Join an online book group

Some of our libraries are keeping in touch with readers by starting up online book groups. Why not join them?

Open Book with Craigmillar Library 

Craigmillar Library are partnering with Open Book to host an online book group via Zoom. The meetings will be once a fortnight on Tuesday mornings, from 10 to 11 am.

Open Book provide all the material and each session it is a short story and a poem or two. The theme this month is Future. Participants can take part in shared reading or staff will be happy to read the whole thing. If participants feel more comfortable just listening, they can turn their video off. The reading stops every now and again for the group to discuss the story or poem.

Staff are already thinking of how these sessions can continue in the future once things return to normality and how they can work with other local services to reach out to people who might enjoy shared reading.

Booking is via Eventbrite and the next session is on 19 May.

‘Heard a good book lately’ with Stockbridge Library
A new online audio book group has been started up by Carol who works at Stockbridge Library. Using the RBDigital service, everyone in the group can borrow and listen to the same audiobook at the same time. There is a huge range of authors and genres, but Carol decided to pick titles which are not only good for discussion, but gives themes to explore and research too. The first book chosen is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.  The novel depicts the story of two slaves in the south east of the USA set in 19th century and their bid for freedom. It won the Pulitzer prize for fiction 2017.

The concept of the audiobook group however is no stranger to Stockbridge Library, a group has existed for over a year now with inclusion and accessibility at the core. However the beauty of audiobooks is that anyone can enjoy them at any time, if you are out and about, doing stuff about the house or relaxing.
“The audio book group has been fantastic opportunity to bring people together with or without sight loss. It also allows another option to discuss books in different formats. It’s not just about the writing, you’ve got to enjoy listening to the narrator. A few favourites have been ‘A Girl of slender means’ by Muriel Spark and ‘Our man in Havana’ by Graham Greene.” 
With the advent of lockdown it’s important to keep discussion and a sense of community going, so Carol is hoping you can join her on Tuesday 26 May at 7pm. Joining details are available on the Stockbridge Facebook page or Eventbrite.

‘Reading takes you places’ with South-west Edinburgh Libraries

Our Libraries in the South-west neighbourhood of Edinburgh have joined together to create a virtual book group too. So if you enjoy chatting about books and are looking for new reading suggestions, this one is for you.

Whether you’re already a member of a library book group, or have never been part of a book group before, you’re all invited to join.

A live discussion will take place through a free online video/ audio call service (such as Skype) fortnightly. The next meeting will take place on Thursday 21 May at 3pm, when they will discuss ‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig.

All books chosen for the book group have multiple ebook copies available through Edinburgh Libraries, so everyone will be able to borrow a copy for free. Guidance on accessing and borrowing e-books from the library is available on the Your Library website.

If you are interested in joining the book group, please email


What libraries mean to me with Val McDermid

Crime writer Val McDermid is a perpetual favourite with Edinburgh Library borrowers. Her books, with their atmospheric covers and poetic titles, tell stories of crime, justice and retribution in Scotland. She has also written an updated Jane Austen novel, set during the Edinburgh Festival, Northanger Abbey, and picture book My Granny is a Pirate.

A long term champion of books and libraries, here McDermid tells us what libraries mean to her, and why the written word is what will ultimately carry us through.

Val McDermid, photograph by KT Bruce

What do libraries (including Edinburgh City Libraries) mean to you as a reader, and as a writer? Are the meanings different?
When I go in to the library with my borrower’s card, I feel like Little Jack Horner with his pudding and pie – I stick in my thumb and pull out a plum! There’s always a moment where I encounter something new, and that’s half of the pleasure of reading.

As a writer, libraries have been a huge part of learning my craft. Not just by experiencing the work of other writers and stealing their tricks, but also as a place for research. I started publishing back in the days before Google, when research meant physically searching reference sections, calling up books from the stacks and inter-library loans. And there are still times when only a library will do. Newspaper archives, for example, are a nightmare to search online. The indices of historical biographies lead to all sorts of interesting paths! So I still see them as a valuable resource.

What is your earliest library memory?
When I was a toddler in Kirkcaldy, my mum used to push me across our sprawling council estate to the Templehall Library where she would read me picture books and nursery rhymes.

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?
I’m frustrated because I’ve got an idea for something new and I need the National Library of Scotland’s archives to help me develop it.

For regular library users, I’d recommend discovering what digital resources your library offers – audio books, ebooks etc. Find an online book group that shares your tastes, or challenge yourself with one that doesn’t!

The hard thing is finding something to compensate for the social life of the library. These days, libraries offer so much more than access to books!

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?
Even the First Minister, a devotee of fiction, is admitting to finding it a struggle right now. I’m doing a mix of old favourites and the new books that still keep arriving through my letter box. What always works when all else fails are short stories. You’ll find all sorts of treats here. Favourite authors often have collections of short stories, and I return to Ali Smith, Katherine Mansfield, Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Isaac Asimov and PG Wodehouse regularly, among several others. And perhaps the perfect book for right now is James Robertson’s 365 – a story a day for a year, each one exactly 365 words long!

This question is from Bronwen who runs the Art and Design Library, and is connected to the question above. Is it better to read a challenging book or a comforting one at this time?
It’s a matter for personal choice. Read what you fancy, is my motto. And if a book hasn’t grabbed you by page 20, swap it for something that does! I’m enjoying a mix of comfort and challenge right now, and unusually for me, I’ve got a couple of books on the go at once. One of which is always either an old friend or a new book from an author I know I can trust!

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 am writing – this is the time of year when I always write the current book. But I am making slower progress than usual. It’s harder to concentrate for long periods, I find. At this time of year, I do very few events normally so I can concentrate on writing. But paradoxically, this year I have had more calls on my time than ever before!

Most of us are taking advantage of the daily outside exercise where we can. I find I’m noticing things I’d not picked up on before. A writing exercise I’d suggest is composing a few paragraphs – or a poem, if that’s what you prefer – about something you’ve noticed on your walk, run or bike ride. If you can’t get outdoors, spend some time looking out of the window, paying attention to what or who you see. Writing about something outside yourself offers more resources – and it can also be a useful way of reflecting your thoughts and feelings.

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?
Social media is doing a great job of making us feel connected, and of forming new connections. But it’s not a replacement for human company and contact. Screen time is also, strangely, more tiring than face-to-face encounters. However, making the most of what it can do will carry us through this. And when it’s all over, we will appreciate old – and new – friends so much more.

In the meantime, the written word can be our comfort and our companion.

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

Friday book quiz: round 1 (the answers)

On Friday’s blog, we set the questions to the first round of ten questions in the Library Resource Management Team’s book quiz.

The answers are revealed below.

1. Which of the following is a book by David Peace, author of “The damned united”?
a) Patient X
b) Ground zero
c) Guinea pig

2. “The house by the loch” is a title by which Scottish personality?
a) Sarah Smith
b) Kirsty Wark
c) Chris Hoy

3. Which of the following is a title by Elif Shafak?
a) 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world
b) 10 minutes 39 seconds in this strange world
c) 10 minutes 40 seconds in this strange world

4. What is the missing word from the title of this Doug Johnstone book, “A dark”?
a) Night
b) Chocolate
c) Matter 

5. According to Oyinkan Braithewaite who is a serial killer?
a) My brother
b) My sister
c) My mother


6. What colour of coat does the man have in the recent title by Julian Barnes?
b) Blue
c) Red 

7. According to Manda Scott, what do you call a group of spies?
A cloak of spies
b) A treachery of spies 
c) A zone of spies

8. From which Scandinavian country does Thomas Erikson, the author of “surrounded by idiots”, come from?
a) Sweden
b) Denmark
c) Norway


9. Which Adrian Tchaikovsky novel is described here: “Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapar, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, Shadrapar is a museum, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity. Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new is Stefan Advani: rebel, outlaw, survivor”?
a) Cage of souls 

b) Children of ruin
c) Walking to Aldebaran

10. Jean McConville is the subject of which book by Patrick Keefe?
a) Do nothing
b) Say nothing
c) Hear nothing

How many did you get?

Friday book quiz – round 1

Just for fun, our Library Resource Management Team have set you a quick book quiz!

The answers will be revealed on Monday’s blog. And come back next Friday for another round of questions.

1. Which of the following is a book by David Peace, author of “The damned united”?
a) Patient X
Ground zero
Guinea pig

2. “The house by the loch” is a title by which Scottish personality?
Sarah Smith
b) Kirsty Wark
c) Chris Hoy

3. Which of the following is a title by Elif Shafak?
a) 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world
b) 10 minutes 39 seconds in this strange world
c) 10 minutes 40 seconds in this strange world

4. What is the missing word from the title of this Doug Johnstone book, “A dark “?
b) Chocolate
c) Matter 

5. According to Oyinkan Braithewaite who is a serial killer?
a) My brother
b) My sister
c) My mother

6. What colour of coat does the man have in the recent title by Julian Barnes?
b) Blue
c) Red

7. According to Manda Scott, what do you call a group of spies?
a) A cloak of spies
b) A treachery of spies
A zone of spies

8. From which scandinavian country does Thomas Erikson, the author of “surrounded by idiots”, come from?
a) Sweden
b) Denmark
c) Norway

9. Which Adrian Tchaikovsky novel is described here: “Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapar, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, Shadrapar is a museum, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity. Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new is Stefan Advani: rebel, outlaw, survivor”?
a) Cage of souls
b) Children of ruin
c) Walking to Aldebaran

10. Jean McConville is the subject of which book by Patrick Keefe?
a) Do nothing
b) Say nothing
c) Hear nothing

Lifelong learning in lockdown – quilt making

Today’s blog is written by Zoe from the Central Lending team. She tells us how she’s finding creative inspiration during this time of lockdown.

“Like many Lifelong Learning staff right now, I have a bit more time on my hands. I’ve put in a few shifts at the Hub schools, but back at home, there is only so much TV watching, baking, Spring cleaning and even reading I can do before the need for something more constructive kicks in.

I’ve always liked a hands-on project and luckily, the Library’s digital magazine services have come to my aid. Pressreader has proven to be a treasure trove of creative titles on subjects as diverse as photography, knitting, woodworking, painting and gardening.

This has inspired me to begin making a quilt by hand, from all the old child’s dresses, shirts and other scraps of fabric I have been squirrelling away for years, ‘just in case’. Quilt-making is something I would never have had the time to even contemplate under normal circumstances. But I have found it to be a very calming activity to do a little bit of each day, while listening to music or a podcast, and it’s very satisfying to see it gradually take shape. I’ve found plenty of online magazine titles on quilting and patchwork to guide me, ranging from beginner level to tackling more advanced techniques.

Zoe’s quilt takes shape

I’ve also enlisted my daughter’s help in stitching the pieces together, and that makes the whole project easier and more fun. The trade-off is that she’ll get to keep and use what will be a unique, useful and hopefully, a beautiful quilt.

If you feel similarly inspired to take up a new craft or hobby or to rediscover an old one, Pressreader and RBdigital are both well worth exploring.

And if you’d like to get involved with craft activities in a more social setting, there is an online craft group run by Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust. For those looking for a quick way to help out during the lockdown, the Trust is also looking for volunteers to help stitch face masks for key workers. If you’re interested, go to their online newsletter for more information.”

Deaf Awareness Week 4th – 10th May 2020

Deaf Awareness Week 2020 logoEdinburgh Libraries had once again planned a series of events around Deaf Awareness Week. The programme has been cancelled this year but we can look forward to planning for the event in 2021.

There is still a lot of information and help available online that can assist those experiencing hearing loss.

Hearing Link  is a UK-wide charity for people with hearing loss, their families and friends.  They can help you adjust to the practical and emotional challenges that hearing loss can bring – offering shared experiences, practical support and guidance, so you can reconnect with people and face the future with confidence. Whatever your query or concern, whether you have hearing loss yourself or wish to support someone else, you can get in touch.

Edinburgh Hearing Loss Directory is a comprehensive directory from the City of Edinburgh Council, BSL users can contact via contactSCOTLANDBSL, the on-line British Sign Language video relay interpreting service. 

Deaf Action  is a deaf-led charity providing services across Scotland to the estimated 1,012,000 people living with some degree of hearing loss.

C2Hearonline provides information on hearing loss and communication tactics.  There is great advice for friends and family to support people with hearing loss. 

The theme of this year’s Deaf Awareness Week is acquired hearing loss. People with acquired hearing loss face extra challenges when people are speaking from a greater distance or are wearing a mask, since masks make lipreading impossible. Good communication tactics become even more important.

Phone and video calls may be the only way to communicate with people who socially isolate but can be difficult for people with a hearing loss. Ideas for Ears have the ultimate guide on how to maximise communication on the phone or video call.

Ideas for Ears  provides advice on how to communicate well via phone and video call for people with acquired hearing loss.

UK Council on Deafness is the umbrella body for organisations working with deaf people in the UK. Their mission is to assist organisations and the sector as a whole to maximise the positive impact they have for deaf people.






What libraries mean to me with Douglas Wright

In our latest Q & A session we talk to Douglas Wright, library adviser in the Music and Art and Design team at Central Library.

Douglas Wright from the Music and Art and Design team.

What do libraries (including Edinburgh City Libraries) mean to you as a music lover, musician and reader?
It is a bit of a cliche to say that a library gives you a world of choice or enables you to chose from the world, but it does. You can choose to be with old friends or make new ones. The old friends are the novels and classics that we all return to, to read or listen to, time and again or the new friends like the Sean O’Boyle’s Concerto for Digeridoo found on Naxos.

We use Naxos streaming service at work and I also use it at home. What I have noticed that I have in common with my colleagues in the Music Department is, when we switch on Naxos I the morning we go to the ‘Recently Added’ page and just choose anything from there. Often they are great treats like the Digeradoo Concerto but sometimes we are forced to think again. Like a Beatles /Bach Mash up which didn’t make it to my playlist.

As a music lover I have been part of a team who have been able to promote live music making in the library. We have also had many author talks by musicians or on musical topics, all of which have been a thrill to be part of. The team’s involvement in Make Music Day 2019 was a highlight, I think, for us all. Make Music Day 2019 was also the first time I had played my Ukulele in public and the first time in a long time I had done anything as a musician.

It was nice to dip my toe.

The biggest thing the library has done for me is introduce me to ebooks and I am a huge convert. For the past five years my wife and I have kept a list of our reading for the year. I have always tried to source all my books from my library but I look first to see if we have a copy of the book I wish to read on Overdrive, our ebook service, so I can have it on my phone and effectively have it with me all the time. I have just made myself aware that I have my music, my ebooks and my audiobooks on my phone so I carry the library or a library with me all the time, I think I need to question my own reliance on my phone, but that’s for another day.

What is your earliest library memory?
I was born and lived in Park Road, Kelvinbridge in Glasgow till I was eighteen. Kelvinbridge which is in between St. George’s Cross, Hillhead and Maryhill. On Saturday mornings, we, my Mum, Dad and brother would walk the short distance to St. George’s Cross in Glasgow where we would shop, pay bills, pay some money to my dad’s tailor account and then go to Woodside Library which was beside Jimmy Logan’s Metropole Theatre. My Mum and Dad would leave us in the children’s section and go and choose their selection for the week. I seem to remember that we had three tickets so we would make our small selection which at that time, for me, were books like Paddington, The Wombles and The Famous Five. From then on, I have a sketchy relationship with libraries.

Drifting in and out of love with them, spending years never going near one and then at other times never being out of them.

My relationship with Central Library really started when I had children and started using the Children’s Library. My children are now 26 and 22 so that was a little while ago. Often, if we were all at the library I would sneak downstairs to the Music Library and then as the children got older, we would all sneak downstairs, to chose our music.

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?
There are many things I am struggling with and without at the moment. I have to say until asked that question, the Library or a library was not one of them. Now thinking about it, I think it is the thing I have been trying not to think about, I have been for the past few weeks distracting myself with things, tasks and ‘shiny objects’. Trying not to think about that bit of my day that’s missing, my ‘normal’. I have gone down a bit of a road there and to try now and get back to the things, tasks and shiny objects.

I have not been reading as much as I did but I have discovered the joy of audiobooks. I installed the BorrowBox and uLIBRARY apps and have listened to a number of books, which allows me to potter about our flat, as Bing Crosby says, “busy doing nothing working the whole day through, trying to find lots of things not to do”. So the advice would be, always listen to Bing, he will know what to do. I try not to throw advice about, there are people worth listening to, and that’s not me. Seriously, Bing, listen to him.

I am not a great fan of the 21st century, despite my increasing reliance on my phone, and it is not great for me – as a Library adviser who is there to look after and ready our physical collection for our membership to borrow – it is not great for me to say that we have a wonderful set of services online with a lot of those services able to answer to your needs 24 hours a day. We do, and for a lot of people, they have never been more important.

Having said all that, one thing that is said to us, the Music and Art and Design team, most often, is how much people, our membership, enjoy dealing with a person, in the library. That is of no solace at this time and if we are struggling without our library, the only real consolation we can have is that this will end, and hopefully for most of us it will end peacefully and will return to something nearer to a kind of normal.

A lot of people are struggling just now – music has the capacity to soothe by reflecting our emotions but also to challenge – what do you recommend as a music lover to those that are struggling?
One person’s soothing balm is another’s annoyance, So recommending something comes with dangers. My go-to favourites might not be to other people’s liking. I might pick Shostakovich who offers beautiful tunes within edgy, prickly, early 20th century Russian angst, but that is not everybody’s taste. I am also quite stuck with classical music, well, classical music from the romantic era. I once heard John Amis, music critic and broadcaster, talking about music and putting forward the thought that, as one ages music lovers gravitate more to Mozart and leave the youthful romantics in their past. I am about to enter my 59th year and I am still waiting to appreciate Mozart.

The great classical/Romantic composer of my choice would be that lovable cranky, cantankerous, angry, curmudgeon Beethoven. All things I aspire to be – cranky, cantankerous, curmudgeonly and angry – I look forward to all of those traits in my unapologetic dotage.

I have also been pushing myself to other genres, I have tried and enjoyed some of the works of Miles Davis, jazz trumpet legend and I have, strangely, for the past few months, been listening to country music. Recently, I watched a major BBC 4 documentary series on country music and I listened to some of the artists featured in that. That could, of course, be a throwback to my father’s record collection, which included country and western, folk and some dodgy sectarian accordion bands.

On Radio 4, there is a segment of a show called ‘Inheritance Tracks’ in which people describe a piece of music which has been handed down to them and which they hand on to someone they love. I am pleased to say that I have already achieved that with a song by Johnny Cash, the great country and western singer/songwriter, called “A Boy Named SUE” which I got from my father. I played this to my son years ago and he loved it and thought it funny, and it is still on one of his play lists.

Whichever way you inherit your music there are pieces of music which are given to you, which you connect with, somebody or something or an event or a time, place when you were happy, sad, anxious. A song which evokes a memory of a loved one or a beloved thing or in my case I song I sang whilst nappy changing.

Music tinged with emotions which perhaps might be too strong to be dealt with at this time. Can I say the best piece of advice I was ever given was, never listen to advice. Although, that was said about child rearing, but apply it to your music choices. Go to our Naxos website and chose the first CD cover that jumps out at you not because you have heard of the composer or artist but because the CD cover is yellow like the sun or it has your favourite word in the title.

I am reluctant to suggest anything except, try anything, and if you don’t like it, try something else and keep trying till you find the things, book, songs, symphonies, opera which will be your new or old friends.

Are you listening to music just now? What are you listening to? What would you recommend as a way through?
This is now going to be a large cop out, I am listening to music at the moment but I realised I haven’t actually chosen anything. I have been listening to BBC Radio 3 or to Classic FM, so, letting others choose for me and it has been wonderful. I have listened to a programme about building your CD library, one which was focused on the wonderful Symphony of Psalms by Stravinsky, a work I had forgotten I had studied years ago for my Higher Music and I was amazed how much I remembered. I listened to a strange production of an Opera by Cherubini. Lunchtime concerts of string music and operas in the afternoon. At this very moment the Bavarian Radio Chorus are singing Alfred Schnittke’s Three Sacred Hymns, which I would never have chosen but are sublime. Morning request programmes with music from classics to Romantics to American Minimalists.

How can we connect as librarians, borrowers, readers and musicians just now when the library is closed? Can social media be a replacement or do we need more? How can music help to overcome this?
There are parts of this question to which I really don’t know the answer, if there is an answer.

I think, we continue to be a part of the things that are already happening, online groups, concerts, being part of doing things collectively but separately.

Music always unifies in some way and will find a way to be part of the healing we will all go through.

It seems, everything which is happening at the moment requires some kind of social media, it concerns me there are people without access to all that is going on, for whatever reason and their isolation may be even greater. For me, social media is only ever a tool, a little bit of all the things we do. I have been trying and failing, to write something about all the things that social media is and isn’t, all the things it does and the things it doesn’t do. I have ranted and railed, agreed and disagreed. Scrubbed out and started again. All I have come up with is, what it doesn’t do, is let me pick up my granddaughter when she falls over in her back yard, me, like millions of other grandparents in the world, but it does allow us to see her and hear her and sing with her. Until we are all together again, it will have to do.

With many thanks to Douglas for sharing his thoughts on what libraries and music mean to him. 

What libraries mean to me with Helen Martin

In today’s library Q & A session, we ask Music library borrower, Helen Martin what libraries mean to her.

Helen Martin

As librarian and singer with the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union, my job is to source music for every concert.  As soon as I am told what music is required, my first stop is the Music Library at Central Library. I’ve been librarian for three years now, and am becoming more knowledgeable as I progress, but the Music Library staff have been such a great help, a source of information, and very patient with the mistakes that I have made along the way.  I have to ensure that the edition is correct, and sometimes there are other considerations – the Music Library helps out every time.  They have also been a great help on the rare occasions when they have been unable to source something for me, in pointing me in the right direction.

Edinburgh Royal Choral Union practising

What do libraries mean to you as a music lover and reader?
I have always been a supporter of libraries, and love the easy access to books and music that the libraries provide.  I also enjoy the atmosphere in libraries, the bustle and hum of people reading, looking at books, etc.  I do a number of activities that require access to song books, and again, the Music Library has been a great help and source of what I require.

What is your earliest library memory?
As a child and a teenager, it was always wonderful to have a constant source of books at my disposal.  I was an avid reader, and without libraries, this would have been impossible to do, without access to libraries.  There wasn’t extra money in our household to buy books.

Are you struggling to cope without a library?
I am missing access to the library, but happily over the years have built up a reasonable collection of books, so I have enough reading material to keep me going.  It is also a good opportunity to reread some of the classics, or indeed catch up with some that have passed me by.  People are being inventive at this challenging time – there is a book exchange going on in a street near me, with books being put out in the garden for people to take.  I haven’t used it, but I’m sure it is a help to people struggling.

A lot of people are struggling just now – music has the capacity to sooth ….
Are you listening to music just now?
Edinburgh Royal Choral Union (ERCU) has set up a ERCU Facebook page where as well as posting messages, people are putting links to various concerts, YouTube videos, etc.  The Royal Scottish National Orchestra have been streaming concerts on their Friday Night Club, on YouTube, and I greatly enjoyed, amongst other things, Saint-Saens Symphony No.3 Organ, featuring our Chorus Director, Michael Bawtree playing the organ.  I also enjoyed their Brahms German Requiem, which we sang a few years ago.

We have been watching the nightly streamed opera from The Met, which has been fantastic.

There are lots of opportunities to watch different performances online at the moment, which definitely help during these difficult times.  I’m greatly missing my choir, but social media, and these different events are a comfort.

How can we connect when the Library is closed? Can social media be a replacement?
I don’t think social media can be a replacement for the wonderful work done by libraries, although it can be a help.  Perhaps, like the ERCU Facebook page, there can be recommendations and links put out by the Music Library of things they think their readers might enjoy.  But we miss you, and look forward to seeing you again, when things finally get back to normal.

Many thanks again for all that you do.

With huge thanks to Helen for talking to us about what libraries mean to her.

New ways of working with Fiona from the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh

Here at Edinburgh Libraries’ Children and Young People’s services, we are finding new ways to work with our partners during lockdown.

Last year the theme of the children’s Summer Reading Challenge was ‘Space Race’ so some Edinburgh Libraries staff prepared by attending outreach and storytelling training provided by the Royal Observatory, getting us ready to share the story of how 50 years ago Apollo 11 landed on the moon. These sessions were run all over the city, including at the Discover initiative.

This year, things need to be different, so we are working on being able to deliver online sessions to our Chatterbooks and school library groups. Watch this space…

Fiona, who works at the Royal Observatory has shared with us the changes to her working day.

“Hello! My name is Fiona and I am part of the Public Engagement Team at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. Our small team can usually be found in the Visitor Centre, which is part of the original Victorian buildings on site. My day-to-day job is organising a public programme of events that aim to inspire, engage and involve people in the amazing technology and science that happens at the Observatory.

Before the lockdown, I would start my day with a long walk up the steep road to the top of Blackford Hill. I had always felt so lucky to be able to look out across Edinburgh every morning: ‘best view in the city’ I would tell my friends and family.

The East dome at the Royal Observatory, with a view of Arthur’s Seat in the distance.

After the lockdown, I now start my day with a short walk downstairs to my ‘home office’ in the dining room. Unfortunately, not the ‘best view in the city’ but it does the job! Myself and the team (including Ivor, my new feline assistant) have been working hard to make sure we can still share the wonders of the universe with you all.

Working from home with Ivor the cat

The first events to make the move online are our Astronomy Talks. Although we can’t invite you in person to the Observatory there is room for people to join from all corners of the world. The record so far is someone watching all the way from New Zealand! If you are interested in astronomy and want to find out more, please join us!

Visit our website to register for free upcoming talks. Talks are most suitable for an adult or young adult audience, but everyone is welcome to tune in and there is always time for questions at the end.

For the younger space fans in your family, we are currently putting together fun interactive sessions for uniformed groups and school aged children. We are also working to create some short videos and easy to follow activity ideas to keep you busy at home.

As we look to an uncertain future, we hope that we can find new unique opportunities to work together. If you represent a local community group or school and have an idea of how you would like to work with us then please get in touch via email, we would love to hear from you.”

You can follow Royal Observatory Edinburgh on Twitter to keep up to date @RoyalObs and follow the #STFCScienceAtHome for lots of free STEM activities for the whole family.

With many thanks to Fiona from the Royal Observatory Edinburgh team for sharing an insight into her working from home day.

My happy childhood memories living in the Dean Village – Gail’s story

Following on from Patrick’s blog post yesterday, this second article from the Dean Village Memories group on Edinburgh Collected features one wee girl that spent her childhood in Dean Village.

Many people will be familiar with the picturesque images of Dean Village with its bridges and housing and with the Water of Leith flowing below.

It wasn’t always like that, at one time there were no fewer than 11 working mills there fuelled by the waters below. Due to the development of larger and more modern flour mills in Leith, Dean Village’s trade diminished for many years and the village became associated with poverty and decay, reaching a low point around 1960. The community was predominantly working class. Times were very hard for families struggling to bring their children up in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s with poor social and economic conditions prevalent, with Village families having very little money and home comforts. Some of the Dean Village housing could best be described as Dickensian, in that they housed large families, in small rented rooms, with many families having outside toilets.

Thanks to one young girl growing up in Dean Village, we have a snapshot of what it was like during the 50s and 60s and her story has been shared on Edinburgh Collected.

Born in her granny’s home in 33 Dean Path in 1944, her name was Gail Featherstonehaugh. Together with her father, mother and older sister Avril, she lived in “the Village”. Luckily for us Gail was given her first camera when she was 7 and throughout her childhood and adult life took many photos of the Dean Village. Because of these images we can see what “village” life was like.

Gail, her mother,and sister Avril – 1945

The community of Dean Village has always been a strong one, with generations of families either living with each other or very close by. The village had its own school (Dean School which Gail started in 1948, aged 5), a Mission Hall and grocers (Burnside’s). The village was also home to several larger premises. There was Mutries, a Costume and Theatrical Hire warehouse, that burned down in 1957. Legget’s Tannery, who’s Clydesdale horse, Prince, Gail looked after. A Bottle Exchange (which paid money for handing in empty bottles) and a Stick Factory where Gail’s mother used to get kindling for the fire.

Life as a child growing up in the village seems to have been quite idyllic, with their playground the large green place that surrounded them. Gail has shared with us memories of family days out at Cramond and later as a teenager, of listening to Winifred Atwell on Radio Luxembourg with her sister Avril.

Dean Village children playing in the Auld Ducks Damside – 1954

When Gail left Bellvue Secondary school “for 1 year I walked the road from my house in Dean Path to train as an Electronic Assembler in Ferranti’s Technical College” which was now based in her old Dean School.

In 1962, aged 18, Gail joined the Red Cross and volunteered in the old Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and the following year she became engaged to Robert Haldane. They married in 1964 and became parents to twins Gillian and Paul.

Gail (left) and friend Helen pictured in their Red Cross uniforms – 1962

1965 found Gail still with Ferranti’s, now based at their Sub Station at West Granton Road. Also, in that year, STV were filming a documentary about Dean Village and Gail was asked if she would walk up Dean Path pushing her twins in their pram. She recalls that her mother watched it when it was aired.

Twins Gillian and Paul – 1966

Gail left the Dean Village in 1966, but she continues to keep the community of it alive. In 2013 she attended the 1st Dean Village Ex Villagers Reunion, which has been an annual event ever since. Her visits to the village continue, visiting on her 60th birthday in 2004 with her daughter and grandchildren, and latterly on Remembrance Sunday in 2019.

Group photo taken on the 6th Dean Village Reunion – 2017

We hope you have enjoyed reading Gail’s story. You can browse her complete scrapbook on Edinburgh Collected as well as many more memories from the Dean Village Memories group.

A post from Patrick

This is the first of two blogs featuring memories from the Dean Village shared on Edinburgh Collected.

Today’s blog is written by Patrick McCole, a founder member of Dean Village Memories, a group of former villagers, who lived in the Dean Village from the late 1920s to the mid-1970s.

“I was delighted to receive an invitation to the inaugural launch of the Edinburgh Collected website in April 2015 at Central Library, to which I attended.

The Edinburgh Collected website has given our group of former Dean Villagers, a platform to record the social history of our community which includes memories, stories and photos of our past, to a worldwide audience.

Our community was 99.9% working class. Times were very hard for families struggling to bring their children up in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s with poor social and economic conditions prevalent, with Village families having very little money and home comforts. It was apparently just the same, as with other Edinburgh working class communities. Some of the Dean Village housing could best be described as Dickensian, in that they housed large families, in small rented rooms, with many families having outside toilets, as experienced by my mum and dad, when they first moved to their basement Well Court house, number 52, in the mid-1930s.

The history of the Village goes back a long way. The Dean Village comes from the word dene, meaning a deep valley. It was known previously as the “Water of Leith Village”. The name appears to have been transferred around 1885 by J. R. Findlay, the developer of the Well Court. For more than 800 years the village was a Grain Milling Area with 11 working Mills driven by the strong currents of the Water of Leith producing flour (for the making of bread for the Citizens of Edinburgh.) The Mills of Dene were first mentioned in King David 1st Founding Charter of Holyrood Abbey dated around 1145 in which he granted one of his Mills of Dene to the Abbey.

Our Village was an industrial working Village housing a Tannery Factory on our doorstep which dated back to 1836-1969 and with other local businesses located in the Village.

We owe it to our children, grandchildren as our memories are part of their roots and to the community and public at large, to record this unique heritage of ours, which was tucked away on the boundary line of Central Edinburgh, an 8 minute walk from the West End.

It’s quite clear that if these memories, stories and photos (including family) of our past community, are not recorded now, they will definitely be lost forever.

A photo taken from the High Green with the Dean School to the left, 1955

I am always amazed when I meet the former Villagers, as they all share with what I would describe as a magnetism and a deep bond of where we grew up, in our cherished Dean Village. We have not forgotten our childhood and when we meet, we enjoy speaking and reminiscing about our memories and the various stories which are all unique.

It has given our group a great deal of satisfaction of re living our childhood and family memories, experiences and the characters that were about in the Village at that time, that we want to share with others.

Undoubtable, the enthusiasm of sharing stories with fellow villagers has brought us closer together. As a group it has given us a new dimension to where we were brought up and to see the stories highlighted professionally on the Edinburgh Collected website.

I have found that the Edinburgh Collected website is very easy to use. If I have any questions staff are always available to help and offer support.

As the co-ordinator for this research, it has been a great privilege for me and an honour to be able to co-ordinate these stories, and to see the pride that my former Villagers have, in wanting to share their memories to others. I am working on a few stories at the moment and in the pipeline I have a further 32 to be exact, thus creating a library within a library.

You too, can be part of a group creating Scrapbooks, or individually you can create a Scrapbook, tell your story, share your memories about the house or area that you grew up in, it’s as simple as that.

Please rest assured your story will be professionally presented when it is published on the Edinburgh Collected website, something that you will be proud off.”

Read the second blog post from the Dean Village Memories group – Gail’s story of her happy childhood memories living in the Dean Village.

What libraries mean to me with Molly Kent

In today’s library Q & A session, we ask artist, student and library advisor, Molly Kent what libraries mean to her.

Molly is currently in her final year at Edinburgh University studying for her MA Hons Fine Art and Art History. Molly is currently curating her degree show which uses the traditional medium of rug tufting to create an immersive installation space on the topic of doubt. The work draws on contemporary existence regarding social media and living in an internet-driven environment through the visual aesthetics of digital glitch. It also highlights the importance of a time-old craft, evolved and made relevant to the field of contemporary art through various areas of research. Making use of bright and neon colours, unsettling phrases and organic shapes, each piece intends to mirror the feeling of doubt through sensory experience and highlight the commonality of doubt, albeit often brushed under the rug. Rugs, that we’d normally see as domestic objects, begin to morph and climb walls, resembling bacteria and virus structures, as if mutating before us. It plays on the idea that doubt can be perceived as an ailment that overtime shifts and morphs into something new continuing its hold over us.

Rug tufted artwork by Molly Kent

What do libraries (including Edinburgh City Libraries) mean to you as an artist and as a student?
Libraries have often been one of the main starting points of my research when it comes to approaching a new series of artwork. While my current work centres on my personal experiences and emotions, the medium I am currently working with is new to me. Libraries have offered me an otherwise unattainable insight into the process of rug making, with both my university library and Edinburgh City Libraries holding a series of books that weren’t available online. As well as a wonderful holding on contemporary arts more widely, the library gives insight into other practices as well through exhibition catalogues that inspire new methods and presentation.

In particular, Edinburgh City Libraries has a great holding of books that go through the step by steps of rug hooking, including what fabrics, yarns and adhesives to use. Information into the practical side of rug making is somewhat scarce online and the insight gathered from these books has been invaluable to my practice. In addition to this, being able to experience a whole host of artistic expressions from so many areas of visual culture through the rotating monthly exhibitions in the Art and Design Library sparks creativity from often unexpected works – opening up ideas to branch off existing works into new multidisciplinary methods.

Also, I grew up in libraries, so to speak. Often taken after school to access books that we couldn’t at home, and as a safe place to work, libraries have become a haven for me over the years. The ability to immerse myself in so many different topics, enabling my research and artistic practice to reach new avenues is invaluable.

Rug tufted artwork by Molly Kent

What is your earliest library memory?
My earliest memory of libraries would be from back home in Birmingham, at my local library after school. My mom would take me in so I could read to my heart’s content, often getting through a book a day. Talking to the librarians was a highlight and over time I’d be allowed to help out around the library, especially after my mom started to work there.

When I was around 12/13 years old I would be helping to run craft sessions. These sessions helped me find my love for creating and helped others express themselves through art too. I continued to help with the craft sessions when I started working at my hometown library at 17 years old.

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?
Without a doubt, yes. As I’m coming to the end of my degree, it’s especially difficult not to be able to dip back into all the books I’ve been looking at for the past year or so, or find inspirations in new ones. Books have always been one of my main sources of creative inspiration and the loss of access is difficult. As well, having worked as a library advisor for the past 7 years, and having a good understanding of catalogue systems, it’s easy for me to find books on particular topics and areas quickly. Now, with just the internet and e-services, it’s more time consuming and far more difficult to find relevant information quickly.

I’d advise looking into the eBook services, particularly magazines and periodicals we host online now. Being able to browse art magazines and see what’s going on worldwide in contemporary arts is vital, and especially seeing how galleries and artists are responding to and working within the new confines of a COVID-19 landscape. In addition to this, for myself, Instagram is a great place to look for inspiration and community in these strange times. I’ve been able to connect more widely across the UK, and globally, and as I’ve put more time into sharing my work there. I’ve made new connections that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

A lot of people are struggling just now – art has the capacity to soothe by reflecting our emotions but also to challenge – what do you recommend as an artist to those that are struggling?
It’s difficult to pinpoint because we all process things differently. For myself, I am creating more now that I am home and challenging myself to produce something new every day. But for others, trying to navigate this new way of living could be difficult and we shouldn’t feel the need to use this time as one of productivity. If you have the spark to use this time for creativity, my recommendation is to start now. If you’ve ever wanted to draw, paint, sculpt etc. work with what you have currently, be it only a pencil and paper and start making. Or, if you’ve ever wanted to know more about art or any other topics, there’s a whole host of courses being published for free online by some of the biggest institutions online. I’ve been eyeing some courses from Harvard for when I finish my degree next month, as something to keep my brain engaged and continue my learning.

Are you able to practise as an artist just now? What are you working on? What would you recommend as a way through?
I am lucky enough to have a home studio (read: my partner and I have a  home office that is completely overrun with rug-making materials) so I have been able to continue my artistic practice. I was lucky enough to have had my degree show sponsored in part by Paintbox Yarns via Lovecrafts and was sent yarn to work with. So, thankfully, I have plenty of materials to work with. Just before quarantine started I was able to upgrade my rug tufting frame so for the past few weeks I’ve been working on some large scale rugs.

Rug tufted artwork installation by Molly Kent

How can we connect as librarians, borrowers, readers and as creatives just now when the library is closed? Can social media be a replacement or do we need more? How can art help to overcome this?
I don’t think social media can be a total replacement for the physical, in-person communicative experience. Some galleries are creating stunning digital exhibitions, and it’s great that more investment is being made into online engagement with individuals, particularly as this will greatly benefit social groups who were excluded from some mainstream artistic spaces. But currently, it’s a fantastic place for us all to connect. I’ve seen digital book clubs, live-streamed art tutorials, even art tutorials taking place via Zoom. This is all so we can continue learning, sharing and providing one another with feedback to keep our work developing.

Ultimately art can bring everyone together, there’s no need for a high brow understanding of the ins-and-outs of art history. If art makes you feel something or peaks a curiosity you hadn’t otherwise explored, now is a great time to engage with institutions, artist-run spaces, and individual makers within your locality or internationally. Then, when libraries re-open it will be wonderful to bring together a newly engaged community focus into these pre-existing spaces.

Rug tufted artwork installation by Molly Kent

With huge thanks to Molly for talking to us and sharing what libraries mean to her.

Stay at home family history help

We’ve lost count of the number of times people have told us that they would love to start researching their family histories, but simply don’t have the time, well, now might be the chance.

There’s a wealth of online resources out there to help you either get started or help you in your research. We have pulled together some online resources that we hope you’ll find useful.

Findmypast – we announced a couple of weeks ago that during this period of Libraries’ closure, we’re able to offer home access to Findmypast! Findmypast is a genealogical database giving access to millions of records including UK parish records, census records, Irish records and British military records.
If you’re just getting started with Findmypast, there is some excellent guidance in their ‘Help and more’ section within the site and they also have a YouTube channel where you’ll find wide-ranging video tutorials.

Scotland’s People – Scotland’s People is the official online source for parish registers, civil registration and census data. Also wills and testaments 1512-1901 (free). You will need to buy credits which entitle you to view indexed pages or facsimiles of records.

Family Search – this website enables you to search worldwide for your ancestors. It is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Salt Lake City who hold the largest genealogy collection in the world.

Edinburgh Libraries heritage resources – your Edinburgh Libraries membership gives you access to more wonderful resources from home including The Scotsman Digital Archive and Scran. There is also a helpful guide on how to start your family tree.

National Library of Scotland – have a whole section on their website dedicated to family history research and many tools to help you. Check out their superb maps section where you will be able to view thousands of maps of areas where your ancestors lived. Special mention also for the Scottish Post Office Directories online where you can search more than 700 directories from 1774-1911.

Scottish Genealogy Society – although the specialist library is closed at present their website and Facebook page has lots of tips and information.

Currently some organisations are even offering free online courses and research aids:
Strathclyde University are offering a free 6 week online course ‘Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree’.

Who Do You Think You Are? The monthly BBC magazine (available from our libraries via Rbdigital) has 8 family history activities to do at home. RBDigital gives access to back issues of magazines so you can look back at previous editions for loads of family history searching tips!

The National Archives – loads of information available here! Check out their research guides, blogs, podcasts, learning resources, online exhibitions and ‘boredom busting’ activities.

Libraries on lockdown – keeping connected online

During these strange times while our buildings are closed, our libraries are keeping in touch with their communities online in innovative and inspiring ways.

Here a just a few of the things we’ve spotted. Follow your local library on Facebook to keep in touch with them whilst we’re all staying safe at home.

Moredun Library have moved their usual Bookbug session for babies, young children and parents and carers online! You can tune in every week on Tuesdays at 10.30am to join Susannah with rhymes and singing on their Facebook page.


Muirhouse Library are regularly producing printable activity sheets for children. Visit Muirhouse Library’s Facebook page to see all their beautifully illustrated instructions for getting creative.

Snippy Sticky Foody Folk collage activity from Muirhouse Library

Central Children’s Art Club created a fantastic drawing tutorial showing young artists how to draw Polpo, the Club’s octopus mascot.


And this Thursday evening, 23 April, to celebrate World Book Night, Carol from Stockbridge Library will host a special family-friendly book quiz streamed live on Facebook from her living room!

There will be four rounds of questions and a couple of riddles and short readings thrown in as well. There’ll also be a short interval at 8pm so that everyone can join in with the Clap for our Carers.
Get your virtual team together and tune in from 7.30pm on Thursday!


What libraries mean to me with Claire Askew

In our second library Q & A session, we ask author Claire Askew what libraries mean to her. Claire’s first novel, All the Hidden Truths looks at what would happen if (God forbid) there was a Columbine style college shooting in Edinburgh. Her second novel, What You Pay For explores conflicts between family and duty, love and morality, and doing the right thing, when everything seems wrong. Both feature the same detective, DI Helen Birch.
Look out for the third book in the series, Cover Your Tracks, coming soon in August 2020.

Claire is also an award winning poet, a teacher and a witch. She lives in Edinburgh. She is currently working on her fourth novel and can be found on Twitter as @onenightstanzas 

Claire Askew

What do libraries (including Edinburgh City Libraries) mean to you as a reader, and as a writer? Are the meanings different?
I’ve been a library lover ever since I was a small child, when my mum would take me to the library most days (though she usually corrects me: I took her to the library, she had little choice in the matter!) But Edinburgh City Libraries will always be extra special to me, because I worked for a year as a Scottish Book Trust Reading Champion in 2016/17 and was lucky enough to meet so many fantastic readers, locals, visitors, and library staff.

I worked mostly out of Craigmillar Library, but could sometimes be found in Portobello Library too. I’d always believed libraries were essential to communities, but that year’s placement really opened my eyes to just how vital library services are. In Craigmillar, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the library is at the heart of everything, for everyone aged 0 to 100+. It’s not just a place to access books: it’s Bookbug sessions and weekend breakfasts for kids and game club and knitting group and so much more besides.

What is your earliest library memory?
When I was little, my brother and I convinced my parents to get a puppy. Millie, the black Labrador, was adorable but completely un-trainable, it seemed. My mum borrowed a book from the library called “How to House Train Your Puppy.” I vividly remember having to go back to the library to apologise profusely and pay for a replacement: Millie had peed all over the book!

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?
I live in Stockbridge, and have been moping forlornly past the closed doors of Stockbridge Library on my daily walks. But I’m lucky: I don’t rely on the library to access the internet or to see friends – I know that some folk will be really, really missing those services! But I’m taking comfort in simple activities like re-reading old favourite books, writing in a journal, and knitting. I think there’s a lot of pressure on people to ‘use this time well,’ and I wish we could all just focus more on getting through this in whatever way feels best to each of us. It’s really hard when you’re missing out on essential parts of your life, but hang in there, be safe, and do what makes you feel happy.

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 struggling to read, too, and I’m allowing myself to revert to ‘easier’ reads and ignoring my ‘to read’ pile! I’ve gone back to my favourite teen read, in fact: Soul Music by Terry Pratchett! I’ve read it so many times in the last twenty years that I know it practically off by heart, but it’s an old friend and feels very comforting right now. I know because we’ve all got lots more time it’s tempting to think ‘I ought to finally get round to reading War and Peace, or some other massive tome’ – but it’s probably a better idea to read something escapist and fun that doesn’t feel like a task!

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’m writing a little, but only a little. I do have a novel I need to finish (the fourth in the DI Birch series,) but I’m going easy on myself. Even if I only write a sentence or two a day, that’s still progress in the right direction.

I’m taking a lot of comfort from writing a journal, too, though, and particularly from trying to make a daily gratitude list. At the end of every day I write down three things I’m grateful for.

Sometimes they’re big things like being grateful for having had another day of good health; sometimes they’re small things like being grateful I spotted a cute dog out of my window!

I’d really recommend it as an exercise – it helps me remember there are still good things in the world!

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?
Other than social media – which is seeing all sorts of exciting things happening at the moment, from Zoom poetry readings to online book clubs – it’s hard to know what else to do!

I have liked hearing what other people are reading, though, and I’ve wondered about the potential for mass read-alongs. There are mass watch-alongs of movies and Netflix shows happening online, where people all watch a movie at the same time and then chat about it afterwards. Could we do a slower version, with books, maybe?

With many thanks to Claire and to Hope our #stayathome interviewer from Central Lending Library.

Ashlea House in the Borders

We’d like to introduce you to a unique set of images we have in our collection, made available to view on Capital Collections.

The images are taken in the grounds of Ashlea House in Stow, in the Borders. Ashlea House was the summer home of the well-known Edinburgh bookseller, James Thin. Born in Edinburgh in 1824, he served as an apprentice to bookseller James McIntosh who had a shop at 5 North College Street. In 1848 he founded the book shop that bore his name. Situated on South Bridge, opposite the University’s Old College, Thin’s was the main academic bookshop in Edinburgh for 150 years, remaining in the same family until 2002 when it was taken over by Blackwells.

Ashlea House, Stow – c1910

In 1849 he married Catherine Traquair and they had seven sons. Catherine died in 1869 aged 47. In 1870, James Thin purchased a plot of land in Stow in the Scottish Borders, and had a house built, which was completed in 1873 and named Ashlea.
In 1885, at the age of 61 he married a farmer’s daughter Elizabeth Darling who died in 1905. James Thin died on 15th April 1915 at his Edinburgh home in Lauder Road aged 91.

James Thin in the garden of Ashlea House – c1910

The images gathered her are all autochromes, a type of early colour photography which gives the pictures a beautiful painterly quality. Autochrome was patented in 1903 by the Lumiere Brothers in France and first marketed in 1907. Before then colour photography remained in its infancy and the process was clumsy and complicated. Their new technology quickly took the world by storm to become the first viable method of creating images in colour.

Stow Parish Church and Ashlea House – c1910

Stereoscopic Autochromes were especially popular. Usually of a small size, they were most commonly viewed in a small hand-held box type stereoscope. Having made the Autochrome Lumiere technique portable the brothers’ invention meant photographers could travel all over the world capturing images of cultures never seen in colour before.

Garden of Ashlea House – c1910

We hope you enjoy the few images we have featured here, to see the complete set, visit the exhibition on Capital Collections.

Are ye dancin’?

If you’ve been dancing around your living room on your own, now you can take inspiration from the many dance companies streaming performances and making classes available online.

Start with the Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet School perform Matthew Hart’s Peter and the Wolf, choreographed to Prokofiev’s charming music, as part of the Royal Opera House’s #OurHouseToYourHouse series. For a real classic watch the Krelim Ballet perform Swan Lake.

You can learn more about the history of ballet and find more step-by-step techniques of classical ballet with BBC Arts Origins of Ballet.

If classical ballet is too formal for you and hip-hop or contemporary dance is more your thing – at BBC Arts Hip-Hop Dance and BBC Arts Contemporary Dance here’s your chance to learn some classic moves and the history of hip-hop and contemporary dance.

If all this inspires you, join Royal Academy of Dance teacher and Silver Swans expert practitioner Sarah Platt as she brings her motivational ballet classes directly to you at home. This is the first in a series of classes aimed at the over 55s, giving you the knowledge to unleash your inner dancer, with new sequences to learn and remember each week. Try this as a family!

Scottish Ballet have launched Dance Health and Wellbeing Classes especially for people with Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, dementia and other conditions – but the classes are suitable for many of us new to dance.

Sadler’s Wells Take Part series have launched a series of Family Dance Workshops. Although designed for younger children we can all enjoy learning how to balance, move like your favourite animal and dance the way colours make you feel.

Do you love musical theatre? Each Friday Andrew Lloyd Webber is releasing a musical available to watch for 48 hours to keep us entertained at the weekend. Check out The Shows Must Go On! Tune in tonight, Friday 10 April for Jesus Christ Superstar!

Read another blog post giving staff recommendations for enjoying music concerts online.

Discovering history online

The Edinburgh and Scottish Team at Central Library share some online resources for discovering history and heritage.

Image: David C. Weinczok @TheCastleHunter/ Twitter

Some residents of Stockbridge have been finding novel ways of keeping themselves busy/entertained in these times of social distancing, see above photo, however if you are stuck inside and looking for ideas here are some suggestions with a history and heritage focus.

Let’s start with anniversaries. April is an important month for two monumental events in the history of Scotland. April 6 marked the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath and there is a fantastic radio programme made by Billy Kay to celebrate the document and assess its impact and importance. ‘The Declaration’ was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland this week and is available for one month on the BBC Sounds app. For younger people interested in the document, Historic Environment Scotland and National Records of Scotland have collaborated to produce this excellent free printable illustrated activity booklet.

The second anniversary of note this month is the bicentenary of the Scottish Radical Rising of 1820. We were all very sad to have to have to postpone the wonderful Maggie Craig’s talk at Central Library this month, but we encourage you to check out her great blog and new book on the topic. The aptly titled ‘One Week in April’ is newly published by Birlinn.

For the family tree researchers out there – an exciting development from Edinburgh Libraries has arrived. Free access to Find My Past has been extended to home users for the duration of this lockdown period. This was previously only available at a physical library site. For more information on how to access from home please visit our Your Library website.

The National Library of Scotland maps team have been busy producing this very nifty and useful digital map overlay. This allows you to see a comprehensive range of the maps of Edinburgh and its environs, what they cover and within what time period they were produced.

Now for any budding archaeologists out there (young or old…) Dig Ventures have made a fantastic online learning course available for free (usually costs £49.00!) and the next course begins on the 14 April. Archaelogy Scotland have also produced a handy toolkit of resources too.

The always excellent Battle of Bannockburn Experience has created an online classroom, which may be of interest to those currently partaking in home schooling (- we salute you!)

For those of us that perhaps can’t commit or aren’t interested in a formal learning experience but are really missing being able to go out and enjoy visiting a great museum or gallery, please have a look at these virtual options. A very comprehensive list has been produced by the MCN in the US. There are a great many to choose from all over the planet all free to access and enjoy.

Finally bringing things a bit closer to home and in case you missed it – episode 1 from the BBC Scotland series ‘One Night in the Museum’ was recently aired and available for the next month on BBC iPlayer. It follows three groups of primary school aged children on a journey of discovery as they are able to explore the National Museum of Scotland’s collection at night and free from adult involvement. It is adorable and well worth a watch.

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.


Findmypast give temporary home access to library users

During this period of Libraries’ closure, Findmypast are kindly offering our library members free access to their fantastic family history resource from home.

If you’re interested in accessing Findmypast through Edinburgh Libraries whilst you stay at home, please contact with your library card number and we can provide login instructions.

David Doull studio portrait of Daniel Gray and his children, 1866. Photograph from Capital Collections

If you’re used to accessing Findmypast in the library you’ll notice that the site looks a little different from usual but you’ll still have full access to the millions of records available via the Library’s subscription.

With access to UK parish records, census records, Irish records and British military records, Findmypast is the ideal resource for making progress with your family history research and many of us also have a bit more time on our hands to take advantage of this brilliant offer.