Books On Wheels

4293291804_b4c2a7f632_oEdinburgh is well served by libraries with 28 branches across the city. However, it’s not always possible for some folks to reach these branches so we have a number of other services operating which allow access to books and reading. These include the mobile library, the home delivery service an library link.

Mobile Library Service
The mobile library service first took to the road in 1949 becoming the first service of its kind in Scotland.  The first van cost £1,836 and carried around 2,000 books across 10 sites.

Mobile Library out in the community

Mobile library in 1954

These days the mobile library makes 79 different stops across the city covering areas from Balerno and Ratho to Leith and Restalrig.  It also visits sheltered housing and retirement flats where residents can come on to the bus to choose book and books can be delivered straight to the rooms of those living in care homes. 

We caught up with George from the mobile team in Marchmont and after initial parking difficulties a delivery was duly made to  appreciative residents of a sheltered housing complex.

George tells us the relationship between staff and readers is one of the rewarding parts of the job: “Even though there’s no specific branch that we work from we still get to know readers pretty well and build up a relationship.  We get to know them pretty well and their taste in books and we’re always keeping an eye out for books coming in they’d be interested in.”

Home delivery service for housebound readers

Housebound readers service inauguration

Launch of the home delivery service in 1964

We also aim to reach out to the community through the housebound service. This service was launched as Books on Wheels in 1964 in partnership with the WRVS and Social Services Dept.  Today a team of  RVS volunteers still help deliver books to the doorstep of those who are housebound through illness or disability. We currently make around 450  housebound deliveries each month.

Library Link Service
The Library Link is another great service which opens access to the library for those who may have difficulty reaching a branch.  It is a free bus service for anyone who has difficulty getting to the library because of age, disability or ill health. Trained staff and Royal Voluntary Service volunteers will provide help getting on and of the bus and there is plenty time to choose books and enjoy a coffee and a chat before being taken home again. This service started in 1992 at Muirhouse 23 years on it is now an integral library service offered across the city. In Feb 2015 we delivered 56 sessions engaging with 475 people.

Some of the Library Linkers visiting Portobello Library told us of the benefits of the service:

Eileen: “I’ve been coming here for 11 years now. I’ve been using it the longest out of everyone here. For me it’s the social aspect, it’s about getting out and meeting people just as much as the books.  I had an operation on my hip so it became a bit more difficult to get down so this service has definitely helped to improve my social life”


Library Link at Portobello


Library Link at Portobello

Catherine agrees: “I gave up driving when I was 91, I’m 95 now. This is the only way I’d be able to come to the library now.  The staff here are very helpful and always have some books ready for me but it’s good to have the time to look myself aswell. I’m looking for some Sottish poetry today.


Library Link at Portobello

If you’d like to find out more about any of these services call Access Services on 0131 529 5683.

Archive images courtesy of Capital Collections.

2 thoughts on “Books On Wheels

  1. Reblogged this on A Very Fine Library and commented:
    This reminds me of the happy weeks I spent working with the mobile library service in Falkirk. It was tremendous fun going round the houses with the driver/library assistant – who was pretty much the most impressive driver I’ve ever met. He could turn that gigantic bus on a penny – in and out of the narrowest streets without any trouble at all 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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