority of the NRS to get these sites up and fully functional to provide as much access as possible to their holdings.

We went on a brief tour of the main building - there are 3 buildings in total - and it was really interesting to see all of the different departments of a large, working, archival environment.  The building itself was purposefully built to hold an archive, with multiple storage rooms all labeled by what they hold.  And the entire place is built from stone to minimize the fire risk to such valuable collections.  Their reading room is outfitted with multiple computers, which provide access to the digital catalogs, and large tables, where patrons may view the materials they have requested.  Though they have digitized a large portion of their collection, like most archives they still have quite a large amount of paper records, and the digitization efforts have slowed due to funding cuts.

The last part of our visit gave us an opportunity to look at some examples of items that the archives has.  Margaret, our visit guide, pulled items that related to our home states, which was a really fascinating thing to see since we were in Scotland.  But yes, there were items related to New York, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and even Colorado.  It was a nice, personal way to end what was another amazing visit to a great institution.