Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Central Library, Edinburgh

We visited the Central Library, Edinburgh which is the main branch of their public library. It was built by Andrew Carnegie, and the inscription above the door "Let there be light" is characteristic of his view of the role of libraries in educating the middle and working classes. The main reading room I found to be very impressive in having ample space for patrons to work, study, and read for pleasure. I enjoyed the large dome and high ceilings, as I believe sometimes that a well-designed study space can help one to clarify one's ideas better. The library had many books in storage like extra copies and volumes that do not get used that often. For a while these volumes were only stored in alphabetical order, but recently the staff has been entering the excess volumes into the catalog slowly and steadily. The children's and music libraries seemed to fit the needs of the patrons very well. We do not often see a separate music library in the United States, and it seemed a very positive thing for the cultural health of the community.

Then, we learned from the staff about encouraging reading in the community and outreach to groups who may not be aware of the joys of reading. One thing I took from this discussion was that it is important not to be judgmental of readers. It is important for patrons to see reading as fun and good for their personal development, and not feel embarrassed or discouraged. The staff of the Central Library, Edinburgh I found to be the nicest to us of all our tour guides, even offering us tea and free tote bags. Their kindness added to my general favorable impression of the city, and made me think that I would enjoy visiting there again.

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