7/16 Part 2: University of Edinburgh, New College Library
So.. the word "new" is a relative term here meaning 'less than 400 years' ... and New College is approximately 150 years old, so it fits. It is a very small divinity school located at the top of a hill (the view is amazing), and is one of the most world renowned schools of its kind. The library, founded in the mid-19th century, contains over 250,000 items spread over 5 floors. Upon entering the library, we walked into Library Hall,the main part which contains the reference/circulation areas, plenty of desks, and a smalle, glass-walled special collections room.
We separated into two groups - I was in the group that went on the tour first - and we made our way through the entire building. There is an area upstairs where the staff have offices and work on special projects. During our visit, school was not in session and the staff were working on cleaning out their storerooms, as well as a cataloging project for their older rare books (Can I have that job?).
and then it was down to the stacks...
Some of the lower stacks are open to users, allowing them to retrieve their own items. The lowest of the low are not, and contain some of the oldest, rarest books I have ever seen. And the smell, oh the smell. I really want to live in this basement with all these old, rotting, smelly books. And they have a Bible room.. guess what's inside? I could go on and on about how much I loved the lowest stacks of this place, but then I wouldn't get to tell you about the second part of our visit!
The second half was a very informative presentation about New College Library, its history, and what it is today. One intresting thing the librarian brought up was the philosophy of library fines. At New College Library they like to think of fines as preventative rather than punishment. In other words, you want the patron to return the item, so you don't incur fines unless it's really late, and those fines are very large. I think it works so well because this is such a small library. It would probably not work for a large library, especially in the US.
After the librarian had finished, it was on to the special collections reading 'room' to see some amazing items (the trend continues). Since this is a divinity school the collection consists mainly of such items, and the librarian had brought in some real treasures from this amazing, specialized collection. It never ceases to amaze me that books from the 1600's can still be in excellent condition if they are cared for properly.. take that Double Fold!