Supporting student work experience placements in the Art and Design and Music Libraries

Work experience placements alongside study can be a key to opening up career opportunities and in the Art and Design and Music Libraries, Central Library, we have been lucky enough to support two student placements over the winter term. I say lucky because often students give back far more than they take, bringing enthusiasm, new ideas and a chance for us to review our library service through their eyes.

Cue Holly and Molly. Holly came to work in the Art and Design Library and Molly in the Music Library. We were interested to find out more about how our students viewed their placements and whether they might have any tips for us in how we can develop our library service so we put together a series of questions.

Describe yourself, where you are in your studies and how this work placement fits into your coursework. 

Molly –  I’m Molly – I’m originally from New York but I am currently studying a MSc in Information and Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde. This work placement took place during my second semester of classes over the course of 11 weeks.   

Holly – My name is Holly and I am in my third year of studying History of Art at the University of Edinburgh. Having joined the University in 2020, the first two years of my degree were taught virtually via online platforms such as Zoom. Despite this challenge, 2023, the third year of my studies marked my first opportunity to attend seminars and lectures face-to-face within the University campus. With that in mind, I was delighted when offered the opportunity to engage with a work placement, which gave me an opportunity to take my education in art history beyond the classroom and put theory into practice at a cultural institution. The Art and Design Library placement has given me the chance to work independently from the University alongside industry professionals and develop my skills whilst experiencing what a career beyond my degree might look like.

Describe what you have been doing in the library and what you have learnt.

Molly – I’ve mainly been helping reclassify the music library’s stock with the correct Library of Congress classifications. I’ve also had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of other library duties, including working on the desk, helping out with library events, and creating displays for the library.  

Molly setting up a display in the Music Library

Holly – Throughout my time working at the Library I have been under the supervision of the Library Development Leader Bronwen Brown, who has introduced me to the Library management system and tasked me with specific projects to complete. I have learnt how to engage with the public in checking in and out of books, and how to run the online city-wide reservation service, as well as shelf checking the library’s stock. At the start of February I was tasked with creating an LGBTQ+ display to exhibit the libraries support for February as LGBTQ+ History Month. This involved finding and organising certain books that celebrated queer and heterosexual artists to display alongside relevant images of contemporary marches. The process of creating my own display on a theme that is very prevalent to our current society helped me learn about the library’s dedication to contemporary stock planning. I have experienced how the collection is up to date with the new trends in art publishing and the representation of marginalised groups in society.

How do you think this placement will help your career aspirations? 

Molly – This placement has given me the experience of what it is like to work in a specialist library within a public library. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education, so working in a music library is definitely something I would be interested in! This placement taught me a lot about classification and cataloguing which are skills that are very important for my future career as a librarian, no matter what field I may end up in.  

Holly I believe this placement has contributed to my career aspirations for its ability to push me out of my comfort zone into an area of art preservation and education that I had no previous experience with. Being able to witness the day to day running of the Art and Design library has prepared me for a realistic and professional approach to a career in an art institution. The warm welcome I received from the workers at the library and the time spent with them has left me with a positive attitude towards a career with like-minded people in this industry.

Do you have any general comments or tips for the library? 

Holly – At the start of my placement, Bronwen asked me if throughout my time here I could think of any ways that the library could improve its availability to a younger generation. Over the previous weeks, the main aspect I have noticed is the lack of awareness younger people have of the library’s existence. Thus my greatest advice would be to focus on advertising methods, either through posters and flyers around the city in student orientated places like the Edinburgh College of Art University buildings, or through social media platforms keeping people up to date with the monthly exhibitions that take place in the Art and Design Library. I believe this would result in an increase of a younger demographic, as the library is an amazing facility with vast amounts of art and architecturally valuable books that younger people, definitely students like me, would be keen to use.

What have you enjoyed the most during your placement? 

Molly – I really enjoyed my experience at the Music Library, and I am very grateful I got this opportunity. I most enjoyed getting to see how public libraries, and specifically music libraries, operate and how many different services the library provides.  

Holly looking at Dyer prints in the Art and Design Library

Holly – The Art and Design Library’s Special Collections has been something which I have enjoyed learning about the most throughout my placement. In particular, I was honoured to look at Central Library’s Henry Dyer Collection of Japanese Art, which Bronwen kindly let me handle, under safe protocol with protective gloves during one of my days at work. I was able to view the fifty loose woodblock prints, several bound woodblock volumes and case of nineteenth-century Japanese photography that was donated to the library in the 1940s and 50s. This experience was fascinating and is one that I won’t forget. I was also able to take time to visit the National Museum of Scotland to view the forty-foot long painted handscroll scroll Theatres of the East by the Japanese artist Moromasa, which is on loan from the Library’s Dyer collection. As 2023 marks the 150th anniversary of Dyer’s trip to Japan, I have helped with the organisation of a display to commemorate this collection. This has included finding and selecting images from Capital Collections, Edinburgh Libraries’ online image library, writing name labels to accompany them, and writing a general introduction to the display. The trust and responsibility of such a task has been incredibly rewarding and I feel proud to have contributed, however small, to the final display that will take place in May in the Central Library staircase cabinets.

Thank you Holly and Molly. We have enjoyed your company, your contribution to our work and your feedback. If you are looking for a work experience placement have you considered the Library service? We consider requests from all stages of life from school pupils through to Masters’ students.

Green Pencil Award-winner 2022 is announced!

We’re delighted to announce the winning entry for the 2022, Year of Stories, Green Pencil creative writing competition is Lukas Bell of Boroughmuir High School with his poem, Foggy Bummer.

We invite you to listen to a special recording of Lukas’ poem read by poet, Roshni Gallagher –

Foggy Bummer by Lukas Bell from Boroughmuir High

You can hear all four of our finalists read their highly commended entries in yesterday’s blog post.

Green Pencil Award 2022

A big thank you to all the children and young people who entered the Green Pencil creative writing competition. We enjoyed reading all your writing.

For this year’s theme – Year of Scotland’s stories – P4-P7 aged children and young people in S1-3 were challenged to write a poem, piece of prose or story on the theme.

Once again, we were unable to hold an awards ceremony in Central Library, so here instead, you can listen to the finalists read their highly commended entries in these special Green Pencil videos.

Congratulations to all our talented finalists!

Hannah, St George’s: Can we stop it now?

Can we stop it now? by Hannah from St George’s School

Zara Shaw, Ratho Primary: The Difference We Can Make for Climate Change

The difference we can make for climate change by Zara Shaw from Ratho Primary School

Amber Rose Redpath, The Royal High: Mother Nature

Mother Nature by Amber Rose Redpath from The Royal High

Lukas Bell, Boroughmuir High: Foggy Bummer

Foggy Bummer by Lukas Bell from Boroughmuir High School

Come back tomorrow when the winner will be revealed…

Write your mountain!

Join Anna Fleming, author, mountain leader and rock climber for a workshop on writing the mountains. 

In this creative writing session for young people, Anna will introduce you to the world of the mountains. She will bring climbing equipment and stories from her own experiences in Scotland, Norway and Greece.  

Taking inspiration from other remarkable women writers and climbers, including Gwen Moffat, Nan Shepherd and Helen Mort, Anna will lead exercises that will help you to harness their strength and write your own mountain.  

No previous knowledge of climbing or mountains is necessary – come with an open mind!  

This session is aimed at young people aged 14-18 and will take place at Stockbridge Library on Monday 10 October from 5.30 to 7pm.

Places are limited so please book your free place via Eventbrite.

Maths Week Scotland

Maths Week Scotland is here and runs until 2 October! #MathsWeekScot is a celebration of the importance of maths in our everyday lives.

Lots of schools and businesses are taking part in Maths Week Scotland 2022, including some of our libraries, here are the details:

Leith Library are taking inspiration from artist Paul Klee who created over 10,000 pieces of art. He loved to create city landscapes with buildings, bridges and other structures using 2D shapes, such as squares and rectangles.
Join them on Friday 30 September at 2pm to create a piece of art using coloured 2D shapes in the same style. How about creating an artwork of Leith, Edinburgh, or another favourite place!

Moredun Library are running an all day Maths Scavenger Hunt on Wednesday 28 September. They have number themed Bookbug sessions on Thursday 29 September at 10am and 11am and a Lego Maths challenge at 3.30pm. If that’s not enough for you, they are also have some activity packs you can take home.

Oxgangs Library will be constructing models of man-made structures, influenced or inspired by the natural environment on Saturday 1 October at 2pm and tickets can be booked via Eventbrite at:
Maths Week Scotland 2022 Tickets, Sat 1 Oct 2022 at 2pm

Portobello Library has a numbers-based treasure trail, a guess how many Lego pieces in the jar competition and their weekly storytime will feature some number themed tales.

Stockbridge Library will be running a Maths themed Scavenger Hunt for the whole week and Bookbug will be sharing number rhymes on Saturday 1 October at 10.30am.

Sighthill Library will be adding lots of number songs and rhymes to their Friday morning Bookbug session at 10.45am on 30 September.

More activities are available online at the Maths Week Scotland website.

We also have some amazing Maths themed titles for children available on Libby.

New creative writing group for young people!

Aged between 16 and 19 and love to write?

Join us for a series of 8 fortnightly creative writing sessions led by poet Roshni Gallagher, winner of the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award 2022 and author of the pamphlet Bird Cherry (2023). Our next session is at 4pm on Wednesday 28 September in Meeting Room Two at Central Library. These sessions are a gentle and encouraging space to grow and explore your writing practice.

Please email for further information. No booking needed. All abilities welcome – from keen writers to complete beginners. You’re invited to bring along a short piece of your writing to our first session but please note that this is optional.

Green Pencil 2022 in Scotland’s Year of Stories

On behalf of Edinburgh Libraries’ ‘Green Pencil’ Team, we would like to say “thank you” to all our schools, teachers and pupils, who took part in Green Pencil 2021, making it a truly successful competition.

Today we launch Green Pencil 2022 and hope for just as many fantastic entries!

Our environmentally themed creative writing competition, is open to all P4 to P7 aged children and young people in S1 to S3 in Edinburgh. The deadline for entries is 21 October 2022.

We’re taking the ‘Year of Scotland’s Stories’ as our theme. Are you a budding story writer? Could you write a story/ poem/ prose with an environmental theme? It could be about yourself, your pet, a special place or your favourite animal that relates to your life in Scotland. You could include Scotland’s landscapes, lochs, towns and villages.  A story or poem that captures the reader’s imagination, piques interest and brings your writing to life.

Entries can be poetry, prose or story, all we ask is that the writing is the author’s own work and is no longer than one side of A4 paper.

Update November 2022

We would like to apologise to our Finalists, but due to circumstances outwith our control we are unable to host a face to face event for Green Pencil 2022.

We will do our utmost to bring back this special live event in the future.

We will be producing the Green Pencil brochure where all Finalists’ work will be printed and these will be sent to schools in the new year.

Our 4 Highly Commended Finalists will have the opportunity to record their work and these will be read out online, and will be featured here on our Tales of One City blog.

The date for this online event will be forwarded to all Highly Commended Finalists shortly.

Join the Children’s Art Club!

Are you aged between 8 and 12 years old? Do you like to make things?

If so, then please be in touch! Send us an email at:
or give us a ring on 0131 242 8040.

We’re hoping to restart the sessions on a fortnightly basis, on a Saturday morning from 10.30am – 12 noon at Central Library.

Term time sessions to begin on the 10 September 2022.

Our plans are for a free programme of creative play and learning – a time to explore art-making – build and foster curiosity, care, and consideration – and hopefully an ever more creative relationship with the world around us.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Breaking the news with Ciaran Jenkins!

Edinburgh Libraries are proud to be part of the Living Knowledge Network with the British Library and are hosting various events and competitions across the city.

Breaking a news story is the perfect day for any journalist, none more so than Ciaran Jenkins.

Edinburgh School Librarians gave pupils the opportunity to ask prize-winning journalist Ciaran Jenkins (Scottish Correspondent for Channel 4) questions about what it means to cover a story and break the news. Pupils from Broughton High School, Liberton High School and Wester Hailes High School took up the challenge.

Watch the video here –

The British Library are currently hosting the Breaking the News exhibition and displays are touring around the UK to Living Knowledge Network libraries, including at Central Library in Edinburgh. Drop in to our exhibition to see highlights from our collections alongside contextual information about the history and importance of news coverage from the British Library. Our exhibition will run from Monday 4 July to Monday 29 August 2022.

Art makes us with Art Buds Collective

Edinburgh Libraries are teaming up with Edinburgh Art Festival to host art workshops for children this August delivered by Art Buds Collective.

Inspired by the diverse wildlife, histories and geographies of the Union Canal, we’ll use art to imagine a more planet friendly future.

Free artist-led workshops for children and families across the city – and on the water – will take you on a journey filled with sensory fun and big environmental questions. Use your creativity to rethink local green spaces and waterways and dream up a better world. Get set for adventures – exploring sound, movement, sculpture and sustainable art-making.
Book for these workshops via

Art Buds workshop, Edinburgh Art Festival 2021. Photo: Sally Jubb

Shapes in the city – invent, construct, climb!
Make huge, recycled sculptures inspired by bridges, tunnels and waterways! Created for ages 5 – 12. Parents of under 8s must book a place.

Tuesday 2 August, 10.30am – 12.30pm
Central Library, George IV Bridge, EH1 1EG (SOLD OUT)

Tuesday 9 August, 10.30am – 12.30pm
Fountainbridge Library, 137 Dundee St, EH11 1BG

Friday 19 August, 1pm – 3pm
Wester Hailes Library, 1 Westside Plaza, EH14 2ST

Sounds in the city  – listen, sculpt, get noisy!
Make sound sculptures in the garden, give a noisy performance, then finish with homemade pizza! Created for ages 4 – 8 and their families.

Friday 12 August, 11am – 1pm, Johnston Terrace Wildlife Garden, Johnston Terrace, EH1 2JT, limited access

Wonder on the water – investigate, make, fly your flag!
Set sail on a boat along the canal as we create maps and flags inspired by the history of our waterways. You might even spot some wildlife! Created for ages 4 – 10 and their families.

Friday 5 August, 3 – 5pm, departs from Union Canal at Leamington Lift Bridge, Leamington Road, EH3 9PD, wheelchair friendly and toilet onboard

Book your free tickets at Edinburgh Art Festival. To discuss access requirements, please contact

Art Buds Collective is a social enterprise dedicated to the delivery of sustainable arts education for children across Edinburgh. Creativity, the creative journey and protecting the planet are at the heart of their workshops. Follow Art Buds Collective on Instagram at @art_buds_collective

We Make Music Instrument Libraries

We’re delighted to be part of We Make Music Instrument Libraries, a brand new initiative to get musical instruments into public libraries across Scotland.

People will be able to borrow an instrument for free, just like taking out a book. The programme is in libraries in Fife, North Ayrshire and Edinburgh, and across other areas in future. In Edinburgh, there will be six libraries taking part covering different areas of the city: Craigmillar, Drumbrae, Moredun, Muirhouse, Wester Hailes and the Music Library at Central Library.

The libraries will stock a wide variety of instruments from guitars, keyboards and ukuleles, to violins, trombones and orchestral instruments, as well as music software and midi keyboards so people can make music on library computers. Each library is paired with a local music project or the local authority’s instrumental music service, and all of the libraries are keen to build links with other local music groups, schools, community projects and venues. 

The project has launched a crowdfunding campaign, with a call-out for donations of both money and musical instruments, to help fill the libraries with as many musical instruments and learning resources as possible. All money will go towards buying, repairing and servicing donated instruments so they are in good condition for the libraries, as well as music software and midi keyboards for making music on library computers. They also want to offer music workshops and introductory lessons, develop online resources and organise live music events in and around the libraries. The more money raised, and the more instruments people donate, the more new music libraries will open up around Scotland!

If you want to give your old musical instrument a new lease of life by donating it to the We Make Music Instrument Libraries project, please email

The Learning Professional Award 2022 goes to…

We were delighted when our colleague Julie Sutherland, librarian at Forrester High School, was announced the winner of this year’s Scottish Book Trust Learning Professional Award. We asked Julie to tell us all about it –

“It was completely unexpected when I received a call from the Scottish Book Trust earlier this year to say that I had won the Learning Professional Award. I had absolutely no idea that my colleague Lindsay Craik-Collins, CL of English and Media at Forrester High School, had put my name forward. You don’t expect that. She took the time to chat with pupils who regularly use the library outside of class time and I am led to believe that it was their comments that swung the vote my way.

It’s hard to imagine the effect you can have on a young person, but they are the ones that make my day. They challenge and invigorate me and there is no better way to start the day than chatting to a bunch of teenagers. Every morning we have a Card & Chat Club in the library before school starts. It gets VERY loud as we’re all a bit competitive and there is nothing they like more than making me pick up cards, and which occasionally results in a victory lap of the library!

Two of the lads Mrs Craik-Collins spoke to have been playing cards with me since they came to school in S1 and you can see them in the fantastic Scottish Book Trust film which announced the award at the end of this article. They did so well in their interviews and I’m incredibly proud of them. We had really missed Card & Chat Club when restrictions after school returned post-pandemic, initially prevented us from playing. Very soon we will be inviting our new S1s to join in the fun!

No Librarian is an island, and everything I do is possible because I’m part of a team, or really, lots of teams; working with pupils and teachers to understand what needs they have of the library and how I can help them best, developing citywide initiatives with librarians from other schools and community branches in Edinburgh and seeking help across the UK on the School Librarian Network Yahoo Group. I rely heavily on the knowledge and support of my colleagues, and I can do the things I do in school because of these fantastic teams and in my heart this award is for all of them. I’m a bit nosey, to be honest, and I love being the chair of Cilips East Branch because it gives me the chance to network with all kinds of libraries and their amazing staff. I love visiting them (we call this library bagging – a term coined by Cilips Central Branch – just think libraries instead of Munro’s) and sharing, then pinching, ideas that I can bring back to school. We’ve been to some amazing places that are right on our doorstep, everything from the Tool Library to the Library of Mistakes, including a professional peek behind the scenes at the Museum of Childhood’s library stores… then further afield to Prestonpans and Dunfermline Libraries. Library staff have great chat and love showing off their collections!

I’m not very good at looking back and giving myself a pat on the back for something well done, because I’m already thinking about the next thing I have planned. I get bored really easily, so am always looking for something a little bit different to try, whether it’s a course in graphic novels, ways to diversify the collection or a new reading initiative.

I hope that this award will illuminate the positive effect school libraries and librarians can have on a young person’s life. It’s not just about developing literacy and a love for reading, that’s really important, of course, but it’s also about the whole person and being there for every young person that needs your support.

So, who knows what is around the next corner, I have several cunning plans brewing and am keeping my options open and my eyes scanning the horizon, the next conversation in the library or email from a colleague could start something really interesting…”

Congratulations Julie! Watch this wonderful Scottish Book Trust film to find out what made Julie’s nomination stand out –

New drawing and art books for children

For this month’s blog from the Art and Design Library, Jen reviews a few of our 


They’re exciting additions, and we have more to come. We’re planning a collection of travelling stock to send out to our community libraries – so do keep a look out for some smart new books on our shelves.  

For this year’s spring/summer exhibition, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art are showing a Barbara Hepworth show at Modern Two. It opened on 9 April and will run until 2 October 2022.  

Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin therefore seems an apt title to begin with. Laura Carlin is an illustrator and ceramicist based in London, and the book feels so fresh. It’s a wonderful introduction, for anybody, to thoughts about form and shape. About what is it that we do in front of a sculpture; about how learning to see is a bodily thing; about how feelings and shapes collide; and how shapes talk to each other.  

I always love seeing the insides of books, so here are some sneaky shots. 

Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin
Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin
Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin

As you can see, Laura Carlin’s illustration work is a fantastic medley of mixed media-collage-drawing/everything work. And as well as being about Barbara Hepworth and her sculptures, the book also includes prompts for how you might make your own sculptures inspired by the natural world.  

Some extra links – to the Hepworth Wakefield gallery and Barbara Hepworth’s biography page (great photos and snippets of inspiring thoughts); and her sculpture garden and museum in St Ives if you’re ever that end of the map.  

Laura Carlin won the prestigious V & A Book Illustration Award in 2011 for her illustrated edition of Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man. And one of my favourite books of hers’ is A World of Your Own. On play and creativity, it just sparkles.   

There are more in this series. Tate Publishing is the publisher, and the series is called Meet the Artist. As with the Barbara Hepworth, Tate have commissioned a contemporary illustrator to respond to an older artist. Lizzy Stewart has made one on Turner; Rose Blake on David Hockney and Andy Warhol; Nick White on Giacometti; Hélène Baum-Owoyele on Frank Bowling, Helena Perez Garcia on the Pre-Raphaelites.  

They encourage observation and imagination, and they are brilliant creative introductions to art history, and to artmaking. 

(A further peek – these next couple of pictures are from the David Hockney book.)  

David Hockney by Rose Blake
David Hockney by Rose Blake

Another exciting little cohort in our new stock collection are several books by the French artist and educator Hervé Tullet . Art Workshops for Children; Draw Here; I Have an Idea!; andMy Stencil Kit: Draw, Colour and Create Your Own Stories.For sheer joy, energy, and a perfect explication of what it means to play, I totally recommend these books.

Here’s a look inside for you: 

Draw Here by Hervé Tullet
Draw Here by Hervé Tullet
Draw Here by Hervé Tullet
Art workshops for children by Hervé Tullet
Art workshops for children by Hervé Tullet

I find it endlessly interesting watching my toddler with his felt-tip pens. His compulsion and delight, the variety of things that need to be done to and with a felt-tip pen. Whoever knew. I can see the process of him learning – how do I hold this object; what can it do; it’s a tool, oh wow – and with that, comes his discovery of all kinds of concepts… His drawing is totally process-based, he’s busy exploring stuff (until suddenly he’s not!) but mostly he is, and it’s fun for him. What I love about the Hervé Tullet books is that he takes this boundless curiosity and intuitive need to create that all children seem to have, and he plays with it. It’s the visual equivalent of handstands or cartwheels, or just lying on the grass wiggling your toes. The books contain activities and workshops that are adaptable for pretty much any age group. It’s easy to forget how to play, and these books are a bundle of fun and cleverness that remind us how important it is.  

On this workshopping topic I’d just like to mention a couple of other books we have: Drawing Projects for Children; and Make Build Create. Both are by the artist-educator Paula Briggs.  

And here’s an endorsement for the Drawing Projects book by Quentin Blake – “A beautiful book, full of ideas and a vivid sense of materials – truly appetising and stimulating.”  

It wets my appetite too. The book is a collection of simple exercises and activities about making thoughtful and meaningful marks in all kinds of media. I find more each time I go back to them. There are also helpful notes for the facilitator/parent of an activity, and one of the tenets behind the books is that the facilitator need not be a specialist at all.  

Paula Briggs has also set up a charity called Access Art which is a treasure trove of resources for children’s art activities, both for Primary and Secondary age groups.  

And one more picture from some of our new children’s stock:

If you’re at high school reading this, or you’re the parent of someone who is, I thought I’d include a few gems from our stock – some personal gems anyway, from my personal canon, as I’m sure everybody has their own. 

The writer and illustrator, Mervyn Peake, creator of Gormenghast, wrote a little treatise on drawing called The Craft of the Lead Pencil. Originally published in 1946, it is full of the essence of what drawing is (or should be). It is a simple telling, just a few pages long. We have it compiled in another book, Mervyn Peake: Writings & Drawings. 

Similarly, Kimon Nicolaides’ The Natural Way to Draw, is a wonderful (old) how-to book. It is a year’s schedule of drawing that looks at the components of making a drawing – gesture, line, form, feeling, the materials you are working with… – and always with an eye on artists working in the past.  

Also in the 1970s, John Berger (1926 – 2017), artist, art historian, and writer, wrote his influential Ways of Seeing to accompany the BBC TV series of the same name. And in the early 2000s, he wrote a little book of essays and fragments on drawing. It begins,  

For the artist drawing is discovery. And that is not just a slick phrase, it is quite literally true. It is the actual act of drawing that forces the artist to look at the object in front of him, to dissect it in his mind’s eye and put it together again; or, if he is drawing from memory, that forces him to dredge his own mind, to discover the content of his own store of past observations… “

This is illustrated so well, I think, by the artist Sargy Mann in an introductory essay to a book on Bonnard’s drawings. It is about how the very best drawing is discovery, and about how we see. 

We have a lot of books on drawing, of course; on artists’ drawings and artists’ sketchbooks. Come and look at the golden oldies. (How does Rembrandt draw? How did he draw so much heart, I’d love to know that. And Hokusai – he draws with so much facility, so much life – we have his Manga sketchbooks in one of our stores. Originally published in 1814, they are a handbook of over 4,000 images. They contain drawings of everyday life, people, expressions, architecture; drawings of the natural world and animals; myths and stories.) 

And here are just a few extra pictures I pulled off the shelves from our drawing section to entice you: 

Drawing and Painting by Kate Wilson
Drawing and Painting by Kate Wilson
Drawing water by Tania Kovats
Drawing birds by John Busby
Drawing books from the Art and Design Library collection
Comics Sketchbooks by Steven Heller
Comics Sketchbooks by Steven Heller
Anatomy for the artist by Sarah Simblet
Anatomy for the artist by Sarah Simblet
Botany for the artist by Sarah Simblet
Sketching books from the Art and Design Library collection

What I mainly want to say though, is, we have lots and lots of great books. Please do come into the Art and Design Library and explore! 

Green Pencil Award-winner 2021

We’re thrilled to announce the winning entry for the 2021 Green Pencil creative writing competition on the theme of Climate Change is ‘We need to stop this now!’ by Alfie Ross, from St. Mary’s Primary School.

And we’re delighted to invite you to listen to a specially recorded reading of Alfie’s poem by poet, Jeda Pearl Lewis.
Here is, ‘We need to stop this now!’

The winning entry for the 2021 Green Pencil creative writing award, ‘We need to stop this now!’ by Alfie Ross, is read by poet, Jeda Pearl Lewis.

You can enjoy all four of our finalists read their highly commended entries in yesterday’s blog post.

Green Pencil Award 2021

A big thank you to all the children and young people who entered the Green Pencil creative writing competition. We enjoyed reading all your writing.

This year’s theme tackled a very hot topic – climate change. P4-P7 aged children and young people in S1-3 were challenged to write a poem, piece of prose or story on the theme.

Once again, we were unable to hold an awards ceremony in Central Library, so here instead, you can listen to the finalists read their highly commended entries in these special Green Pencil videos.

Congratulations to all our talented finalists!

Raghav Palanivel from Corstorphine Primary School reads his highly commended poem ‘A kid’s cry for justice’.
Alex Cook Ribes from Hermitage Park Primary School reads his highly commended poem ‘Mother Earth’.
Alfie Ross from St. Mary’s Primary School reads his highly commended poem ‘We need to stop this now!’
Lulah Thomson from Wardie Primary School reads her highly commended poem ‘My Highland Home’.

Come back tomorrow when the winner will be revealed…

Moredun Library has a makeover!

Moredun Library has had a bright and cheerful makeover, in collaboration with Out and About Edinburgh (Part of the Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust) and Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre.

A group of young people from Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre and the Out and About team were keen to help brighten up public spaces in Moredun, by creating pieces of artwork in the community. A professional mural artist from Spectrum Arts was invited to work with the young people and together the group came up with a design for the front of Moredun Library.

The brief was to give the front of the building an eye-catching identity to show passers-by what the library is all about. What was previously a drab and dull shutter, is now a brilliant work of art created by local young people. The colourful backdrops are decorated with symbols representing some of the important things they associate with the library, including books, speech bubbles, thought bubbles, lightening bolts and even an appearance from Bookbug and other characters.

COP26 – How to Be a Responsible Activist

With so much talk about COP26 happening in the news and in schools, many pupils in Edinburgh secondary schools are becoming interested in campaigning and activism about issues that are important to them. But what makes a responsible activist? Catrina Randall from Young Friends of the Earth Scotland is here to help! Secondary school pupils across the city were given the opportunity by their school librarian to submit questions to Catrina via an online form. A small group of school librarians then had the challenge of selecting the best questions to put forward to Catrina. This interview is a culmination of their amazing questions and Catriona’s thought-provoking answers: 

Next steps? Pupils from eight Edinburgh secondary schools will put Catrina’s advice into practice and create their own protest banners on the issues that matter to them. The final banners will be revealed during COP26 – so watch this space!

P is for…. Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf

When I was 8, I remember having a violin lesson one afternoon at school. I remember the practice room, and my teacher, Mr Chambers. He was a tall man; long and elegant, sprucely dressed, and – my unrefined 8 year-old self knew only too well – he really didn’t like giving violin lessons to children. That afternoon though, he began to draw little pictures all over the top of the music I was practising. He drew the sun, animals, and a hill; and together, to go with that piece of music I was so badly playing, we made up a story. Something happened then, and I understood. Sound could capture all of these things: a running animal; the height of a hill, what high is, what running is; light and colour… Everything. Emotion – and it was a revelation to me.

In 1936, Natalia Sats, the spirited director of the Moscow Central Children’s Theatre, approached Sergei Prokofiev with a commission. She wanted a symphonic tale for children, a pedagogical work to introduce the different instruments of the orchestra. They sat and ate apples together, and thought about how a duck might move if it were sound – how it would quack; how a bird might fly (Natalia Sats suggested the flute to characterise the bird); how the cat might climb a tree. The original text was written by a young poet, but Prokofiev rejected it. It was too clichéd, he thought, and he took on the work himself.

Listen to Peter and the Wolf on Naxos Music Library

And so, amidst a flurry of ideas, in a four-day sprint, Prokofiev put his composition together. The following week he orchestrated it, and that was that. In the 1930s there was a demand for works for children, he wrote in his diaries, and so he got to work. Then he charged the theatre a fee of whatever they could afford. For him, it was a present: for the young pioneer audience in their red neckerchief ties and badges; and for his two sons. He shared an affinity with children, and of course, the piece has become an integral part of many childhoods, and many children’s understanding of music.

Peter (the string instruments) is our hero. He opens the gate to the meadow and walks on through. A clarinet (the cat) tries to catch a flute (the bird), and a bassoon (Peter’s grandfather) biffs Peter on the nose for wandering off to a place where there might be French horns (a wolf). The wolf arrives, huge and grey, the strings shimmer, and the brassy sounds grow big.

In 1936, a darkness was unravelling in Stalinist Russia. Prokofiev had just returned from years abroad in Paris and New York, but it was also the beginnings of the Moscow show trials against prominent old Bolshevik leaders, and Stalin’s Great Purge. The following year, in August 1937, Natalia Sats was arrested, interrogated, and sentenced to 5 years in a Siberian work camp as the wife of a traitor of the motherland. Socialist realism was to be at the forefront of all art, and Prokofiev increasingly found himself currying favour with the regime, and towing party lines. Can Peter and the Wolf be read as an allegory? Is it also about the youth and the old? External threats, the fear and the danger beyond the gate and over in the meadow? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Interestingly, Peter and the Wolf has a different history in Russia than in the west. It’s vaguer there in a Russian memory of childhood. In the west, it took a different turn. Disney’s animation is certainly significant in its popularisation – I watched it on youtube for this blog, all 15 wonderful minutes of it. Prokofiev visited Los Angeles in 1938 and met Walt Disney there, “le papa de Mickey Mouse”, he called him in a letter to his sons, and initially Walt Disney thought the piece might be a good fit for Fantasia. But World War II arrived, and with all that that entailed Peter and the Wolf wasn’t released until 1946 as part of the film medley, Make Music Mine, with Sterling Holloway as its narrator. In Disney’s version, each character is given a name – there is Ivan the cat, Sasha the bird, Sonia the duck – and in the end, Sonia the duck isn’t eaten after all.

There is also a more recent stop-motion animation that the animator Suzie Templeton made in the Polish Se-ma-for studios in Łódź in 2006. It won several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2008. I’ve hunted around as to where to watch it, and Apple TV have it, although there is a rental cost of £1.49. Well worth it though, I think. In an interview for (an excellent) Archive on 4 on Peter and the Wolf, Suzie Templeton speaks of how the first thing she did was draw a picture of Peter, and how it turned out to be a picture of a troubled boy. She also wanted him to be a hero, and talks of how catching a wild animal now means a very different thing to catching a wild animal in 1930s Russia. It’s not such a heroic thing to do.

Listen to Peter and the Wolf with David Bowie narrating on Naxos Music Library

One last thing I’d like to mention is the long sparkly line of celebrity narrators. Everyone who’s anyone seems to have narrated Peter and the Wolf. The narration sits in some deep warm place from childhood. My favourite is David Bowie’s but that’s only because that’s the version I’ve heard most. Dig about, there are, of course, a lot. Our music streaming service Naxos has many Prokofien treats, as has Medici TV.

Health information for children and young people

For Health Information Week, we highlight useful resources to support the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

Book lists for young people to support mental health and wellbeing
Edinburgh Libraries have partnered with Young Scot to allow Escape, Connect, Relate, our school librarian’s wellbeing book lists, to reach as many of our young citizens as possible. Explore the lists to find books on a wide range of topics including abuse, stress, body image, diversity, relationships, depression and much more.

Information resources for Children and Young People’s health and wellbeing
We’ve also pulled together some handy reference websites giving support and guidance for children and young people on issues ranging from the pandemic and mental health to nutrition and dental hygiene.

  • CBeebies – Get Well Soon – various songs and interactive activities for children about health and hospitals featuring Dr Ranj. Also includes information for parents about how to talk to their child/children about going to hospital.
  • Health for kids – provides interactive games and activities for kids on various topics such as dental hygiene, feelings and getting help. Also has a parent’s section providing advice and information.
  • Hope Again – aimed at young people who have experienced loss or bereavement, contains various videos and personal stories to support young people.
  • Join the Movement from Sport England – a collection of links to various exercise activities for children such as Cosmic Yoga, BBC Supermovers, and Disney workouts and also includes links to exercises for young wheelchair users and young people with limb difference.
    Follow Sport England on Twitter and Facebook
  • Young Minds – aims to tackle mental health issues amongst young people. Covers issues such as exam stress, body image, loneliness and coping with mental illness.
    Follow Young Minds on Twitter and Facebook

Bringing physics to Edinburgh Libraries’ Children and Young People

Edinburgh City Libraries and Information Service, do just that…we provide information and services.  We also highly value our partnerships where we can share resources to the benefit of our customers. One of these partnerships has developed into a gift that keeps on giving. Networking is key to building connections and it was during one of these events we met Dr Jean-Christophe Denis (JC), NBIC and Ogden Outreach Officer at Edinburgh University.

This chance meeting turned into a solid connection where JC works with Edinburgh Libraries to bring the joy of physics to our Children and Young People (CYP), JC introduced us to Dr Kirsty Ross who taught our CYP the magic of science using nanoparticles and now his introduction to Amy Cook bringing stories and fun to STEM.  All of which we can share with our CYP. Below Amy tells us a bit about herself and why she loves reading and physics and how they work together.

“I am a 4th year Astrophysics student at the University of Edinburgh and have always been fascinated by space. However, if I hadn’t chosen to study Astrophysics at university I would have chosen English. It was up there with Physics as one of my favourite subjects but I decided that I didn’t want to study it as I wanted to make sure that reading and writing always remained an enjoyable and relaxing activity for me. I have always loved reading and almost always have a book on the go – and have done from a young age. I have always enjoyed reading books in the fantasy genre – I still have all my copies of the Harry Potter series that have been very well thumbed! I still really enjoy any good fantasy or science fiction series. Some favourites of mine have got to be The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (I liked this so much I wrote my English A-Level coursework on it!), the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers and The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit books – these last books are definitely for the more ambitious reader though. Incidentally, these are all available in the library catalogue if anyone wants to give them a read!

I am naturally curious, which lends itself to being a scientist very well, but is also very beneficial for those who love to read, write and generally be creative. Being creative is definitely an aspect of science that isn’t very well known but it’s very important! I chose to use creative writing as a key part of the development of this project as I myself am a keen writer. I used to do a lot of writing when I was in school, but since coming to university it has fallen by the wayside as I’ve been preoccupied with university work (which rarely includes writing creatively). In order to “flex my creative muscles”, I decided that creating a project joining physics and storytelling was the way I would feel really passionate about what I was creating and, most importantly, I would enjoy doing it!

It was easy to decide on doing a space related story as space is the thing I love to talk about the most in physics. It was hard to decide what space topic to focus on but during my research I found out about an influential astronomer from the 1700s, Caroline Herschel, who overcame many challenges in order to discover several comets and become the first professional female astronomer. As a female student studying in this field, I found her story inspiring and decided that this topic was perfect. Forces was a little more tricky to decide on, but Isaac Newton is arguably one of the most important figures in the history of physics as his discoveries led to what is now known as Classical (or Newtonian) Physics. Forces and Newton’s laws of motion are at the heart of physics today, so why not implement them into a story?

I really hope that you enjoy my stories and that you can participate in the follow up activities and really get the most out of them. Reading and writing is something that everyone deserves to enjoy as it’s the most wonderful form of escapism – and if it teaches you physics at the same time? Well, that’s a bonus!”

Here are the links to Amy’s stories and activities:
Forces Fiona and the Laws of Motion story

Forces Fiona and the Laws of Motion activities

Spaceman Sam Story

Spaceman Sam and the Solar System activities