Edinburgh during World War One

Our latest story on Our Town Stories describes the impact of World War One on the people at home.

Find out about the zeppelin raid, the Gretna Rail Disaster, the city’s footballing heroes, recuperating war poets and pioneering female doctor, Elsie Inglis.

The war that was meant to be over by Christmas lasted over four years and touched the lives of all communities across Britain.

Camerons leaving for the Front, 1914

If you’re interested in discovering more about World War One, Edinburgh Libraries has many more resources for research and reflection. We’ve created a new page on our Your Library website where you can explore a growing collection of material related to the conflict.

Don’t panic! Sir Harrison Birtwistle at 80

One of the leading figures in contemporary music celebrated his 80th birthday recently and events are being held up and down the country to mark the occasion, culminating with performances at this year’s  BBC Promenade Concerts.

Birtwistle’s works combine a modernist aesthetic with mythic power and emotional impact, taking inspiration from contemporary art and the rituals of classical mythology and pre-history.

Birtwistle composes for a variety of ensembles but is perhaps best known for his stage operas, in particular, ‘Gawain’ (1991).

Panic’ , premiered at the Last Night of the Proms in 1995. Other major works include the operas `Punch and Judy’ (1967), ‘The Mask of Orpheus’ (1984), ‘The Last Supper’ (2000), and ‘The Minotaur’ (2008).

Want to know more? The Music Library have put together this specially curated selection of books and music by and about Birstwistle.

Library members can also stream Birstwistle’s music using Naxos Music Library and find out more about his life and career with Oxford Music Online.

Meadowbank and the Commonwealth Games

Edinburgh has hosted the Commonwealth games twice, an honour awarded to no other city. This unique relationship with the competition has left its mark on the Capital both architecturally and in the choice of leisure facilities available to the people of Edinburgh.

Meadowbank Stadium was built to accommodate the 1970 Games. It has a 400m running track, 100m sprint track, pitches for football and hockey, a velodrome, numerous sports halls and gym facilities available for use to the general public. The games for which the stadium was produced are to this day considered the most successful in the history of the competition. The stadium once again held the games in 1986 and although these were less successful due to political and financial issues at the time, the stadium was still a worthy centre-piece for such a prestigious international spectacle.

Meadowbank Stadium

As the Commonwealth Games return to Scotland for Glasgow 2014, and with some events taking place in Edinburgh, our latest Capital Collections exhibition on Meadowbank Stadium looks to paint a picture of the beloved stadium from its brush with Commonwealth glory to the present day.

Step out with us!

We’re so keen on the Medal Routes (short circular walking routes that start and finish at the same location) put together by Ramblers Scotland.

And not just because many of the routes start and finish at Edinburgh libraries!

Inspired by the Commonwealth Games, there are bronze, silver and gold routes, designed to take approximately 15, 30 or 60 minutes to complete.

When you’re done you can relax at the library (perhaps with one of these tales of walking adventure)

Visit the Ramblers Scotland site to download the maps or pick up pick up leaflets from the following libraries which features as start / finish points:

Currie, Granton, South Queensferry, Wester Hailes, Blackhall,, Leith, Portobello, Central, Craigmillar and Morningside.

And if you’re doing one of the Wester Hailes Library routes you can borrow a pedometer and starter pack, so you can see how far you walk in a day!

Make sure and ask too about the guided walks that the library are running throughout August – and check our progress chart to see which member of staff does the most steps between now and the end of the Commonwealth Games!

‘Elizabeth is missing’ author Emma Healey at Blackhall Library

‘A new talent with a remarkable knack for observation and an ear for dialogue.’ Toronto Star

‘The British author so fully inhabits the 80-year-old heroine… that it’s easy to forget the writer has yet to hit 30.’ Globe and Mail

Her slot at the Edinburgh International Book Festival sold out fast, but rising star Emma Healey will be joining us for a free event at Blackhall Library on Monday 11th August to discuss her acclaimed debut novel.

Elizabeth is Missing is a psychological mystery and a study of dementia narrated by the character of Maud, a forgetful eighty-one year-old whose mind is continually drawn to the disappearance of her friend.

This event, which starts at 7pm, is going to book up fast so reserve your place now by calling Blackhall Library on 0131 529 5587 or email blackhall.library@edinburgh.gov.uk

Track cycling at Meadowbank Velodrome

On a beautiful balmy evening late last summer, we were privileged to attend one of the regular track cycling training sessions at Meadowbank to enhance our library archive’s collection of sport images. The images and film clips show cyclists taking to the boards to train and race on the steep wooden slopes of the Velodrome.

Track cyclists, Meadowbank Veldrome

Meadowbank Stadium and Velodrome were built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games and both hosted the Games again in 1986 when they returned to the city. The training venue has been home to a number of Olympians, world and European champions over the years, including notably Olympian Sir Chris Hoy, former world gold medallist Craig MacLean and former world champion Graeme Obree.

See Edinburgh’s current track cyclists in action in our latest Capital Collections exhibition!

Ajay Close

Thanks to Ajay Close who popped in last week to tell us about her new novel Trust.

DSC_2932Ajay’s readings tantalized but didn’t give away the plot, and our Edinburgh Reads audience were impressed by the authors’ humour as well as her knowledge of the banking world and the miner’s strike.

Thanks Ajay!

Stuart Kelly on “Waverley” at 200

It has lent its name to a railway station, a fountain pen, a type of sock and even an ice-cream cone!

But when it was first published, Walter Scott’s Waverley came out of nowhere.

There was no named author, it didn’t fit into any recognizable genre, and even the quotation at the beginning of the book was ambiguous.

So how did it (and its author) come to have such a huge influence on our country and its literature, and why has it fallen so completely out of fashion?

The answers to those questions were revealed by critic, author and former Booker Prize judge Stuart Kelly at our latest Edinburgh Reads event last Monday.

Stuart argued that rather than viewing Scott as a harbinger for Dickens and the other great nineteenth century novelists we would do better to see him as the heir eighteenth century novelists such as Sterne and Smollett, especially if we consider the self-aware, self-conscious nature of his work.

There’s also a humorous aspect to Scott’s writing, a characteristic which is often overlooked, remarkably so given the passages Stuart read to us over the course of the hour (especially the start of chapter 24 of Waverley).

In terms of story Stuart agreed with Allan Massie that Scott ignores almost all the historical set-pieces you might suppose would be included in a novel on the Jacobite uprising.

And this is typical of Scott. He tiptoes round Scottish history, neglecting figures such as Knox and Wallace, and events like Bannockburn.

He is more interested in illuminating the margins of Scottish history, and echoes Shakespeare (who he quotes throughout his works) in the way he covers the entire social strata. In this sense he is more of a pluralist than those who followed him, and for this reason critics from across the ideological spectrum have been able to claim him as their own.

Before we closed there was time for questions from the floor, giving Stuart the opportunity to enlighten us on how Scott got into so much debt, the nature of the ‘historical’ novel and how to reignite interest in Scott’s work. (Doctor Who is the man  for the job!)

A witty, knowledgeable and engaging speaker, Stuart could I think have happily talked Scott for another hour, and his audience would have been more than happy to listen. At the start of the talk there was a show of hands as to who of us had actually read Waverley, and I’ll wager that those who hadn’t took up Stuart’s challenge to at least give the first chapter a bash, so infectious was his enthusiasm for his subject.

Let’s hope we can get him back for one of the other Scott bicentenaries we’ll be celebrating all the way up to 2032!

Central Library update

Unfortunately we’ve discovered a structural problem with the area where we store the majority of our reference-only material, and some of our lending material. This includes stock from all of our collections, but especially from the Reference, Edinburgh and Scottish, and Music Collections.

We’ve had to close this area off while checks are carried out.
You can still get access to most of the material which is on the public floors of the library.

We cannot yet give a timescale for when access can be restored, but it is likely to be several months. We will keep you updated as work progresses.

Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this will cause.

Discover a (common)wealth of reading this summer and win yourself a tablet!

This summer libraries all over Scotland are celebrating authors and books with links to Commonwealth countries.

And you could be celebrating too, if you’re the lucky winner of a tablet in this prize draw (the tablet gadget that is, not not the confection!)

Here’s how to enter:

Visit your library before the end of September and choose a title from the Wealth of Reading display.

Once you’ve read it simply share the best things about the book in under 50 words. You can enter online or fill in a postcard at the library.

There are loads of books to choose from. You might pick this tragi-comic tale from the Niger delta, these beautifully crafted Indian novellas or some sci-fi from Barbados.

Here are a few more suggestions for you to choose from or ask at your local library. Good luck!

Planes, trains and a 300 year old work of art

Last year we brought you exciting news about a rare Japanese eighteenth century handscroll painting which had been discovered in our collections.

Library Development Officer Karen O’Brien takes up the next part of the story…

‘How would you like to go to Leiden?’

‘Love to’ says I, already thinking ‘what’s the catch?’

‘Nothing really, just ensure a unique, fragile 300-year old Japanese Handscroll worth a small fortune arrives safely.’

Really? No pressure then.  How will I pack it?  What if I lose it?

First of all look at the Scroll and check its size.  Has to travel as hand luggage.  Cannot fold it, cut it down or squash it as per the usual approach to packing.  Scratch head – help.

With the aid of our in-house expert Janette Gollan, colleagues at museums and an assistant in the Rose Street branch of Tiso’s the Scroll is packed.


Karen with her precious cargo

But only if Pythagoras theory really works will the Scroll slot in diagonally to the luggage space.

Just check that with Easyjet as flying to-morrow.  No – it is too big. It can only travel in the hold.  Crisis.

Just pretend you have not ‘phoned and all will be well.  Always have a plan B – catch the Eurostar if Scroll grounded.

The Scroll left Central Library at 8am on Friday April 25th and got a lift to Edinburgh Airport where it sailed through check-in (no queries) and Border Control. Bit nerve-wracking as the Scroll is fragile 13 metres long and needs lots of TLC, so not really ideal to open at a busy airport security point.

The Scroll queued in line and went on board Easyjet to Amsterdam accompanied by its 2 minders.  The relief to have it safely on board was immense.  Not a nervous flier, but the thought of being turned back at any time was a huge worry.

After a smooth flight it landed at Schiphol airport again with the threat of having to be opened, but luckily it sailed through all checks to board the double-decker train.  Half-an-hour later it was in the centre of Leiden in time for its appointment with the conservators at the Restorient Studio.

The conservators Andrew and Sydney were hugely welcoming and greatly enthusiastic about the Scroll, so it really seems as though it has gone to the right people to treat it.

Karen with with Dr Rosina Buckland from National Museums of Scotland and Andrew Thompson of Restorient Studios

Karen with with Dr Rosina Buckland from National Museums of Scotland, Andrew Thompson of Restorient Studios – and the scroll!

They and Dr. Rosina Buckland of the National Museums of Scotland spent the afternoon explaining more about the Scroll and what would happen to it showing some of the processes the Scroll will go through including being beaten hard with a brush.  That caused me to raise a concerned eyebrow, but experts know what they are doing.

The afternoon in the conservation studio was a real eye-opener as there was some work in progress and some finished work on display.  The Studio was extremely professional and impressive. We had to kneel to view the work Japanese style with cushions provided for novices.  In just a few hours I learnt an amazing amount and had the chance to view some lovely artefacts.

Safely delivering the Scroll felt like a major accomplishment, but it is only the beginning.

All of the work on the Scroll is being made possible by the huge generosity of the Sumitomo Foundation.  Without their funding this unique treasure would not have started its restoration journey.

Look out for the next part of the story appearing soon on ‘Tales of One City’….

Prints by Laubscher Coetzee

Laubscher Coetzee’s prints have been available in galleries such as Edinburgh’s Red Door Gallery before, but this month’s exhibition in the Fine Art Library is the first exhibition of his entire portfolio.

Laubscher Coetzee

Laubscher explored his interest in printing on a course at the Edinburgh Printmakers two-and-a-half years ago, and it didn’t take long before he started developing printing projects to apply the skills he learnt.

Taking cues and inspiration from graphic and poster design, he enjoys working with line illustrations and bright colours, exploring themes such as his “Camera Collection” and “Model Home” series.

Making older people’s lives better

Get up and Go brochure

The Get Up and Go Awards celebrate those truly remarkable individuals and groups who devote huge amounts of time and energy towards making older people’s lives better.

Maybe you could nominate someone in one of the following categories:

Product/s and /or Service/s that make a difference – A product or service that is particularly appreciated by older people.

Outstanding Contribution – An individual/s, who has made a difference to the older population in your community.

An Inspirational Employer – An employer whose employment or service to/for older people inspires you

Innovation Openings – A business/association/charity that is striving to open up new opportunities for older people.

Winners receive an engraved glass “star” and highly commended receive a framed certificate at the awards ceremony – which also sees the launch of the Get Up and Go programme.

Download a nomination form.

Closing date for nominations is Friday 29th August 2014.

The Mythical Maze app

This year’s Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland, Mythical Maze, has its own app. Here’s how it works:


We’ve got a whole summer of mythical-related events and activities lined up. Ask at your nearest library or take a look at our calendar to find out more.


Mapping (more) Edinburgh fiction

People keep writing books set in Edinburgh, so we keep adding them to our Edinburgh Reads map.

Here are three recent additions, which apart from their setting, don’t have too much in common at all!

The Democrat by Olly Wyatt is a globe-spanning historical thriller made all the more exciting by the fact that it’s based on the real life adventures of political reformer Thomas Muir.

Ghost MoonRon Butlin’s Ghost Moon is inspired by the experiences of the former Edinburgh Makar’s mother. The novel tells the story of a pregnant young woman thrown out of her home in the 1950s – a secret she only reveals to her son Tom many years later, when she is suffering from dementia.

Our map also features many books written for a much younger audience. Olivia’s Enchanted Summer by Lyn Gardner’s is one of these. Olivia and her stage school chums are in town for the festival, but a mysterious thief threatens to ruin their stay.

Which books are right up your street? Explore the map to find out – and if you think there’s one we’ve missed be sure to let us know.

Edinburgh Reads: “Trust” by Ajay Close

“Your friends or your principles: which would you betray?”

Our next Edinburgh Reads event features Ajay Close, who’ll be talking to us about her latest novel Trust, tracing the lives of three friends from the miners’ strike of 1984 through to the 2006 banking crisis.

A novel about  love, money, friendship and ideals, Trust asks some searching questions about how people adapt over time, and how they stay the same.

“intelligent and uncompromising” The Herald

“‘a serious book for grown-ups who want the world taken not with a pinch of salt but with something a little stronger … a boon to those who want to be made to think, both about men and women and the relations between them, and about the values we so often assume are shared ones.’ 
The Scotsman

Ajay will be at Edinburgh Central Library from 7pm on Thursday 3rd July. Reserve your free place now.


The Queen’s Baton comes to town

After a Global Tour lasting 249 days the Queen’s Baton came to Edinburgh on Saturday 14th June – and south west libraries’ Games Baton Poster Competition winners were there for a close up view!

Heriot Watt University’s very own baton bearer and South West Community Sports Hub Co-ordinator, Chris Sellar greeted Ellie and other winners at a special Family Fun Sports Day held in association with South West Community Sports Hub.

The Digital Sentinel have more great photos from the day.

Ellie and Chris

©Martin P McAdam

Overall winner, P4 pupil Chloe from Canal View Primary School also got to start the Wester Hailes Fun Run on Sunday from with a wave of her prizewinning Commonwealth Mascot Clyde themed Baton. Here she is with Lord Provost Donald Wilson.

Chloe and Lord Provost

©Martin P McAdam

A whopping 325 entries from 9 local schools proved that Commonwealth Games fever is growing. Just as well then, that South West Libraries’ have lined up a “Summer of Sport” which will run throughout the summer holidays.

We’ll have lots of activities for local children including the chance to have their Good Luck cards delivered to athletes in the Commonwealth Village.

On your marks…

Systems maintenance

We are carrying out essential maintenance work on the morning of Saturday 21st June. The following services will be unavailable from approximately 9am – 1pm:

  • Online renewals and reservations
  • People’s Network public access computers
  • Overdrive ebooks and audiobooks

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Take the Summer Reading Challenge Online!

This year’s Mythical Maze Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland entices children aged four to eleven to find their way around a labyrinth, introducing them to fantastical creatures from the world of legend and mythology, and collecting stickers of each character along the way.

Visit your local library to join up for the challenge. Reading ebooks as well as printed ones count towards the challenge so why not also checkout the brilliant range of related ebooks available on our Kids & Teens Overdrive site. You’ll find magical titles such as First Aid for Fairies and other Fabled Beasts, a brilliant tale of mythical creatures set in Scotland and classics such as The Sword in the Stone.

eBooks are brilliant for taking away on holiday (less weight in those cases!), are a stealthy way of encouraging reading in screen-addicted children and are available 24/7 from wherever you are.

Celebrating 75 years of Blue Note Records

Blue Note Records – established in 1939 – celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

Founded in New York by record executive Alfred Lion and art director Francis Wolff, Blue Note fast became a renowned jazz label producing John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” and other classic albums from iconic artists such as Herbie Hancock, Jackie McLean, Dexter Gordon, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter and many others.

Blue Note albums are famous for their cover art. In 1956 Blue Note employed Reid Miles, an artist who worked for Esquire magazine. The cover art produced by Miles, often featuring Wolff’s photographs of musicians in the studio, was as influential in the world of graphic design as the music within would be in the world of jazz.

Blue Note continues to discover and launch impressive talents to a new level.

Library members can Stream Blue Note Records free  by going to Naxos Music Library Jazz  and clicking on Labels. Select “Blue Note” from the A-Z list to view the full list of albums.