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.

Central Library – the next generation

Edinburgh’s Central Library is boldly embarking upon a brand new chapter this week as work begins to adapt the building to fit 21st century needs and expectations.

The “next generation” plans will see a variety of changes within the landmark George IV Bridge library, including improvements to the entrance hall, the introduction of self service facilities in the Lending library and the joining together of two of the Library’s most important collections, the Edinburgh and Scottish.

These steps are the latest developments for the Central Library, which has undergone many such metamorphoses in its illustrious 121-year history.

Work is set to begin today (Thursday 31 March) to settle the Edinburgh Room’s collection in its new home within the area presently occupied by the Scottish Library, the part of the Central Library which has changed most over the years.

Users of both collections have been canvassed about the change and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, especially since many of those surveyed make use of both collections for research purposes. The new shared collection space will reopen in early April.

A number of options are being considered for the mezzanine space once the Edinburgh Room has relocated, including the possibility of it housing some or all of the Ernest Levy Archive.

Later this spring, work will commence on transforming the Entrance Hall, making it much more welcoming. The barrier currently in place will be removed, thanks to a new security system, and a new reception desk will greet library visitors as they come in. The hall will also be furnished with touch screens to help people orientate themselves in the building and keep up to date with events and activities happening in the Central Library.

Finally, queuing to borrow a book should become a thing of the past in the Lending Library when new self service machines are installed in early summer. The machines will enable up to 12 items to be borrowed in any one transaction and library staff will be on hand at all times to assist people in how to use them, as well as providing help and guidance on joining the library and all other library queries.

Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture and Leisure Convener, said: “Edinburgh’s beautiful Central Library has stood proud on George IV Bridge for 121 years, retaining her Victorian elegance while adapting constantly to the developing needs of library users.”

Liz McGettigan, Library and Information Services Manager, said: “These latest developments herald the start of the ‘next generation’ for the Central Library, making the library and its collections easier to use and more welcoming to visit.”

More information about the Next Generation plans for Central Library can be found on the Next Generation Library blog. To find out more about the history of Central Library take a look at this short film:

Susan’s desperately seeking…

Edinburgh Central Library’s Susan Varga appeared on STV’s The Hour yesterday to appeal for help in solving some of the mysteries behind the unidentified photographs from our collections.

We’ve had an absolutely terrific response so far and several mysteries have been solved. Thanks to everyone who’s been in touch. There are still a few mysteries left however.. for example does anyone know where this is? If you do, let us know!

A few facts about Edinburgh from previous censuses…

In the 1861 census region of Edinburgh there were 295 families living in single rooms without any windows.

In 2001 there were 79 people older than 100 living in Edinburgh.

The number of students in Edinburgh increased 114 per cent between 1991 and 2001.

The 2011 Census on Sunday 27 March will shape the lives of everyone in Scotland. It gathers information which helps to plan and provide our future services, like housing, hospitals, schools and of course libraries. You can read more about this year’s census on the Scotland’s Census website.

Census data is used in lots of different ways including:

  • Monitoring population and housing trends to help plan future public service needs.
  • Planning major transport projects.
  • Distributing government programme funds to local communities, such as ethnic or disability groups.
  • Historical data used to research family and community life more than 100 years ago.

The census is useful for family history research because it gives you information on names, ages, jobs and place of birth for all the people who were in a house when the census was taken.

If you’re interested in using historical censuses for family history research The Edinburgh Room and Scottish Library have a large number of Scottish census records from 1841-1901. Staff can provide you with advice and help using the census records. Some worldwide census records can also be accessed through Ancestry, available to use for free in all our libraries.

Happy Birthday to the Great Lafayette

Today marks the birthday of Sigmund Neuberger, or the Great Lafayette, as he was better known. Lafayette was a master illusionist, friend of Houdini and celebrity of his time. Lafayette died in the infamous Empire Palace Theatre Fire in May 1911. Crowds of people lined the streets in Edinburgh to see his funeral procession as his body was taken to be buried at Piershill Cemetery.

You can find out more about the story of the Great Lafayette’s ill-fated visit to Edinburgh from the press cuttings collection and other memorabilia held in the Edinburgh Room at Central Library.






Two tales of one city: exploring Edinburgh’s history

A couple of great local history events coming up: On Wednesday 2nd February at 7pm Joanne Lamb, author of Dalrymple Crescent: a snapshot of Victorian Edinburgh, will visit Newington Library to give a presentation followed by a book signing. This book tells the story of the building of the Crescent, and of the people who lived there; and puts it in the context of Edinburgh in the latter half of the 19th century. Find out how just one street can illuminate not just the history of middle-class Victorian Edinburgh, but also the wider history of Scotland at that time. (Contact Newington Library for your free ticket for this event).

At 6pm the following night (Thursday 3rd Feb) Central Library’s Edinburgh Room hosts a presentation, discussion and book signing of Renewing Old Edinburgh: the enduring legacy of Patrick Geddes by Jim Johnson and Lou Rosenburg. (No tickets needed for this one, just turn up on the night)

Renewing Old Edinburgh is a superbly illustrated account of the attempts to improve physical and social conditions in Edinburgh’s old town from 1860 to the present. Based largely on original research, the authors provide an overview on the history of the old town renewal with particular reference to the protracted struggle between two contrasting approaches – large scale redevelopment and the more incremental syle of intervention which the Scots polymath Patrick Geddes described as ‘conservative surgery’.

This is a book that really cries out to be bought, read and understood by anyone who has any influence in the future of Edinburgh and bought simply to be enjoyed by those who love the place
Neil Baxter, RIAS Quarterly


An exhibition of material taken from the Edinburgh Room’s theatre archive, charting our city’s long association with pantomime.

Edinburgh Room, Central Library

13th December 2010- 25th January 2011, free