What books are staff reading to help them through the lockdown?

We asked staff at Central Library to tell us a bit about the books they’ve been reading that have helped them through lockdown.

It turns out we’ve got a bit of a Marian Keyes fan club with a number of us reading her books that so engagingly tackle complex and difficult subjects with humour. Depression, alcoholism, bulimia, being broke, being unlucky in love … you name it … why are we reading about all these topics just now?

Fiona who’s been reading The Mystery of Mercy Close says `the reason it helps is basically because of the humour in it even though the main character suffers from depression’. Lesley is just starting on The Break, Joanna is reading Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married and Bronwen’s reading Grown Ups and says `I can be in someone else’s life while I’m reading; I love the characters and even though the book portrays real personal suffering, I’m laughing out loud one minute and crying the next’.  So thank you Marian Keyes – your writing is clearly helping us pull through. All of the Marian Keyes books noted are available from Edinburgh City Libraries’ RBdigital audiobook service.

Some books we read help us put our troubles in perspective. Doris’ last two are American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara.

Doris says “Both reminded me that as challenging as things are with lockdown –  the situation could be so much worse! Djinn Patrol deals with poverty and the slums in India and is heartbreaking yet is told with a deft sense of humour by the main character Jai. I loved the first 100 pages of American Dirt but must admit, I found it a bit implausible, as misery upon misery was heaped on the protagonists as the book progressed.”

Sometimes we want to read old favourites. Joanna has gone back to re-reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld stories. She says they are a “total escape from everyday problems and a lot of fun”. Discworld is a parallel time and place which might sound and smell like our own but looks completely different. Start with The Colour of Magic.

Historical stories set in difficult times can provide a sense of perspective on today. After reading a magazine article about the history of Agony Aunt columns, Clare found a suggested read, Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce on Overdrive. “Set during the London Blitz, it doesn’t avoid the hardships and destruction experienced on the home front, yet manages to be light-hearted and optimistic in tone. The  characters have setbacks but refuse to be beaten by events. Every day routine, worries, friendships and romances carry on. It was the perfect, easy, uplifting book I needed right now.”

A bit of time can also see you getting round to a book you’ve thought about reading. Jeanette says:
“During lockdown, I read a book I’ve meant to get to for ages, which is This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay. I might be the one of the few people in the country to not to have read this book since it was written in 2017 to great acclaim. It’s a collection of Kay’s secret diary entries which he wrote whilst working as a junior doctor. As a woman of a certain age, experiencing hot flushes and insomnia, I started to read it at 3am one dark morning, hoping it would help me drift back to sleep. I could not have been more wrong. It is both hilarious and shocking from the offset, filled with the author’s experiences of working on the front line of the NHS. By the time I had reached page 22, an account involving objects stuck in orifices, the book had to be put down as I was unable to stifle the laughter any longer and was in danger of waking my sleeping partner up!

This is not a book for the faint hearted or easily offended: strong language is used throughout, there are details of gruesome injuries that made me cringe, truly heartbreaking stories about births and deaths, and “a constant tsunami of bodily fluids” throughout. That said, it is an important book for all of us and especially now, as it is an eye opener, and insight into our essential yet underfunded and overstretched NHS.

After the first 22 pages, I took the book downstairs where it became my day time read. I could laugh out loud all I wanted to it, and also shed a tear as it is genuinely devastating in parts. I’ve finished the book now, but have gone back to it and from time to time read the funny bits to my partner and son which always raises a laugh. I have come to ‘This Is Going to Hurt’ late but I’m glad I did because it’s been a fantastic and uplifting addition to my time in lockdown.”
This is going to hurt is available to borrow as an audiobook and ebook.

Tell us what you’ve been reading in lockdown and how it’s helped.


What Libraries mean to me with Ever Dundas

Edinburgh Libraries does a Question and Answer session with local writer Ever Dundas, author of Goblin (published by Saraband).

Ever Dundas

What do libraries (including Edinburgh Libraries) mean to you as a reader, and as a writer? Are the meanings different?
I don’t earn much as a writer, which is how it is for many writers – we usually have to supplement our income with the full-time freelance hustle, or a full or part-time ‘day’ job, and fit writing around that. Unfortunately, I’m unable to do this as I have ME and fibromyalgia (I did have a part-time job, but had to give it up as I wasn’t coping and it was making me even more ill). Because of this, I can’t always afford to buy new books, so the library is an amazing resource. There’s something so very anti-capitalist about libraries (which is probably why they’re constantly under attack) – all these resources available to us for free.

It’s one of those rare buildings you can enter and know it doesn’t matter how much you earn. I’m able to get books to read for pleasure and books for research for my writing projects and I’m incredibly grateful for it.

As a writer, it’s an absolute joy to see my own book on the shelves in a building that means so much to me, and to know that people who might not earn much are able to access it. Also, I’m not sure if members of the public know about this, but there’s a scheme called Public Lending Right (PLR) where authors can register and they earn a few pence every time someone takes their book out, so you’re still helping authors financially via supporting your local library.

What is your earliest library memory?
The classroom library in my primary school. I remember picking up books by Nicholas Fisk (I was obsessed with space at the time, so I loved the Starstormers series). I also picked up A Box of Nothing by Peter Dickinson, which is still a firm favourite. If I could have skipped all lessons to sit in the corner reading, I would have.

Are you struggling to cope without a library? What advice would you give to those who love the library and can no longer go in?

Central Library

I badly miss the library. It was a real comfort to me. I enjoyed the short walk through the bustling streets (which are now very eerie), and entering that huge, beautiful building always made me happy. I also loved when Hope was on shift – before I got to know her a bit better and learned she’s a writer too, she’d always cheer me with her greetings. The library staff are a big part of what makes the library the welcoming place it is and I really appreciate their skills and expertise.

I’m trying to use the library closure as an opportunity to get through my massive to-read piles at home. For anyone who doesn’t have a massive to-read pile, you can still get ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and newspapers from the library, so it’s still a great resource. But I know a lot of people will be missing the physical library – it was a real haven.

A lot of people are struggling to read books right now. They have time, but they find their attention span shattered by the strange and frightening situation we’re in. What are you reading at the moment? What books would you recommend to those struggling to read?
I’m currently reading an academic book I got my paws on in the recent Palgrave sale – Gothic Animals: Uncanny Otherness and the Animal With-Out, edited by Ruth Heholt and Melissa Edmundson. It has a chapter by Timothy C Baker that looks at Companion Animals in Contemporary Scottish Women’s Gothic Fiction, focussing on my novel Goblin, Elspeth Barker’s O Caledonia, and Alice Thompson’s The Falconer. I haven’t yet read Thompson’s book, but since reading Barker’s I’m evangelical about it and it’s a real shame it’s out of print – it’s not available as an ebook, but when the libraries reopen I highly recommend getting a hold of it.

Ever’s to-read pile

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Gothic Animals – especially the chapter on Patricia Highsmith and her snails (apparently she smuggled her pet snails in and out of the country in her bra, and she would take a bag of snails and a lettuce to social events – this makes me love her even more).

I’ve also been reading Planetarium, which is an utterly gorgeous book in the ‘Welcome to the Museum’ series. I’ve been losing myself in it before going to bed and finding it very soothing. It’s funny how feeling insignificant in the context of the solar system can be so comforting.

If you’re struggling to read, short stories might be easier to concentrate on. Or comics/graphic novels (I highly recommend everything by Charles Burns and Emil Ferris’ My Favourite Thing Is Monsters). Or now might be the time to try an audiobook if you’ve never done so before.

Are you able to write at the moment? Would you recommend writing as a way to get through this time? What are some gentle easy writing exercises that people can give themselves at this time?
I’ve been struggling a bit, to be honest, but that’s partly because I’ve been having one fibro & ME flare-up after another this past month. It’s mostly the flu-like exhaustion rather than the chronic pain, and it can be incredibly frustrating as it’s hard to get things done. But I’m doing OK at the moment, and I’m enjoying this interview – it’s giving me some space to reflect.

I had planned to write a diary, but I’ve been a bit scuppered by flare-ups, and I’ve been using the rest of my time to try and get some work-related things done. But I think externalising your feelings in that way can be very therapeutic, so I recommend it if you’re feeling stressed by current events.

How can we connect, as librarians, borrowers, readers and writers when the library is closed? Can social media be a replacement, or do we need more? How powerful is the written word right now?
I think social media and blogs are useful ways of connecting, although I’m aware that some people won’t have computers or online access and that the physical presence of the library offered that to many. I think current events shows how important and necessary internet access is, and that it’s not some out-there socialist utopia to provide it to everyone.

As someone who is disabled, I’ve talked a lot about making the world (and the publishing industry in particular) more accessible, so it’s been both wonderful and bittersweet to see so many things move online, when disabled people have been pushing for this for so long. I hope, when we come out the other side of this, accessibility will be taken more seriously – it’s not niche. It’s a human right. It’s sad that it’s taken something like this for ableds to realise that. Things can’t go back to ‘normal’ after this. The status quo isn’t good enough.

So I do think blogs and social media are important. Many disabled people find it can be a real lifeline for them, and I generally have no time for simplistic anti-social media sentiments – it’s ableist.

I think the written word is incredibly important right now – in terms of political activism, but also for escapism. I don’t think anyone should ever feel guilty for needing some escapism in times like this – if it can help get you through, that’s what matters. The arts saved me many times throughout my life.

With huge thanks to Ever and to Hope our #stayathome interviewer from Central Lending Library.


Emmeline Vyner: poet, psychic, dog-lover

Staff at Central Library have been archiving a box of personal papers, diaries and scrapbooks and in the process, discovering a remarkable life. Emmeline Lillian Vyner was born in Halifax around 1876. She moved to Scotland with her husband and first daughter and stayed here for the rest of her life. She was found dead in her shop in Leith in 1947 by her son.

A mother of five, she possessed a wry sense of humour and a robust outlook on life lived through two world wars. She liked to write poetry and her poems were placed in Edinburgh and Leith newspapers: romantic and natural subjects to start with then moving on to First World War poems, based mainly on the experience of the women and children left to cope at home. She was not afraid to criticise the church and the established institutions of the day and to challenge injustice where she found it with her published articles and in letters to the newspapers. When she felt in a lighter mood, she wrote humorous pieces for magazines, newspapers and lyrics for songs. She had lofty ambitions and received rejection notices from some of the biggest literary agents in Britain. She has pasted one of those rejections in her scrapbook signed by Curtis Brown. He set up the agency which still manages some of the biggest names in the literary world today.

Some of her most interesting pieces are on her activities attending psychic seances in various houses in Edinburgh and Leith in 1942. These circles were well attended by large numbers of participants and, from Emmeline’s accounts, the attendees gained a great deal of comfort from the messages from the mediums. She explains in one article that she has been receiving jealous looks from the other sitters at the number of messages she receives and explains the best way to receive messages from the spirit people. She advises not to eat flesh meat or eggs on séance days, talk to your spirit friends before you leave your house, tell them where you are going and ask them to come with you. Once you are at your circle, sit still and relax and don’t cross the legs, feet, hands, arms or do anything to close yourself up. She writes “Let spirit emanations flow from your extremities and remove your hat if you like.” Always enterprising, Emmeline has typed up these accounts on reused paper (due to wartime restrictions) and has charged between threepence and sixpence for a copy!

It’s her delight in children and dogs that really shines through her journals and scrapbooks. In her work as a cinema pianist, she rails against playing for two hour features with only the shortest of breaks but she delights in the mornings that she played her piano for the children’s features. She loved to hear all the children singing along to her piano and deliberately played tunes they would enjoy although she said that, due to the noise, a brass band might have been a better accompaniment! Dogs she loved, especially old English collies, and her charming article on dogs and their affinity with their masters is illustrated with four photos of Rough, her own example of the breed. She states the reasoning powers of dogs is quite evident and provides several examples of dogs doing just that. The funniest is an Alsatian called Prince whom, upon hearing his mistress’ wish for a fur coat from her husband, promptly went out the door and stole her a mink coat that had been left out to air by a neighbour!

We are glad Emmeline Vyner settled in Scotland all those years ago and left behind so many different types of writing. It has been fascinating to see a glimpse of how an ordinary person dealt with the Great War through poetry and then found support through spiritualism to carry on through the Second World War, brought closer to home by Leith air raids and rationing. We are so glad that we have had a chance to read her papers, her newspaper articles and her scrapbooks and make a connection with such a lively and resilient character.


Green Pencil Award 2019

There were smiles all round on 28th November at Central Reference Library when finalists in the Green Pencil Award collected their prizes watched by their families and teachers, at a ceremony hosted by Councillor Donald Wilson, Convener of Culture and Communities.

The environmentally-themed creative writing competition, funded by Edinburgh Libraries, has been running for 11 years and is open to P4-S3 pupils attending City of Edinburgh Council and independent schools across Edinburgh, as well as home-schooled children. This year’s theme was ’Going, Going, Gone-Scottish Wildlife in Danger?’ The competition was launched in August at Blackhall Library by children’s author Vivian French, who led a writing workshop for P6 pupils from Davidson’s Mains Primary.

There was a record number of over 1200 entries, from which 20 finalists and an overall winner were selected by a judging panel whose members came from the Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh International Book Festival, National Trust for Scotland, Edinburgh Libraries and Schools and Lifelong Learning.

Generous prizes were donated by sponsors, including RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, Jupiter Artland, RSPB, Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Forth Boat Tours, the Woodland Trust, Alien Rock, Scottish Seabird Centre, Camera Obscura, NTS and Scottish Natural Heritage.

This year’s overall winner was Charlotte Schlegel, from Preston St Primary, for her story ’The Different Perceptives.’ Charlotte was presented with the Green Pencil trophy and a medal to keep by Vivian French and last year’s winner, Liam Guyatt.

Green Pencil Award Overall Winner

This year’s overall winner was Charlotte Schlegel, from Preston St Primary School.

The judges commented, ‘What really struck us was the way that Charlotte’s story addressed the topic so well, giving a real sense of her concern for our wildlife. She cleverly managed to tell her story from two different points of view, both human and animal, in her own, very personal way. We were impressed with the originality of the story in depicting both the natural environment of Scotland and Charlotte’s concern for it.’

The 20 winning entries appear in a brochure which goes to all public libraries, sponsors and schools that submitted entries to the competition.

This year’s winners



Libraries Week focus: Capital Collections

Where can you find a Dalek alongside The Fonz?

A record of the changing face of the city and a view of the castle from all angles?

Or a teddy bear named Gilmour and a half-completed Scott Monument?

Family histories and sporting moments?

Vintage children’s book illustrations and a priceless Japanese scroll?

Fashion tips from the Georgian Lady’s Monthly Museum and a pair of early eighties platform shoes?

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And quite possibly, the best online collection of photographs of old Edinburgh?

You’ll find all this and much more on Capital Collections, Edinburgh Libraries and Museums and Galleries online image library. There are over 20,000 digitized images and dozens of online exhibitions to explore. What will you find?


Digital Drop-ins

Need a wee hand getting started using our Library2go downloadable services? Or its been a while since you used them and you can’t remember the password? Fear not, help is at hand!  Come along to one of our digital drop-ins for friendly, easy to understand help with our downloadable ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and newspapers.

We run the following regular sessions on the Mezzanine, Central Library –

  • Every Tuesday 2-3.30pm
  • Most Fridays 2-4pm (this session running 27 September to 13 December 2019)
  • First Thursday month 10.30am-noon

We’re also running a couple of sessions on a Saturday for those people who find it difficult to make it in during the week –

  • Saturday 12 October 11am-1pm
  • Saturday 12 October  1.30-3.30pm

So come armed with your tablet, phone or laptop and we’ll get you all set-up. Or just bring your questions and we’ll tell you all about our fantastic services!

Celebrating Libraries in a Digital World for Libraries Week , 7-12 October


There is only a few days to go until the start of this year’s Library Week.

There’s lots going on in Libraries throughout the week with digital drop-ins to help you get started using library online services, digital inspired craft sessions and lots more!  Here is a taster of some of the great events taking place next week.

Wester Hailes Library

Friday 11th October 2019
3.00 – 4.00pm
Stop Motion Animation
Learn the art of stop motion animation. We’ll show you how to create your own animated movies as part of our FUNgineers programme.
( 6 – 10 yrs)

Drumbrae Library
Friday 11th October
2.00 – 4.00pm
Game time taster session using playstation, VR gaming console virtual reality or Minecraft.

Newington Library

Monday 7th October
5.30 – 7.00pm
Game Programming
Ever wanted to know how to make your own computer game? Curious about what computer programming is? Join us for a quick taster session and tinker with some games to see exactly what is going on under the hood.
(Ticketed, 8+)

Wednesday 9th October
3.30 – 4.30pm
Building With Little Bits
Build electronic circuits and crazy devices with Little Bits. A light that automatically comes on in the dark? A musical synth keyboard? A sound activated fan that cools you down when you shout at it? Anything is possible! Just snap the pieces together and create.

Kirkliston Library

Monday 7 October
4.00 – 7.30pm & Friday 11 October 1.00-4.00pm
Come along to the library and experience VR in collaboration with the BBC VR Hub
13yrs+ Booking essential

Moredun Library

Monday 7th October
2.00 – 4.00pm
Digital Bracelets
Learn the basics of coding by making binary bead bracelets.
(ages 8-12 yrs)

Tuesday 8th October
2.00 – 4.00pm
Make your own robot
(5-12 yrs)

Central Library

Saturday 12th October
Digital fun day: introduction to coding

Ratho Library

Tuesday 8th October
Come along and try 3D Printing, 3D Scanning and 3D CAD Design.

Sighthill Library

Friday 11th October
Come along for an introduction to online family history resources including Find my Past.

Stockbridge Library

Friday 11th October
2.30 – 3.30pm
Borrowbox Audiobook Roadshow

These are just some of the events to tempt you into the Library during Libraries Week.  Check out what more is on offer at these Libraries and your local library.

Find out about all our digital services at Your Library.


Join in with our Digital Fun Day – Saturday 12th October

We are finishing off Libraries Week 2019 in style with a Digital Fun Day! On Saturday 12th October you can come along to Central Library’s mezzanine and get help setting up Library2go services on your device or your children can join in with a fantastic range of fun events –

Kids & Teen Events

  • Introduction to Micro:bits with CodeBase Stirling 10.30-11.30am
    Use pocket-sized computers to create simple games (ages 8-15 yrs)
  • Introduction to Coding with CodeBase Stirling 11.30-12.30pm
    Use codecombat to explore coding basics (ages 8-15 yrs)
  • Bee-Bot Robot Fun 1.30-3.30pm (drop-in, no need to book)*
    Program the bees to guide them along paths and mazes (ages 5-10 yrs)
  • Digital Bracelets Craft Event 2-3pm*
    Learn the basics of coding by making binary bead bracelets (ages 7-12 yrs)

* Children under 8 years old must be accompanied by an adult.

Adult Events

  • Library2go Drop-in 11am-1pm and 1.30-3.30pm (drop-in, no need to book)
    Bring your tablet, smart phone or laptop along for help getting set up with the library’s ebook, audiobook, magazine and newspaper services.

All events are free, book your place on Eventbrite –        http://www.edinburghreads.eventbrite.co.uk

Contact informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk or – 0131 242 8047 if you have any questions regarding these events.

Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service

Libraries have always been a place where people could get the help and information that they needed. That is why we are so proud to be able to offer access to the  Macmillan@Edinburgh Library service which provides support for patients, their families and carers.

Finding out that you or someone close to you has cancer can be a difficult time and sometimes you just need someone to talk to. Macmillan@Edinburgh Libraries have highly trained volunteers who will listen to your concerns and offer free, confidential support and information. As well as being good listeners they will provide you with leaflets to take away on all aspects of cancer and can help you access services such as counselling, transport to hospital and other support services.

Six of our libraries have Information Point stands with helpful leaflets that you can take away at any time. Most of these branches also have manned service times where can drop in to talk to one of our volunteers (these new times start from the 1st October)

Portobello Library Mondays 10.30am-2.30pm
Drumbrae Library Tuesday 10.30am-2.30pm
Leith Library  Wednesdays 10.30am-2.30pm
Craigmillar Library Thursdays 10.30am-2.30pm
Morningside Library Fridays 10.30am-2.30pm
Central Library Information Point only

For more information visit www.edinburgh.gov.uk/macmillanlibraries or email macmillan.libraries@edinburgh.gov.uk or phone 0131 242 8125

Libraries Week 7-12 October


We are looking forward to celebrating Libraries in the digital world during this year’s Libraries Week which takes place in early October.

There will be lots going on in Libraries, visit Wester Hailes Library to try stop motion animation or Raspberry Pi or Stockbridge and Drumbrae Libraries for an introduction to Bolinda BorrowBox one of our great downloadable audio book services. Wester Hailes and Stockbridge will both run sessions to help you get started with our e-services whilst Drumbrae Library will host a game time taster session. These are just some of the events to tempt you into the Library during Libraries Week. Check out what’s on offer at  your local library.

In addition to these special events there will be the regular digital drop-ins in Central Library, on Tuesday 2-3.30 get help with Edinburgh Libraries’ downloadable ebook, audiobook, magazine or newspaper services and on Friday 2-4 get help from the University of Edinburgh’s Digital Ambassadors with any kind of digital problem.

Find out about all our digital services at Your Library.

A gift from Andrew Carnegie

This image depicts one of the first public libraries in the world. It shows the chained library at Wimborne Minster in Dorset. The Minster’s collection originates from a donation by the Reverend William Stone in 1686 which was used by members of the clergy. However, it was Roger Gillingham, when he added his donation in 1695 who stipulated that the books be put on chains and opened up for free to local people (as long as they were ‘shopkeepers or the better class of person’).

Wimborne Library

The photograph has special significance for us because it was given and signed by the library’s benefactor, Andrew Carnegie. The gift coincides with a visit he made to Central Library a couple of months after its opening in June 1890. Written beneath the photograph it says:

First Free Library ever opened, Founded by Rev. Wm Stone, Wimborne 1686. Presented to the Edinburg Free Library Sept. 17th 1890 with best wishes
Andrew Carnegie

Photograph inscribed and signed by Andrew Carnegie

The Edinburgh Evening News reported on 16 September 1890 on the visit of Mr and Mrs Carnegie to Edinburgh Public Library. The visiting party were welcomed to the library by the Librarian, Hew Morison and the architect, George Washington Browne and enjoyed a two hour tour of the building taking in all the different departments, the engine room and the electric lighting machinery. Carnegie was delighted with the library, especially the Lending Library where there was a large number of people waiting to get books changed. He was gratified to hear that the majority of items being loaned were novels.

“He had never expected, he said, that his little gift would go so far”.

The Peterhead Sentinel and General Advertiser also reported a few days later on Carnegie’s pleasure on being able to see how the library brought the best literature of the day within easy reach of all classes of society – even in Edinburgh, ‘cultured and academical as it is supposed to be’.

The Dundee Courier reported that whilst in the capital, Carnegie also paid a visit to the sculptor Charles McBride to see the bust of himself which was to be placed in the library.

Bust of Andrew Carnegie, main staircase, Central Library

Get a different perspective on the past – discover the British Newspaper Archive for free at your local library.

Fine and Dandy – August exhibition in the Art and Design Library

Fine and Dandy sees a group of recently graduated and current Edinburgh College of Art students come together to exhibit selected works. Evie Edwards, Molly Kent, Jody Mulvey and Rebecca Tarrant shared a studio within ECA’s painting department, yet the work on display represents the breadth and versatility of painting as a medium.

Intricately detailed paintings with subtle layers that re-invite lost intimacy, Rebecca Tarrant’s work implores notions of power through the subversion of the phallic symbol. Molly Kent brings focus to notions of doubt and the feelings connected with this by presenting the chaos these feelings emote through digital printing and physical collage methods. Jody Mulvey’s work aims to blur the boundaries between artistic specialisms by creating immersive environments which consume viewers in an array of vivid colours and ambiguous shapes. Evie Edwards draws from traditions of appropriation within art history as well as myths and fairy tales. By combining the past and present Evie reimagines objects and texts for our contemporary culture.

Fine and Dandy runs from Saturday 3 August until Thursday 29 August 2019 in the Art and Design Library.

Make Zines with the Edinburgh Zine Library!

Central Library are running two zine writing workshops with the Edinburgh Zine Library for young people and teenagers this July.

Workshops take place on Thursday 25 July, 2-4pm for 9-12 year olds and Friday 26 July, 2-4pm for 13-18 year olds in the George Washington Browne Room.

What is a zine? Zines are small books that you make yourself. Often, people make them to tell stories from their life, to share things that they love or to teach people about things that they know about. You can draw and write and collage about whatever you want – we’ve got zines in the library about cats, slime, bands, buses, myths and legends, and more. Zines can be about anything!

In these workshops with members of the Edinburgh Zine Library, you’ll learn how to make your own mini-zine that you can photocopy and share with your friends.

Edinburgh Zine Library is an archive and reference library of contemporary zines housed in the Art & Design Library at Edinburgh Central Library.

Reserve a free place: visit www.edinburghreads.eventbrite.co.uk

Or phone 0131 242 8040 or just drop in on the day.


Make Music Day 2019

Play it again, Tam

Rolling Hills Chorus

21 June is Make Music Day, a global celebration of music making. Make Music is a free celebration, launched in 1982 in France as the Fête de la Musique and is now held on the same day in more than 1,000 cities in 120 countries.

Completely different from a typical music festival, Make Music is open to anyone who wants to take part. Every kind of musician — young and old, amateur and professional, of every musical persuasion. All of it is free and open to the public, and one of the main themes this year was music in Libraries.

Ceilidh Caleerie

Last Friday, Central Library came alive to the sound of music! Through word of mouth, contacts and some publicity we quickly put together the main part of a programme. We also invited our colleagues in the community libraries to take part and this call was answered by Stockbridge, Craigmillar and Morningside who put together programmes of local music makers.

At Central Library, we had a programme of, on the day, ten groups or individuals, some graduates of classes at the Scots Music Group, some library users and some who had heard of our involvement through the Make Music Day website.

Nigel’s Allstars

Magnus Turpie accompanied by Linda Cambell and Mike Turpie

On the Mezzanine, we were host to three choirs, two Ceilidh bands and a Button Accordionist. The three choirs were the Rolling Hills Chorus, The Gilmerton Singers and Sangstream. Our library visitors also enjoyed sets from the bands Nigel’s Allstars and Ceilidh Caleerie and a lovely slot featuring accordionist Magnus Turpie accompanied by Linda Cambell and Mike Turpie.

Louise Guy



In the Lending Library we had recorder player Louise Guy, Klezmerists, Kleyne Klezmer Trio, night class graduates Clarinite and Scots music group, Play it again, Tam.

The Gilmerton Singers






Kleyne Klezmer Trio


After the crowd in the lending Library had been completely entertained by the Kleyne Klezmer Trio, they were then treated to a surprise rendition of ‘Bring Me Sunshine’, the Morecambe and Wise hit and the anthem of Make Music Day. This was performed by a flash mob made up of Library staff from all departments.

Unfortunately due to a technical hitch this performance was not recorded, so you will just have to take our word for it that it was brilliant and very well received.



The Afternoon was brought to a close in Lending by Clarinite and on the Mezzanine Sangstream sung us home.




The reactions to the day have been very pleasing with many kind and useful comments left in our audience survey boxes and online and on our social media pages.

Asked – What have you enjoyed about Make Music Day in Central Library? – we got these responses:

“Lots of musical buzz”
“It has created a great atmosphere – it has been very uplifting”
“Enjoyed the variety and particularly the venues on both levels, interesting to watch staff and public ‘dancing’ ”
“Something different – brought people together – smiling faces”
“The surprise spontaneity of it”.

So finally, the Music Library Team, Natasha, Michalina, Bronwen and Douglas, would like to thank all those who came to watch, who helped us put the event on and a special thank you to all those who came and performed, who Made Music for us, simply because they could.

Natasha, Michalina, Bronwen and Douglas from the Music Library Team.

Edinburgh Art Festival Explorers at Central Library

Central Library are teaming up with Edinburgh Art Festival this summer to offer a programme of art workshops for 8-13- year olds.

Workshops explore the Edinburgh Art Festival theme: Stories for an Uncertain World, linking to exhibitions around the city and creating small- and large-scale artwork using collage, projection, zine making and animation.

July 15th
Light Fantastic: Making slides and acetates for creative projection, then becoming part of the art. Photographic images can be emailed after the workshop.

July 22nd
Cut & Paste: Telling stories with collage and creating collage artwork on 3D objects.

July 29th
Stop motion Animation: Using collage and projection to create short stop motion sequences which can be emailed to you.

August 5th
Festival Zines: Using a wide range of materials to make booklets or comics with your stories for the future.

All workshops run 2-4pm and are based in the George Washington Browne Room, Central Library. Join us for all sessions or drop in for a one off. Book online www.edinburghreads.eventbrite.co.uk or tel 0131 242 8040

Gie’s peace: a one woman show celebrating women’s activism for peace

As part of the Harpies, Fechters and Quines 2019 programme, Morna Burden will be performing her one woman show, Gie’s Peace.

Morna Burdon is a director, performer, writer and singer whose work ranges from creating and directing large scale international projects to performing at Glastonbury. Much of her own work has been about giving voice to those whose stories are rarely told.

Morna devised, directs and performs in Gie’s Peace, a tapestry of true stories and songs about remarkable women worldwide who have walked for peace, rebelled against war and sometimes risked everything in the process.
She says: 

“As with my previous show Bonnie Fechters , it is the strength, courage and determination of these women that is so affecting. From the Japanese girl  who inspired a movement to the astonishing bravery of a Somalian mother to the young African American who overcame fear to sing in the darkness”.

Gie’s Peace is recommended for ages 14 and upwards and it enjoyed sell-out shows during Edinburgh Fringe 2018.

An audience member commented:

“Beautifully structured……  As always, her words and music bring emotions to life….Evocative songs of protest and struggle…moving and inspirational story –telling”.

You can experience the show at Central Library for free by booking your place online.

To book for this event and to see the full line-up of events for the Harpies, Fechters and Quines Festival, visit the programme page online.

Harpies, Fechters and Quines – 2019

‘Aftermath – women picking up the pieces. World War One’ is the theme of this year’s Harpies, Fechters and Quines Festival which runs from Monday 3 to Friday 14 June.

Women’s lives were to change again with the return of the men from the theatres of war and not always for the better. What impacts did women experience? What has the legacy of the aftermath been?

THE EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN IN BRITAIN, 1914-1918 (Q 28345) Female war workers prepare filter cloths for the filter presses at the Glebe Sugar Refinery Co., Greenock, Scotland, November 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205196690

Edinburgh Libraries is pleased to be again working with local group the Bonnie Fechters, the Glasgow Women’s Library, Scottish Poetry Library and a host of individuals to deliver a diverse programme.  On offer there are talks from experts, readings, poetry, music, creative writing, discussion and a chance to meet and chat with other women on relevant issues.

Come along and enjoy informal, but informative events.

For full information and to book your tickets visit the Harpie, Fechters and Quines online programme.


Of wild grandeur and simplicity: take a journey to the Nordic countries via 18th- and 19th-century travel books

Vikings sail stealthily into unsuspecting shores, their longships cutting through the water with ease. Saga characters recite poetry one day, carry out blood vengeance the next. Kings vie for power in their kingdoms, fighting fierce battles and sending warriors to Valhalla at the end of each struggle. Ice is everywhere, and the mountains tower ever higher with piling snow. This is the North.

Everyone has their own idea of the North, a mythic place where the life of the Middle Ages seems to still breathe in the landscape. Much of what we think of when we consider the North today – from Vikings to sagas to Old Norse mythology – is what 18th- and 19th-century travellers envisioned on their journeys. To them, the formidable northern landscape, largely untouched and filled with magnificent fjords and mountains and crags, seemed to carry this timeless medieval world throughout its rugged majesty.

We can journey to the North with travellers from centuries past through reading the books that record their travels. These books are the centre of the Central Library’s latest exhibition, ‘Of Wild Grandeur and Simplicity: Journeys to the Nordic Countries in 18th- and 19th-Century Travel Books’. This exhibition was curated by one of our postgraduate interns, Hailey Brock, from the Centre for the History of the Book at the University of Edinburgh. In these books, the travellers venture to the Nordic Countries—namely Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and the Faroes. There, they envision the Old North, and relive it in the beautiful setting.

You too can create your own vision of the North at this exhibition, which runs until 5 April 2019 on the Mezzanine Level at Central Library.

The ‘Of wild grandeur and simplicity’ exhibition is part of the Rare Books Edinburgh programme.


ELISA Libraries Fair – Beyond the bookshelves

Central Library is delighted to be hosting the Edinburgh Libraries and Information Services Agency (ELISA) Libraries Fair on the mezzanine level on Saturday 23 March, 1.30 – 4pm.

Come along and find out about the wide and diverse array of libraries in Edinburgh and to discover how you can get an ELISA library passport to enable you to gain access to these other libraries across Edinburgh.

There are many different libraries in Edinburgh and the Libraries Fair invites you to meet representatives from a range of libraries all under one roof. Libraries taking part include:
Edinburgh City Libraries
Edinburgh Zine Library
French Institute Library
National Library of Scotland
Royal Botanic Garden Library and Archive
Scottish Poetry Library
University of Edinburgh including the Centre for Research Collections.

There will be a free (but ticketed) family-friendly storytelling session with Janis Mackay, live music, a mini drop-in zine workshop and badgemaking.

Come along, enjoy the fun and discover what our city’s world of libraries has to offer!


Friday afternoon Digital drop-in is back!


The Friday afternoon digital drop-in at Central Library will resume from Friday, February 1st, 2 – 4pm.

This is a partnership between the Libraries and Edinburgh University who provide a small team of students to offer 1:1 assistance with any kind of digital issue on any kind of device. No need to book, just drop-in and get help with that headache you have had trying to do something on your laptop, tablet or even your phone.

Volunteers are available between 2 and 4 pm each Friday afternoon on the Mezzanine level of Central Library, George IV Bridge.