World Autism Awareness Week 27 March – 2 April – A personal story Part 3

Following on from yesterday’s post Hope talks about working for Edinburgh City Libraries.

It was my boyfriend who suggested I apply to libraries. He thought the work would do me good, give me stability that seasonal waitressing and freelance writing didn’t.

I didn’t think I had a chance, but he found out that Edinburgh City Council have a scheme where they guarantee an interview to candidates who declare they have a disability. I felt a bit weird about using this, but I also remembered the libraries of my childhood, the magic there, the tales of courage and failure, as well as success, the way that books seemed to be the haven for kids who felt they were outsiders. With this in mind I applied and got an interview, where I spoke to the interviewer about how important libraries were to me as a child, how I’d like to see other children have similar positive experiences in libraries, how books could make a kid feel that he or she was not so alone after all. I thought I’d talked to much and made a total mess of it.

When I got the phone call to tell me I’d got the job I was delighted. Andrew, the interviewer, told me that my passion had come across and I’d given a good interview.

There have been challenges to working in libraries. One emotion I cannot recognise in others is anger, and this makes me edgy – aware of the potential that someone may become angry and I will not recognise it. A raised voice will frighten me for example, and I have mistaken customers’ legitimate frustration’ with anger directed at myself and my colleagues. But I’ve learnt to deal with this, communicating clearly with customers who have problems, and speaking with them about the steps we can take to ensure that the problem is solved.

Working in libraries has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, and I think that because of my experience as an outsider I can relate to library users who may have challenges in a more direct way than other staff members can. Of course, all staff will seek to help library users with disabilities, but I feel that wanting to help, and being able to relate are different things.

The customers are for the most part friendly, engaging and interesting, and something I’ve learned about people since I was a child is that whether they are on the autistic spectrum or not, they are all as keen to be liked as I am, and everyone has at one stage in their life had a time where they feel like an outsider; whether that is when they are starting a new role, or in an unfamiliar situation. Alienation is lonely, but also universal, and it took a long time for me to understand that.

Just today a member of the public came into the children’s library and asked about books on autism. He works as a play worker with autistic children, and was looking for resources. I pointed him in the right direction and we had a chat about his work, and how important it is. I didn’t tell him I’m on the autistic spectrum and I don’t think he guessed. Sometimes it’s nice to pass as normal.

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The Butterfly Tree and the Lost Child

In 2011, the first mystery paper sculpture was discovered in the Scottish Poetry Library. It was an incredibly delicate gift; a tree growing out of a book, an eggshell of poems and a little card with read:

dsc_4944_582“@ByLeavesWeLive and became a tree….We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words…This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas..”

More sculptures were discovered that year at the National Library of Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland, the Filmhouse, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and here at Edinburgh Central Library.

The identity of the artist was withheld, and to this day we don’t know who the artist is.

We do know that this sculpture, the Butterfly Tree and the Lost Child, is dsc_4953_591her last and we are tremendously privileged to have it here at Central Library.

You can see the small sculptures donated to Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust and the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Central Library’s foyer or online on our Capital Collections Website. You can go to Wikipedia for more information on all the sculptures.

 

Want to know more about bees and beekeeping?

beeDianne Barry from the Edinburgh and Midlothian Beekeepers Association will be joining us for a drop-in event in Central Lending on Friday 25th November at 1 – 3pm.

Dianne will share her knowledge, offer advice and generally discuss all things beekeeping – there may even be honey to taste!

 

Fridays in Central Lending

Students and members of The Scots Music Group performed live in the Central Lending Library on Friday 24th June; great fun, excellent music and an appreciative crowd.

Scots Music Group

Look out for more Friday marketplace events on the last Friday of the month from September to November, at around 1 – 3pm in the Central Lending Library.
See you there!

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The story of Edinburgh Libraries. Part 1 of 3

Original Architectural Drawing of Central Library

Original Architectural Drawing of Central Library

On 9 June 1890 the doors to the first public library in Edinburgh opened to the public.

In the run up to our 125th anniversary we’ll take a look at some of the significant developments which have taken place over that time.

Andrew Carnegie layse the foundation stone of the Edinburgh Free Library

Andrew Carnegie lays the foundation stone of the Edinburgh Free Library

Edinburgh was the last Scottish city to adopt the Public Libraries Act doing so in 1886 when Andrew Carnegie donated £50,000 to the city to build a free library. Building commenced in 1887 and was completed in 1890. The building was designed by architect George Washington Browne in a French Renaissance style.

‘Let there be light’ is carved above the entrance; something Carnegie insisted should appear on all libraries he funded. Other notable features on the building’s facade include three large roundels depicting the coat of arms of the City of Edinburgh, the arms of Scotland and the royal arms. Nine small square reliefs run along the building relating to the history of printing in Scotland.

One of nine small square reliefs on the exterior of Edinburgh Central Library

One of nine small square reliefs on the exterior of Edinburgh Central Library

The library opened with three departments: Reference, Lending and the Newsroom. Hew Morrison was appointed principal librarian in 1887. In his 34 years in post he was responsible for developing central library and five branch libraries.  A bequest of £50,000 from publisher Thomas Nelson in 1891 funded the development of branches at Dundee Street (1897), Stockbridge (1900), McDonald Road (1904) and St Leonards (1914). Morningside opened in 1905.

McDonald Road Library in 1912

McDonald Road Library in 1912

 

Find out how much you know about Edinburgh Libraries with this quick, fun quiz

masthead quiz

The literary Dalek of Edinburgh Central Library

With Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary almost upon us what better time to find out a bit more about Central Library’s pet Dalek.

The Dalek’s many guises have been amusing and confusing visitors to the lending department for several years now. Here is his tribute to Robert Louis Stevenson’s masterpiece:

Dr Jekyll and Mr Dalek

We caught up with John and Lesley from the lending library to find out more about their resident exterminator.

So what is a Dalek (in fancy dress) doing in the lending library?

It all started a few years back. We got the Dalek (and his less celebrated cyberman sidekick) to promote the Edinburgh Science Festival. We liked the Dalek so much we decided to keep him, and started dressing him up in literary-themed costumes. Like the  Doctor, the Dalek has gone through one or two ‘regenerations’ – because like the rest of us he can get a bit deflated from time to time.

What reaction have you had to the Dalek?

The Dalek is definitely a cult hero. We’ve had lots of people getting their photo taken with the Dalek, and thanks to the power of Facebook he’s built up an international following.

Count Dalekula

Where do the ideas for his costumes come from?

Staff, visitors, anyone. Usually he’s dressed up as a literary character (Dickens seems to be a recurring favourite) but sometimes we’ll do something related to current affairs (like with the Jubilee Dalek). Finding the right props can be difficult but we are starting to build up quite an extensive wardrobe.

What was your favourite Dalek get-up?

The Dalek with the Dragon Tattoo. We don’t actually have a picture of this incarnation – so if anyone out there has we’d love to see it. Another personal favourite was Dalek of Green Gables.

Dalek of Green Gables

Which literary character would you like to see the Dalek dressed up as? Leave a comment below.

Central Inspiration

HannahBotma_1Prepare to be inspired as you follow an innovative art trail through Central Library.  Original artwork by Edinburgh College of Art masters students, which was inspired by the building and its collections, form the Central Inspiration exhibition, on display until the end of August.

The aim of the project was to highlight the importance of tactile objects in the library in a digital age.  MA Graphic Design student Sigrid Schmeisser said: “While libraries must incorporate technology to compete with their online counterparts, we cannot discount the tactile nature of public libraries that cannot be recreated on-screen. Libraries are often home to rare books, prints and manuscripts and unlike a museum the public has access to these artefacts which is an interaction that no scan or image can recreate.”

To celebrate this aspect of a traditional library, the 15 postgraduate graphic design and illustration students installed pieces around the main public areas of the Central Library building to encourage audiences to explore the collections.  The work ranges from light reflecting mobiles in the children’s library to an Edgar Allan Poe inspired illustration in reference.  There’s a digital animation in the Lending Library and ornate paper crafts outside the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection.

DanDan-Chen_img11-1024x763You can collect a map at the foyer of the library and use it to navigate your way through these wonderful pieces.  The process was also filmed to allow you, dear library user, to click a QR code beside the artwork and discover the inspiration behind it.

Here’s a taste of what the artists had to say:

Visit the Central Inspiration website for more information on the project and view more videos on our You Tube Channel.