Investing in Central Library

Edinburgh Central Library building works programme

During 2022 Central Library is undergoing a major £1.8m building works programme to make sure that our 130-year-old building will continue to serve our citizens for another 130 years.

Since January, scaffolding has been put up around the building to allow our contractors to repair parts of our roof, windows, and replace any stonework which is in poor condition.

Investing in Central Library – building works programme, 2022

Work inside the building includes upgrades to our electrical system, lighting and fire safety equipment.

We aim to make this work as disruption free as we can. However, for safety reasons we will have to close the Central Library from 25 April. It will reopen on Wednesday 11 May. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

Please check for information and details of alternative library locations and services.

Additionally, the Reference Library will be closed from 11 April to 17 June 2022 so that the lighting can be replaced. During this time

  • Study spaces – available in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection and on the mezzanine
  • Resources – email us if you would like to consult any of our Reference Library resources.
  • Public PCs – reduced number available in Central Library or at other libraries.

This works programme is an important investment in the library’s future to ensure it can be enjoyed by generations to come.

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



Teen Titles party

On Thursday the 22nd of August, the Reference Library was the place to be, as it played host to Edinburgh Libraries’ annual celebration of our Teen Titles magazine.

Started way back in 1993 before some of our current reviewers were even born, Teen Titles is our magazine that is jam packed with honest, unedited, unbiased reviews written by Edinburgh school pupils of the newest young adult, fiction and nonfiction books. Its aim is to promote reading in a fun way that appeals to young people. Published three times a year, glossy editions of Teen Titles are issued free to all City of Edinburgh Council secondary schools and libraries.

Every year during the Edinburgh International Book Festival the pupil reviewers are invited, along with their school librarians to the event at the Central Library to meet with authors (some local, some in town for the festival).

A welcoming speech was given by Head of Libraries Paul McCloskey and then the young reviewers heard from popular local author Linda Strachan who encouraged them to take advantage of the situation and speak to the gathered authors in the relaxed setting. Throw in a badgemaker, a photo booth, some fancy nibbles and a great time was had by all.

Same time next year?

If you would like to find out more about subscribe to Teen Titles magazine see our information page.


Roses are red, violets are blue, we’ve delved into the British Newspaper Archive…. just for you!

Today is Valentine’s Day and with that in mind we’ve been having a look at some historical newspapers to see what we could find.

If you think that the heavy burden on the postie was a relatively new thing, think again. Back in 1876, the Edinburgh Evening News reported that the pillar box at the GPO had to be emptied 5 or 6 times to cope with the demand.


Edinburgh Evening News 14th Feb 1876

In the Dundee Evening Telegraph, you could win £2 2s for pouring your heart out….


Dundee Evening Telegraph 10th Feb 1931

And a few years later this little drawing appeared, can you work out the message?


Dundee Evening Telegraph 14th Feb 1936

And if you forgot to send off that card, there was even a belated Valentine’s message.


There are over 14 million digitised pages from more than 700 UK and Irish newspapers available on the British Newspaper Archive. You can browse for FREE in Central Library’s Edinburgh & Scottish Collection and Reference Library.

So do come and have a look yourself and use the Libraries’ computers or wifi to explore thousands of newspapers from 1710-1954 for FREE.

The news of Christmas past

We’re still in the Christmas mood and have been flicking through the pages of the British Newspaper Archive, delving into Christmases past.

1918’s panto at the King’s Theatre was Jack and The Beanstalk… Oh yes it was!

Jack and The Beanstalk- 1918

5th January 1918

In 1900 there was a “Great Christmas and New Year Carnival” in the Waverley Market, which had been turned into “a veritable Fairyland” and not a big wheel or German Market in sight!


25th December 1924

In 1920 the coolest Christmas gift was a gramophone… forward 96 years, and once again it’s appearing on Santa’s list.


24th December 1920

With Christmas Day only becoming a public holiday in Scotland in 1958, most workers were lucky to get a half days holiday to celebrate….


22nd December 1924

All these ads were taken from the Edinburgh Evening News, but there are over 14 million digitised pages from more than 700 UK and Irish newspapers available on the British Newspaper Archive. You can browse for FREE in Central Library’s Edinburgh & Scottish Collection and Reference Library.

So do come and have a look yourself and use the Libraries computers to explore thousands of newspapers from 1710-1954 for FREE.

Robert Louis Stevenson Day 2016

Robert Louis Stevenson Day (#RLSDay) is now an annual date on Edinburgh’s literary calendar when the life and works of one of our City of Literature’s most famous writers are celebrated. The lead up to Stevenson’s birthday on 13 November saw events taking place throughout Edinburgh.

We were privileged on 10 November to host a lecture by the eminent Robert Louis Stevenson expert, Professor Barry Menikoff. We heard a very insightful talk about Stevenson’s book, David Balfour – better known to most of us as Catriona.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We were also entertained by a scratch company of student actors from Liverpool who performed a dramatized version of Stevenson’s short story Markheim. The first time that a murdered body has been found on one of the Reference Library’s desks!

This event was organised by The Centre for Literature and Writing (CLAW) at Napier University.

Victorian travels in the Middle East

Fancy a trip back in time to the Middle East of the late 1800s? Our latest exhibition on Capital Collections is a stunning collection of early travel photographs capturing these exotic lands which were far beyond the imagination of the British public of the time.

Mosque of Sultan Ahmed

Mosque of Sultan Ahmed, Istanbul

By the 1860s, British tour operators such as Cook’s Tours were offering package tours to the Middle East encompassing destinations such as Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, and Egypt. Wealthy gentlemen (including King Edward VII) embarked on these tours to learn about the ancient cultures, history, and religions of these mysterious faraway lands.

Parthenon, Athens

Parthenon, Athens

As the tourist trade grew, photographers from all over Europe flocked here, keen to document this different world. Some set up studios to produce prints specifically for the tourist trade, much like a modern travel postcard, many of which can be seen in this collection.

View of the bridge in Istanbul

View of the bridge in Istanbul

Did you know the Great Sphinx of Giza was not fully uncovered until the 1930s?

The Sphinx and the pyramids, Egypt

The Sphinx and the pyramids, Egypt

Browse this wonderful travel album and you’ll trek though the ancient ruins of some the world’s earliest civilisations, get lost in the bustling streets of old Constantinople, and escape the heat whilst marvelling at the exquisite interiors of the ancient mosques.

A calendar of flowers

It may be thought perhaps the Winter months are void of the delights expected in a flower garden; but the mistake will soon be discovered by any curious observer, when he shall find, that there are at least two and thirty flowers of different kinds then in their splendour.

So wrote the author in ‘The Flower Garden Display’d’ volume of 1732.


This vibrant display shows January’s blooms. The following months’ illustrations can be seen in our latest Capital Collections exhibition. The flowers from each month’s bouquet are identified to help the budding horticulturist.

Belzoni : The giant archaeologists love to hate

Our latest exhibition on Capital Collections records Giovanni Belzoni’s research whilst on expedition in Egypt and Nubia.

Belzoni’s introduction to the wonders of the ancient world could hardly have been less auspicious. Whilst in Cairo waiting for an audience with Mohammed Ali Pasha, the Italian monk-turned-peddler-turned-hydrologist-turned-circus impresario paid a visit to the Great Pyramid and became so tightly wedged his guides had to forcibly extract him!

Tableau representing the two niches supposed to include the names of the hero deposited in the Tomb

As an explorer Belzoni was motivated by finding hidden treasure to sell as artefacts to collectors. His methods were often destructive and quite unorthodox he was once called “the most notorious tomb robber Egypt has ever known” but his discoveries laid the foundation for the scientific study of Egyptology.

Our exhibition brings together some of the paintings from his adventures ……let’s explore!


Buckfast, libraries and Margaret Thatcher: Damian Barr at Central Library

An engaging and witty Damian Barr popped in to Central Reference Library last month to discuss his memoir Maggie and Me.

Our video shows Damian talking openly to Richard Holloway about the devastating abuse he suffered as a child, his relationship with his parents and teachers, and how he found refuge in libraries.

Check out our playlist for film from other Edinburgh Reads  events.




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.

A library Christmas

Shakespeare in Edinburgh Central Library

You know the festive season is well and truly here when Shakespeare gets his Christmas on. Optimistic library staff have hung their stockings by the fireplace but I’m not convinced Santa will find a way to squeeze past the radiator.

Reference library fireplace

We’ve had scrumptious looking gingerbread decorating at Moredun….

And at Leith Library little Robbie got all dressed up for the Christmas Bookbug session. Cute enough for you?

Christmas Bookbug sesion at Leith Library

Not long to go now. Libraries will close at 5pm on Christmas Eve and revert to the usual opening hours on the 27th. For new year it’s a 5pm close on Hogmanay then back to normal on Thursday 3rd January. Merry Christmas everyone!

Made in Edinburgh (on an upturned washtub)

The latest chapter in the story of the Encyclopaedia Britannica unfolded today when it was announced that the current edition would be the last to be published in printed form.

Here in Edinburgh we’re very proud of our city’s association with one of the world’s most famous reference works. The Reference Library holds a copy of the current print edition, as well as copies of previous editions of a work that was first published in this city in 1768.

The story of the Encyclopaedia Britannica is itself a long and interesting one, peopled by characters like the remarkable James Tytler (1752 – 1808).

Radical, aeronaut, author and publisher, Tytler left university aged fifteen and worked as a surgeon on a whaling ship before taking up the post of editor of the second edition of the Britannica in 1776.

Under Tytler ‘s editorship the encyclopaedia was greatly enlarged, and Tytler himself wrote hundreds of the entries on his washerwoman landlady’s upturned tub.

Another of Tytler’s passions was flight, and he was in fact the first Briton to make a successful ascent in a balloon. Rather than being seen as a pioneer however, Tytler was in fact viewed in a rather more comical light – due in part to some disastrous ballooning escapades including crashing in front of hundreds of spectators at Comely Gardens.

You can find out more about Tytler’s other exploits, including his arrest as a radical and emigration to America, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which, like Britannica, is available free online to anyone with an Edinburgh Libraries card.

Happy birthday Mr Dickens!

After a steady stream of Dickensian period dramas and spin-offs it probably comes as little surprise that today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. Dickens 2012 is a year-long and world-wide celebration of the novelist’s life and work.

Dickens’ writing is epitomized by the larger-than-life characters with their wonderfully onomatopoeic names, a sense of humour and the absurd, quotations now firmly established in our vernacular and most significantly, his examination of society’s inequalities.

Search our library catalogue and you’ll find a plethora of books both about and by Charles John Huffam Dickens to keep you enthralled throughout Dickens 2012.

This month, look out for the ‘Best of Times, Worst of Times’ displays throughout Central Library highlighting Dickens and the world he portrayed in his writing. The displays will feature gems from the Reference Library and Art Library collections including the original instalments from the serialised stories Dickens wrote for the weekly journal, ‘Household Words’ and a wonderfully evocative book entitled ‘London: a pilgrimage’ with illustrations of Dickensian times by Gustave Dore. 

Fagin and Oliver Twist

You can test your knowledge of Dickens favourites with our online collection of Character portraits. Do you know which book Mr Pumplechook appears in, or what role Grewgious plays in solving a mysterious disappearance? Or simply take a look and find some inspiration to try something a little less televised. Sketches by Boz, anyone?

Do you use library internet computers or wifi?

We are currently carrying out some work to improve the performance of the libraries’ Peoples’ Network computers. This means there may be no internet access in some libraries for a time.

We need to carry out this work in order to increase bandwidth and speed up the performance of these machines. This will improve response times for logging in and internet page loading.

If you need to know more please contact your local library for details of People’s Network availability.

Two great authors – one free event

We are pleased to announce yet another free Edinburgh Reads author event (we know, we are good to you…) on the 1st of December, at 6:30pm, in the Central Reference Library.  This time we’ve got some brilliant local talent discussing their debut novels.

Former Herald editor Mark Douglas-Home has written a gripping crime novel entitled The Sea Detective in which a haunted young woman appears on the doorstep of the protagonist, Cal McGill.  Cal is a PhD oceanography student with more than a passing interest in floating corpses…

‘Elegantly written and compelling, it introduces a new, thoroughly modern hero into the crime-fighting canon.’ – The Scotsman

Douglas-Home expertly balances the introduction of a new kind of eco-sleuth, the awful realities of the sex-slave trade and an intriguing case of yesterday’s crimes rising to the surface like doom-laden driftwood.’ – The Spectator

David Porteous’ novel Singular was inspired by the author’s misdiagnosis of cancer, and has been honoured with an award in the San Francisco Science Fiction competition.  The novel is set 35-40 years into the future, where dying humans can opt to transfer their consciousness into an online world, where they can exist without sickness.

“Porteous manages to blend science ficiton with a dose of sharp humor and pokes at some of the other areas of the science fiction world. The book is a nice blend of both the real and the surreal” – Rhodes Reviews

These books (both of which feature on our map of books set in Edinburgh) are sure to prompt some very interesting conversation, so register online or call 0131 242 8100 to book a place.

Refreshments will be provided, as will the opportunity to purchase the books.

Hispanic on the streets of Edinburgh!

Edinburgh’s 7th Hispanic Festival kicks off at the end of this month and Edinburgh City Libraries are delighted to once again be playing a key role in what is fast becoming a favourite fixture on the cultural calendar.

The splendid surroundings of the Reference Library play host to three events:

The Opening  Concert on Friday 30th September will be a fantastic evening of piping, flamenco, poetry and song, featuring the great Jean Redpath among others:

18.30: Doors Open
19.00: James Macdonald Reid, leading European bagpiper
19.05: Welcome by Festival Directors and Library Staff
19.15: Selected Poems by Douglas Dunn read in English and Spanish
19.50: Jean Redpath, great Scots folk-singer will present Spanish and Scots songs – in the fiftieth year of her international career
20.10: Break
20.15: Flamenco! Tote Conte and Flamenco Puro
20.45: James Macdonald Reid – Pipes the Retreat

Poetry, Spain and the Gaelic World: A Celebration of the Poetry of Luis Cernuda and Sorley Maclean takes place the following Friday (7th October):

18.00: Doors Open
18.30: Allan MacDonald leading Scottish bagpiper
18.35: A Celebration of the Centenary of the birth of Sorley MacLean: Filmmaker Timothy Neat, Gaelic singer Margaret Bennett and Scottish actor John Cairnie pay homage to the poet.
19.00: Professor Antonio Rivero Taravillo, a Spanish critic and authority, presents ‘Luis Cernuda – the Man, the Poet’
19. 50: Questions and Answers chaired by María Conte.
20. 00: Break
20:05:  Alison McMorland and Geordie McIntyre sing Scottish Songs with strong Spanish connections
20.25: Paco Ferdandez Flamenco Co from Seville showcases Salud & Libertad! programmed at the Queen’s Hall on Saturday 8th October
20.40 Allan MacDonald plays ‘A Salute to Somhairle MacGilliean’

Then on the 14th October author and broadcaster Alistair Moffat tells the story of the links between Iberia and Scotland in a lecture entitled ‘DNA – Iberia and Scotland – the Prehistoric Links’:

18.30: Doors Open
19.00: John Kenny Leading Pictish Carnyx
19.05: ‘DNA – Iberia and Scotland – the Prehistoric Links’: Author and broadcaster Alistair Moffat tells the story of our DNA – concentrating in the link between Iberia and Scotland
19.55: Q&A
20.05: Break
20.10: Valentina Montoya inVoces del Sur
20:30: Flamenco! Tote Conte, Inmaculada Montero, DiegoMorao Flamenco Jam
20.40: John Kenny – Salute to the ancestors.

Central Library’s Conference Room is the venue for a public debate entitled ‘Old Spain and New Spain: Looking Back, Looking Forward’ on Wednesday 12 October:

13.30: Session 1 | Looking Back: ‘20th Century Spain’ followed by Panel Q&A. Guest speakers: John Manson | Poet, translator and scholar of the Spanish Civil War period; John Elliot (Langholm Fair Cryer) | Geordie Mcintyre | Folksinger and specialist of the Civil War songs; David Featherstone | Academic and writer

15.30: Session 2 | Looking Forward: ‘21st Century Spain and the New Europe’ followed by Panel Q&A. Guest speakers:Alasdair Campbell | Poet and former director of the Tolbooth Arts Centre, Stirling; Mari Cruz García Vallejo | IT consultant, journalist and social activist

All these events are free, to book tickets call 0131 242 8100 or email

Throughout the month Central Library will also host exhibitions of art with a Hispanic theme featuring works by by Steven Anderson, MarRubio Coderch, Marc Jennings and Timothy Neat.

To view the full programme including more details about the above events head over to the Hispanic Festival site.

edinburghreads logo

Business Breakfast

Want to start up your own business or want to grow the one you’ve got?
Get free and professional help at a Business Breakfast in the Central Library on Wednesday 12th October from 8am-9.30am. Pop in anytime during the breakfast to:

  • Listen to informative business professionals
  • Get advice from business advisors
  • See demos and try out free start-up and marketing business databases
  • Find out about the free support resources available from Business Gateway and Edinburgh City Libraries
  • Have breakfast on us!

For more information or to book a place call 242 8047 or email

Let there be light: The Bassandyne Bible

Edinburgh Central Library’s Bassandyne Bible – currently on public display in the Reference Library – is one of only 5 copies still in existence. It was the first Bible to be printed in Scotland after the Reformation.

Illustration from the Bassandyne Bible

Illustration from the Bassandyne Bible

In 1575 Thomas Bassandyne and his partner, Alexander Arbuthnot, proposed to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland that they produce a reprint of the 1561 Geneva Bible. Such a production was agreed and the price for sale was set at £4 13s 4d Scots.

The timing was ideal, as in 1579 the Scottish Parliament passed an act decreeing that ‘every householder worth 300 merks of yearly rent, and every yeoman or burgess worth £500 stock, [was] to have a Bible and Psalm Book in the vulgar tongue…under penalty of ten pounds.’

Thomas Bassandyne had worked in Paris and Leyden before returning to Scotland, and the typeface he used to print the Bible was Roman type, which was more commonly used on the continent at that time. Formerly Bibles were printed in Black letter, but the use of Roman type throughout saved on paper, and reduced the cost!

The Bassandyne Bible contains facsimiles of the woodcuts and maps of the original Geneva edition. Bassandyne died in 1575, and the New Testament appeared in 1576.  The Old Testament was printed by Arbuthnot in 1579.

When the Committee of Edinburgh Public Library purchased it in February 1892 it was a valuable acquisition for the Library as, of the five known surviving copies, it is the one in best original condition.

You can see this for yourself as the Bassandyne Bible will be on public display in the Reference Library, alongside an exhibition commemorating 400 years of the King James version, until October 1st.

After the deluge – Reference Library reopens on Thursday

After a great deal of hard work following Friday’s flood the Reference Library is set to reopen tomorrow at noon.

A special thanks goes to those kind members of the public who so gallantly stepped in to help staff on Friday afternoon when the rainwater started seeping in – we salute you!