Upcoming talks and workshops


Our events calendar has details of what’s happening in libraries over the next couple of months. Here are a few of the highlights:

Alison Demarco: The Signature from Tibet

Wednesday 11th May, 2.30pm. Free – book online

Alison Demarco’s The Signature of Tibet is a breathtaking four-part, epic fictional story inspired by true events and follows the lives of four main, inspirational characters: The Soldier, Pembuti, Anne, and Palden.  Spanning the Highlands of Scotland to the remote and isolated Lowlands of Tibet, the book travels back in time to 1904 when a young Scottish soldier enters Tibet with the British Expedition.  Signature From Tibet is a must-read for anyone seeking spiritual enlightenment—or would just like to share in a fantastic journey the likes of which they’re unlikely to ever encounter again!

Edinburgh Tales: Charles Piazzi Smyth

Wednesday 18th May, 2.30pm. Free – book online

Charles Piazzi Smyth was appointed as Astronomer Royal for Scotland in 1846, where he was based at the Calton Hill Observatory. Bruce Vickery will be talking about the context of Smyth’s arrival in Edinburgh as Scotland’s second Astronomer Royal, and about some of his multi-faceted activities while in this post. Bruce is a retired mathematical physicist with an interest in astronomy and its heritage in Edinburgh.

The Waves Burn Bright by Iain Maloney

Tuesday 24th May, 6.30pm. Free – book online
In 1988 the Piper Alpha oil platform exploded killing 167 men. The Waves Burn Bright is a deeply affecting, sensitive portrait of its devastating aftermath on one family.
Author Iain Maloney talks about his new novel, which is based on this tragic event. His other novels are  First Time Solo and Silma Hill. He was also shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize and in 2014 he was shortlisted for the Guardian Not The Booker prize.


Monday 30th May, 6.00pm. Free – book online

Whither ettlin tae write in Scots frae the affset, or whither aready applying yer creative skeels tae the leid, the Scrieve-It workshoap will luik tae weys o explorin an developin new or existin writin in Scots, wi the National Library o Scotland’s resident Scots Scriever, Hamish MacDonald.

Former Robert Burns Writing Fellow for Dumfries and Galloway, Joint Artistic Director of Dogstar Theatre Company and Director of Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre, Hamish has written numerous warks in Scots includin plays, fiction and also bairns’ verse, short stories and a teenage novella for Scots imprint Itchy Coo Publishing.

How to promote your book

Thursday 2nd June, 2.30pm. Free – book online

Are you an aspiring, small or self-published writer and want to know how to promote your book?  Come along and learn how to put together a basic campaign that is sure to get you started.

Diane Hinds is an experienced entertainment PR who has taught Campaigning & Persuasive Skills at the University of Westminster, on its BA: Public Relations & Advertising course and is a frequent Guest Visitor at Victoria Zackheim’s Personal Essay Writing course, part of UCLA’s Extension programme.

Magnus Linklater – Little Sparta, a guide to the garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay

Wednesday 15th June at 6.30pm. Free – book online

Chairman of the Little Sparta Trust, Magnus Linklater discusses Jessie Sheeler’s publication ‘Little Sparta – a Guide to the Garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay’. Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden in the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh, is widely regarded as one of the most significant gardens in Britain. In addition to being a spectacular example of garden design, it also features almost 300 art works by Finlay and others which form an integral part of the garden scheme.

The guide tells the story of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s extraordinary creation, exploring the underlying themes, and introducing and explaining the significance of the main elements and art works in each part of the garden. The publication also features new photographs by photographer Robin Gillanders as well as archival material.




Borrow a Book from BorrowBox

bolindaeAudiobooks are increasingly one of Edinburgh Libraries more popular online services so we’ve added a new Audiobook provider to keep up with demand! Have a look at BorrowBox for a great range of titles and authors that you can download and listen to anytime or anywhere. Use it on your computer or through it’s super easy-to-use app on your Apple, Android or Kindle Fire device.

There are over 400 fantastic titles to choose from including:Door
A God in Ruins & Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The Night Manager by John Le Carre
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
The Revolving Door of Life by Alexander McCall Smith
The Lake House by Kate Morton

Check one out today!

Crime writing without clichés

Do you write crime fiction, or have you always fancied trying your hand at a crime novel?  If so, we’d like to invite you to our creative writing workshop, designed to help you create brilliant crime plots… while avoiding typical crime clichés.
crime without cliches
The workshop will be run by writer Claire Askew, who’s also the Scottish Book Trust Reading Champion at Craigmillar Library.  Claire is a crime novelist whose debut novel-in-progress, Three Rivers, has been longlisted for the Peggy Chapman Andrews (Bridport) Novel Award, and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.
This workshop will include some hands-on writing exercises to get you started, along with practical advice to take away and apply to new projects or works-in-progress.
The workshop is free, AND because this is a World Book Night event, every attendee will receive a free copy of Sarah Hilary’s dark crime novel “Someone Else’s Skin” to take away with them at the end.


Book spaces and group activities

By a dyslexic library memberbook group

As an adult with dyslexia, books are potentially tricky for me. So I need to be proactive and find things that help me engage with them. 2 things I’ve found that do so are book spaces and group activities. They help me to engage with books by:

  • Bringing me into contact with other readers
  • Motivating me;
  • Making the book more memorable;
  • Supporting my comprehension; and
  • Helping me to organise and manage my time

Now we’re going to look at book spaces and 5 group activities in turn.

Book space

Group activities

1)    Book drop-in

  • A scheduled time and place where you engage silently with a book of your choice in the company of others
  • A session that happens regularly which you can attend as often or as infrequently as you like
  • A good option if you don’t get round to engaging with books
  • e. g. the Scottish Poetry Library’s ‘Collective Hush’ (for 2 hours every Friday)

2) Silent book gathering

  • A scheduled time and place where you engage silently with a book of your choice in the company of others
  • There might be the option of chatting afterwards
  • A good option if you want to engage with books of your choice and find out about books from others
  • e. g. ‘Hush Hour’ in Edinburgh

Are the 3 options above only for print books?

  • It might be possible to listen to an audiobook or audio dramatization through headphones. However, if this distracts others, you could choose a print book you find accessible [1] e.g. graphic novels, books designed to be dyslexia-friendly [2], or short stories.

3) Story Café

  • A scheduled time and place where you eat your lunch and listen to someone reading stories and poetry out loud in the company of others
  • You discuss the stories as a group after they’ve been read out
  • A good option if you prefer listening to reading, and enjoy group discussion
  • e. g. Edinburgh Story Café

4)    Mainstream Book group

  • A group you join that meets regularly, e.g. once a month
  • The idea is that everyone attends every meeting – it’s like a club
  • You engage with a set book then discuss it at the following meeting
  • The group is for anyone i.e. not aimed at specific groups like dyslexic people. But you can use any format you like.  You can also ask for reasonable adjustments e.g. request the list of books in advance
  • To find your nearest book groups, and for a range of virtual book groups, visit http://readinggroups.org/groups

5)    Book group for dyslexic adults

How about you?

  • Have you tried out a book space or group activity? How did you find it?
  • What places and activities help you to engage with books?
  • Dream up your ideal book activity – what would it involve?

[1] See sections G.4 – G.6 in ‘Accessing Books – A Guide for Dyslexic Adults

[2] For details see Series of books for adults designed to be dyslexia-friendly

Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book

With the release of the new Jungle Book film fast approaching, we thought we’d let you see the magical illustrations in our collection by Maurice and Edward Julius Detmold.  This set of 16 prints illustrating Kipling’s stories is considered one of the brothers’ greatest joint artworks and you can browse them all on Capital Collections.

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If you’ve only ever seen the Disney classic of the Jungle Book, why not get ahead and read the original stories that inspired these pictures and the film adaptations? The Jungle Book is available to download on Overdrive – our free ebook service.

My first fortnight as Edinburgh’s Reading Champion

by Claire Askew

It feels like a long time since Scottish Book Trust‘s four new Reading Champions were announced, as part of Book Week Scotland 2015.  I was thrilled to be selected as the Reading Champion for Craigmillar Library in Edinburgh, and couldn’t wait to get started.

Fast-forward to mid-March 2016, and my first day in post. Walking into Craigmillar’s huge, modern, colourful Library, I couldn’t quite believe I had first-day-of-school butterflies!  I was about to meet most of the Library staff for the first time, and be thrown headlong into the busy schedule of clubs and activities.

It turns out, I needn’t have worried: my first week was full of warm welcomes.  I met the Library Link group, a weekly drop-in group for older people, run on Thursday mornings.  Library Link mornings mean lots of cups of tea, tasty snacks, chatting, and exchanging books.  At my first meeting, some of the Library Link ladies introduced me to the library’s rotating stock of knitting magazines, and we bonded over our shared experiences of knitting disasters and triumphs!

Claire at Kids Knitting Club.jpg

Claire at Kids Knitting Club

That same week, I sat down with some of the library’s biggest fans: the local children who come along after school to spend time here.  For many of them, the library provides a handy space to meet up – they play games on the computers and games consoles, and attend the various kids’ clubs run by library staff.  Craigmillar Library runs a twice-weekly Minecraft Club for over-7s, a drama group, and a variety of crafting activities (you can find out what’s on at Craigmillar by visiting the Library Facebook page).  Naturally, I was keen to attend the Kids’ Knitting Club!  While we learned some new stitches, I asked the kids what they’d put in their dream library.  The answers varied from “books about Viking boats” to “a chocolate funtain” and “a resident library owl”!

A Monster Murder Mystery the crime scene.jpg

A Monster Murder Mystery the crime scene.

I had to get my sleeves rolled up right away: the library staff and I were keen to run some kind of event to launch Scottish Book Trust‘s new public writing campaign – and we had less than two weeks to decide what it would be!  Library advisor and resident games expert Joe suggested a murder mystery style game, as the theme of the writing campaign is “Secrets and Confessions.”  I got to work, figuring out how to incorporate books and reading into a (family-friendly) murder mystery activity.

The resulting activity was A Monster Murder Mystery – a scenario in which Frankenstein’s monster had escaped from his book (we all know fictional characters do this when we’re not looking, right?), and turned up lifeless in the library, with no explanation.  We invited amateur sleuths aged 8+ to come into the library, examine our crime scene, and hunt for clues in order to solve the mystery.

A Monster Murder Mystery the crime scene.jpg

I created the game in order to introduce participants to the variety of titles stocked in the library, and to teach useful library skills, like how to search the online library catalogue, how to find out what activities are offered, and so on.  On the day of the activity, over twenty kids and teens came along to the library to get involved.  They worked in teams (with wonderful, alliterative names: Mystery Marshmallows!  Monsters In Crime!) and worked their way around the library collecting my clues, following their hunches, and using their case files to record the evidence.

In the end, the Master Minds team took first prize, solving the mystery first – though it was a photo finish!  By the end of the day, we could see that several of the kids had benefited from getting involved – within half an hour of the game ending, one young man used the library catalogue to reserve a book for the very first time!

In case you were wondering what adult readers got to do while all this was going on… never fear!  Also to launch “Secrets and Confessions,” I ran a Twitter hashtag for adults to get involved in: #IConfessINeverRead.  I invited adults to let me know what books they thought they probably ought to read, but never had… and the results were very interesting indeed!  Who knew so many people had blagged their way through classes in school, essays at Uni, and even exams on books they’d never actually read?!

It’s been a whirlwind fortnight, but I don’t have time to stop now… my next task is to prepare some exciting activities for World Book Night, coming up on 23rd April.  Craigmillar Library will be giving away three different texts: Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive, Sarah Hilary’s dark crime novel Someone Else’s Skin, and, for the poetry lovers, Carol Ann Duffy’s Love Poems.  If you want to keep an eye on what I’m plotting, you can follow my Reading Champion blog on Tumblr.  Watch this space!


Ten of the strangest book-related sites on the internet

If there’s one thing we love almost as much as books it’s bizarre book-themed web sites. Here are ten of the oddest we’ve come across. If we’ve missed out your favourite, leave a comment and let us know.

Weird Book Room

AbeBooks Weird Book Room

“The finest source of everything that’s bizarre, odd and downright weird in books. Everyone’s talking about it – author Neil Gaiman is even tweeting about it, posting a link and suggesting his followers: “Go to this link and gaze on the titles and be made happy. Trust me. It’ll work

Least helpful

“Daily dispatches from the Internet’s Worst Reviewers”

Ask the past

Advice from old – and we do mean old –  books on everything from conversing politely to playing with a cat. The site is authored by Elizabeth Archibald, who has a PhD in History from Yale University.

Awful Library Books

Awful library books

Run by two Michigan librarians, Awful Library Books exists to bring the world’s attention to library books which are odd, outdated… and awful.

Awesome People Reading 

Pictures of Awesome People! Reading!

Good Show, Sir

“Because sometimes, a book cover is so bad that all you can do is step back in wonder and say “Good show, sir, good show”.

Good show, sir

Better book titles

Such as ‘Adults are horrible‘ by Roald Dahl and ‘Anyone can learn to love Christmas if you scare them enough‘ by Charles Dickens. And if you like this, you’ll love…


Classics of literature ultra-condensed for your amusement and entertainment

Mr William Shakespeare’s Insult Generator

Offend your friends in the style of the bard

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Where WWW means “Wretched Writers Welcome“. Opening lines of the worst books never written.