Learning English and making friends: Tomasz’s story

Hi. My name is Tomasz and I am from Poland. I work in hospitality.

Although I attended college to study English and I have been trying to meet as many native speakers as possible I have not felt satisfied with progress of my English. I was simply not confident. Native speakers talking to me with full speed often made me feel uncomfortable. I did not understand everything they were telling me and often I felt embarrassed to ask for explanation or even repeating.

Then Tomasz joined one of our Chatabout ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Reading Groups. 

Discovering that I am able to read a whole book in English changed things  a lot. Well, books we read at Chatabout group are written in a  simple language, are not too thick, neither scientific. But all in all I read books in English not in my native language, and this is a fact. And even more importantly,  I can talk afterwards about it in English too. The book and discussion are adjusted to our level of English but it builds my self-esteem greatly.

The social aspect is also important

At our monthly meetings we not only chat about a book but also there is a space to learn new words and we are encouraged to ask for meanings of  the difficult ones.

In a friendly atmosphere we also find  time to talk about any interesting topic, and to share our views. For me it is like meetings with friends, a lot of fun and I am assured I will always learn something new and have a great time.


Thansk to Tomasz for sharing his story.

There are three Chatabout Reading Groups where you are most welcome to join us and improve your English, gain confidence and meet new friends: at Fountainbridge Library on the second Tuesday morning of each month, at McDonald Road Library, on the last Thursday morning of each month, and a new group starting at the Central Library, meeting the first Wednesday afternoon of each month. The groups are ideal for those learning English at Intermediate Level. To find out more details please contact Wendy.pearson@edinburgh.gov.uk

esol chatabout

Meet the author: Gordon Anthony

On March 18th McDonald Road Library hosts a visit from a remarkable author.

Registered blind, Gordon Anthony found himself with time on his hands after retiring.

With the aid of special computer software, he returned to his hobby of writing. This was a wise move.

Gordon’s debut novel, “In the Shadow of the Wall”, was published in 2010 to critical acclaim, including a four star review in The Scotsman.

Gordon then ventured into crime fiction, and has attained a worldwide following for his “Constantine Investigates” series of spoof murder mysteries.

Book online to hear Gordon talk about his latest work and his experiences as a blind author.

Don Paterson OBE at McDonald Road Library

Acclaimed Scottish poet, writer and musician Don Paterson will be speaking on the theme of ‘Journeys’ for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day (Monday 27th January).

As a sign of respect we will be asking guests to help us recreate ‘Path’ in line with the Journeys theme by writing a message, poem or quotation on a memorial brick.

Contact mcdonaldroad.library@edinburgh.gov.uk or call 0131 529 5636 to reserve your place at this event.

What is a Social Media Surgery?

McDonald Road Library hosts Edinburgh’s latest Social Media Surgery on Wednesday 14th August from 5.30 – 7.30pm. We caught up with James, one of the “surgeons”, to find out more

A previous surgery at McDonald Rd Library. Photo courtesy of Lilly Hunter (@lillylyle)

What are social media surgeries and who are they for?

Social Media Surgeries are informal sessions aimed at helping people make the most of the web and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. They take place across the UK and are run by volunteers (the “surgeons”) offering their time and expertise to help individuals, local voluntary or community organisations, charities, clubs or societies looking for a bit of advice. They are completely free and very relaxed. You don’t need any particular skills or knowledge of using the web – our surgeons can help you whatever level you’re at.

Why are you doing this?

The web and social media sites have opened up new worlds of communication for millions of people worldwide. They are a powerful tools for campaigning, collaborating and engaging others; helping charities to spread their message, allowing volunteers to come together, and empowering citizens to become more active in their community. The surgeries aim to help more people make use of these wonderful tools – our surgeons have all found ways to use social media to improve their lives and the lives of those around them, and they want to share that!

What’s been your experiences of the surgeries you’ve attended?

Every surgery is different, and each person who comes along brings something new – whether it’s a surgeon with a great tip for a useful new website, or a patient with a challenging question that makes us all stop and think! But what they’ve all had in common is the wonderful buzz in the room – the excitement of the surgeons not knowing what they’re going to be asked next, and the genuine appreciation of the folk who come along and get all this great advice and support for free! It’s so rewarding to start with someone who knows nothing about any of this, and to have them tweeting or blogging just a hour or so later!

What if I want to be a surgeon?

The surgeries rely on the goodwill of those who come and offer their time to help others. The surgeons don’t have to be “experts” – in fact, we strongly believe there’s no such thing as a social media expert! If you think you could spare a couple of hours to come along and help someone to discover the world of social media, visit www.edsms.org.uk to see when our next dates are and follow the links to sign up to say you’re coming – this helps us to ensure there are enough chairs and biscuits!

Thanks James!

Helping you make the most of social media

Edinburgh’s Social Media Surgeries are back!

Would you like some help and advice on social media and the web? Come along to McDonald Road Library next Monday evening (21st January) any time between 5.30 and 7.30pm and get the heads up from the experts.

The surgeons are especially keen to help any local voluntary or community organisations, charities, clubs or societies who are interested in making the most of the web and social media.

Of course, everyone is welcome so sign up today and we’ll see you there.

Prepare for the British Citizenship Test

If you or someone you know is preparing for the citizenship test and have reached Intermediate level English or above this will be of interest.

Starting 23rd January we’ll be holding drop-in sessions for applicants where an ESOL tutor will be on hand to give help and advice on the test. This will run from 5.30 – 7.30pm every Wednesday from 23rd January through to 20th March.

Come along to as many sessions as you like or come along when you can – it’s up to you.

You can of course also practice from home by using your library card number to log on to Life in Great Britain online.

These sessions will take place at McDonald Road Library. For more details and to book your place contact sandra.wright@edinburgh.gov.uk or call  0131 529 5636.

World Aids Day

Some facts about HIV:

  • More than 90,000 people are currently living with HIV in the UK.
  • Between 1981 and 2012 more than 35 million people have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
  • Despite advances in the treatment and understanding of HIV and AIDS, many people  do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the virus.

This Saturday (1st December) is World AIDS Day, a timely reminder that HIV has not gone away. Here’s how we’re getting involved.

Volunteers from Waverley Care, Scotland’s leading charity providing care and support to people living with HIV or Hepatitis C, will be manning information stalls at Central, McDonald Road and Portobello Libraries this Saturday.

Libraries will also be stocking material from the HIV Aware campaign, and you can find out about other local and national organisations and sources of help and advice on Your Edinburgh, our community information site.

We’ve also put together a list of books which look at HIV and AIDS from a range of interesting perspectives, all available to collect from your local library.

Finally, look out for a new Scottish awareness and anti-stigma campaign called ‘HIV Always Hear‘. It captures the stories of people living with HIV in Scotland in 2012 and 4 people tell their story through 4 short films.  The website goes live on Friday.

Six authors in six libraries: it’s Book Week Scotland

We’re celebrating Book Week Scotland with the help of some very special guests. Book now for the following events:

Alex Gray – Glasgow Queen of Crime!
DI Lorimer is up against the freezing weather and a double serial murder.
Mon 26 November, 6.30-7.45pm at Muirhouse Library. To book call 0131 529 5528 or email muirhouse.library@edinburgh.gov.uk

Ken McClure – Medical Man.
Ken talks about his recent writing and bestselling medical thrillers including ‘Lost Causes’ (June 2011)
Mon 26 November, 6.30-7.45pm at Craigmillar Library. To book call 0131 529 5597 or email craigmillar.library@edinburgh.gov.uk

Doug Johnstone – ‘Hit and Run’
Local writer, musician and journalist, Doug Johnstone talks about his latest book ‘Hit and Run’.
Mon 26 November, 6.30-745pm at Newington Library. To book call 0131 529 5536 or email newington.library@edinburgh.gov.uk

Denise Mina – the End of the Wasp Season
Author of the Garnethill trilogy, Glasgow crime writer and playwright Denise Mina talks about her new book ‘The End of the Wasp Season’ and her writing career.
Mon 26 November, 6.30-7.45pm at Drumbrae Library. To book call 0131 529 5244 or email drumbrae.library@edinburgh.gov.uk

Margaret Bennett – Folklore and Scottish Song
A folksinger and scholar of great sensitivity and versatility, and a ‘major figure of the modern Scottish revival, Margaret embodies all that is best of the spirit of Scotland’. (Hamish Henderson)
Fri 30 November, 10-12am at Oxgangs Library. To book call 0131 529 5549 or email oxgangs.library @edinburgh.gov.uk

Anne Donovan
Prize-winning short story writer and novelist, Anne Donovan’s debut novel Buddha Da was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.
Thurs 29 November, 2.30-3.30pm at McDonald Road Library. To book call 0131 529 5636 or email mcdonaldroad.library@edinburgh.

Prepare for the British Citizenship Test

If you or someone you know is preparing for the citizenship test and have reached Intermediate level English or above this will be of interest.

Starting 7th November we’ll be holding drop-in sessions for applicants where an ESOL tutor will be on hand to give help and advice on the test. This will run from 5.30 – 7.30pm every Wednesday from 7th November through to 19th December.

Come along to as many sessions as you like or come along when you can – it’s up to you.

You can of course also practice from home by using your library card number to log on to Life in Great Britain online.

These sessions will take place at McDonald Road Library. For more details and to book your place contact sandra.wright@edinburgh.gov.uk or call  0131 529 5636.

Let’s celebrate Libraries

Here are just some of our events during October.  Check with your local library to find out what’s happening in your area.

1st-6th October
Detective for a Day & make your mark on the library.  Come along and pose your questions to Central Library staff
1st October
Meet the author Harry the Polis, Ratho Library, 6.30-7.30
4th October
Super Poetry Bash, workshops and open mic night on National Poetry Day, Portobello Library
Meet the Author of The Blue Suitcase, Marianne Wheelaghan, Ratho Library, 6.30-7.30
5th October
Superhero building for children aged 5-12yrs, McDonald Road Library
Zoolab for children aged 5-12 years at McDonald Road and Moredun Libraries
5th – 7th October
Portobello Book Festival.  Contact Portobello Library for more information
6th October
Zoolab for children aged 5-12 years at Granton and South Queensferry Libraries
Superhero Saturday: Super hero building for children aged 5-12 years at Moredun, Kirkliston, Ratho, Muirhouse Libraries
Super Saturday Music with live classical guitar and fiddle music at Morningside Library
Round the world stories with Fearghal McNicoll, for children aged 5-12 years at Leith Library
Central Library hosts a day of events including music from St Mary’s Music School, Drew Wright and Wounded Knee and Scottish music group Madeline Brand and Anne Gass.  The choir from Tollcross Primary School will perfom Gaelic songs and Queen Victoria will be dropping in for a drawing event
12th October
Zoolab for children aged 5-12 years at Ratho Library
13th October
Zoolab and superhero building for children aged 5-12 years at Portobello Library

A different kind of book group

Our ESOL Chatabout reading groups are a great way to improve your English, make friends and have fun. These friendly, informal reading groups are ideal for adult students learning English as a Second Language, at Intermediate Level, and are most definitely NOT English classes!

Over the past few months we’ve been reading The Little One by Lynda la Plante: a creepy ghost story that makes you want to sleep with the light on.

Maria commented ‘it was really scary and I loved the tension building up.. I learnt some new words like bell-pull..’. The group enjoyed sharing traditional ghost stories from their home countries.

More light-hearted was ‘Kung Fu Trip’ by poet, musician and writer Benjamin Zephaniah and his partly fictional account of a visit to mainland China. One of our members, Fung, was able to explain some of the Chinese expressions.

But the book which everyone enjoyed the most was Bloody Valentine by James Patterson, a particularly gory murder mystery! It led to lots of chatter and sharing of some new words and expressions.

All these books are from the ‘Quick Reads ‘series – short books by best selling writers and celebrities.Take a look at the full list of titles.

Chatabout groups run in the following libraries – use the contact details to find out how you can join.

McDonald Road Library Group meets the last Thursday of each month, 10-11.30am, starting Thursday 27th September. Contact: Wendy Pearson 0131 242 8022 wendy.pearson@edinburgh.gov.uk

Moredun Library Group meets the last Friday of each month, 11am, starting Friday 29th September. Contact: David Hayden 0131 529 5649 david.hayden@edinburgh.gov.uk

Fountainbridge Library Group. If you are interested in being part of a group at this library please contact Mo Boussaboun 0131 529 5616 Mohammed.Boussaboun@edinburgh.gov.uk

Libraries in pictures

Libraries were well and truly gripped by Olympic fever over the past few weeks as our picture gallery shows.

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Granton hosted what we are pretty sure was the first Zumba class to take place in one of our libraries. The  4 to 14 year olds (and library staff) who took part found that keeping fit really can be fun.

Meanwhile, those crafty customers at McDonald Road got to work on a pretty stunning recreation of the Olympic stadium and Sighthill’s knitters were kept busy knitting new medals for Sir Chris.

Away from the Olympics, Muirhouse had a visitor from the distant past and this wee chap at Craigmillar shows it’s never to early to get yourself a library card.

More snaps soon!

Don’t throw away those programmes! and other festival tips

It’s that time of year again. Time for our annual plea not to throw away those festival programmes, leaflets and flyers but to hand them in to grateful Edinburgh and Scottish Collection staff.

We’ve been collecting material associated with the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since 1947, making The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection the place to find out more about the history of Edinburgh and its festivals.

And as a wee extra, here are a few tips on how we can help you survive the days and weeks ahead:


When it’s all getting a bit too much and you really need a moment to unwind is there a better place to do so than the library? Not according to comedian Helen Keen who told the Huffington Post that if she has a free hour during the festival:

“I might go and sit in Edinburgh Library and read a book under its beautiful dome – it must be one of the best public libraries ever, and so peaceful.”

She’s not described as an ‘all-round clever person’ for nothing you know.

Bluff your way through the opera

If your musical knowledge owes more to Gaga than Gagaku and you find yourself with a ticket for one of the more highbrow productions, be smart and use your library card to get free access to Oxford Music Online.

A quick search of the mummy and daddy of bluffers’ guides to all things musical, and you’ll be transformed from dullard to devotee.

Read all about it

And when it’s all over, as it will be all too soon, fend off those withdrawal symptoms by getting stuck into one of the novels set during festival season, many of which are featured on our map of books set in Edinburgh.

Or borrow one of the books by or about your favourite acts, a tiny selection of which is featured here.

Get ready for next year

Finally, for those inspired to create their own stage masterpiece McDonald Road Library will be hosting a ‘How to write a stage play’ workshop, led by multi-produced playwright, best-selling author and regular EIBF contributor Caroline Dunford.

The event will be held on Saturday 15th September from 10.30 – 12 noon and is free. Caroline’s events are always booked up fairly quickly though so email mcdonaldroad.library@edinburgh.gov.uk or call 0131 529 5636 to reserve your place.

New poems at Poems Aloud

Everybody has an old favourite poem and, over the years, I’ve had a chance to read most of them. Over and over again — ‘Daffodils’ and ‘My Lurve is like a Red Red Rose’ and ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ and a handful of other regulars come up every session or two.Truly, it is a delight to read these poems and watch the lips of those who’ve memorised them move in time — “Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee…”.

However, it is always splendid to be surprised and this group at McDonald Road Library were calling out poems I’d never had the opportunity to read out.

We bashed out some of Basho’s Haiku and shared the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I don’t think, in 5 years of visiting libraries all over Edinburgh, I’ve ever met a group who requested Millay.

And we dove into Stevenson with his Edinburgh appropriate “Keepsake Mill” making a charming appearance and then we chuckled our way through Edward Lear’s “The Jumblies” — it was all as jolly and unexpected as going to sea in a sieve, it was. While it didn’t always make sense, and might not be practical, it sure was fun.

Ryan Van Winkle is Edinburgh Libraries Poet in Residence

Time banking and photography at McDonald Road Library

News of a couple of forthcoming happenings at McDonald Road Library:

On Wednesday 18th July at noon we’ll be hosting the Leith Time Bank launch. Come along to find out how time banking gives you the opportunity to use your skills, knowledge and experience to help someone in the local community and earn credits. You can then use those credits to get help with something you need.

Time Banking is a great way of bringing local communities together and getting to know your neighbours a bit better.

If you’d like to learn more contact sengatimebank@btconnect.com or call 0131 553 2559 by Monday 16th July.

Our other event is for budding and experienced snappers. From 20 – 22nd July a Wikipedia: WikiProject Scotland / Edinburgh Photography Workshop will take place at the library. The idea is to improve photography skills amongst the attendees, share the tricks of the trade and show how to make the most of your photographs throughout Wikimedia’s projects, focusing on Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia.

Why Does the Loch Ness Monster Sing? …Poetry at Adult Learners’ Week

A guest post today from Poet in Residence, Ryan Van Winkle.  Ryan ran a poetry workshop with the ESOL group who meet at McDonald Road Library.  Over to you, Ryan:

Even native English speakers can get intimidated by the challenges of poetry and so it was a great pleasure to be welcomed by the Adult Learners at McDonald Road and Fountainbridge Libraries during Adult Learners’ Week in order to share Scottish poems and to show how rewarding and easy reading a poem can be in in a group setting.

We met Edinburgh residents from China, Hong Kong, Romania, Pakistan and Portugal — talked about different poetic traditions, the romance of Pessoa, and our own languages and experiences as transplants in a new country. While there was some trepidation at first (my favourite comment was — ‘What is the point of reading, when you can just go and do something?’ — a good question for all, I think) with different people having different levels of comfort with English and chatting in general. However, as always, the great equaliser was Edwin Morgan’s brilliant ‘The Loch Ness Monster’s Song’ which, to the uninitiated, is a simple stream of gibberish.

‘Am I reading this correctly?’ asked one of the group.
‘I don’t think there is a wrong way to read it,’ was the reply.

How about you give it a try on your own?

The Loch Ness Monster’s Song
Hnwhuffl hhnnwfl hnfl hfl?
Gdroblboblhobngbl gbl gl
g g g g glbgl.
Drublhaflablhaflubhafgabhaflhafl fl fl – gm grawwwww grf grawf awfgm graw gm.
Hovoplodok – doplodovok – plovodokot -
Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrlgabrl fok splfok!
kra gka fok!
Grof grawff gahf?
Gombl mbl bl -
blm plm,
blm plm,
blm plm,
(c) Edwin Morgan. This poem appears with kind permission of Carcanet Press and Mariscat Press.  With thanks to Edwin and the Scottish Poetry Library.

We read a few more straight-forward poems too. Liz Lochead’s ‘Kidspoem/ Bairnsangs and John Glenday’s ‘Mangurstadh’. All three yielded vibrant thoughts on the poems themselves, memories of home, childhood, the challenges of raising children, food, language, etc.  What a warming and wonderful thing to share Scottish poems with diverse individuals — and yes, there was also a delicious, international, range of nibbles and, of course, cups of tea.

Thanks to all who came and participated and to Wendy Pearson for helping to organise these events, and, of course, for bringing along the smoked salmon.

Thinking about taking the citizenship test?

The MC Café offers help, advice and support with English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) as they prepare for the Life in the UK Citizenship Test.

Learn at your own speed as an experienced tutor assists with English language difficulties and citizenship questions. She will also be able to direct you to other agencies and sources of help.

The MC Café is open on Wednesday evenings from 5.30 – 7.30pm at McDonald Road Library, for 6 weeks starting 16th May.

For more information or to book a place contact wendy.pearson@edinburgh.gov.uk or call 0131 242 8022.

And remember you can practice for the Citizenship test anywhere, any time by using your library card number to log on to Life in Great Britain.

Business Start Up Workshops

A series of workshops comprising a general and enjoyable awareness morning followed by 4 sessions on key topics are taking place at the Leith Business Hub at McDonald Road Library.

Start Up Awareness Seminar

Saturday 14 April 2012 10am – 12.30pm

If you are just thinking about, planning or even about to start your own business or become self employed you will benefit from attending this awareness session. Every session comprises of an introduction to Business Gateway; a short presentation on starting in business and an interview with a guest business person.

Start Up Workshop 1 – Marketing

Saturday 21 April 2012 10am – 1pm

Getting the marketing right for your business is crucial to its success. This workshop will help you to understand the things you need to consider for effective marketing

Start Workshop 2 – Business Planning

Saturday 28 April 2012 10am – 1pm

It is essential to have a realistic, working business plan when you’re starting up a business. This workshop will help you create a robust business plan.

Start Up Workshop 3 – Finance

Saturday 5 May 2012 10am – 1pm

Good financial management is essential. Learn to manage a profit and loss account, produce a cash-flow statement, understand the meaning of working capital, describe the main sources of finance and understand the different legal structures of business.

Start Up Workshop 4 – Information & Communication Technology (ICT)

Saturday 12 May 2012 10am – 1pm

Effective IT and ebusiness adoption can significantly help companies operate more effectively and take advantage of new opportunities that may otherwise not exist.

Booking is essential. To reserve a place call 0131 347 2820 or email bglothian@bgateway.com

For details of business workshops that we are running at other libraries see the Business Gateway website.

Video: nursery rhymes you’ve never heard before

Even if you’ve no idea what they’re singing about we think you’ll love this video of toddlers, their (very tuneful) mums and the odd teletubby all enjoying one of our Polish language Bookbug Rhymetimes, ably led by the multi-talented Asia. The first song seems to be all about violins and pointing while the second one involves sleeping, weeping (?) and those wonderful pointy hats. Which one’s your favourite?

Bookbug rhyme and song sessions for 0-3 year olds and their parents and carers take place in every public library in the city. It’s a great way to meet and get to know other mums and dads in your area, as well as building up your child’s confidence, social skills and speech and language development. Find out when the Bookbug visits your nearest library.

LETS Trade at McDonald Road Library

The next Edinburgh LETS (Local Exchange and Trading System) trade fair and social will take place in McDonald Road Library on Monday 2nd April.

The aim of LETS’ trade fairs and talks is to provide social contact and reinforce the sense of a local trading network which values everyone’s skills.  LETS recognises each person’s diverse talents and the amazing resources available within the local community and allows a platform to trade skills with other members.

Come along on the 2nd to find out more or check out www.edinburghlets.org.uk

Monday 2nd April, between 5 – 7pm, McDonald Road Library