The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: the tradesmen who built Central Library

When the doors of Edinburgh Central Library were formally opened on Monday 9 June 1890, it was the fulfilment of many years preparation.

Selected design for Edinburgh Public Library, elevation to George IV Bridge and plans for third and fourth floors, by George Washington Browne, 1887

In our collections, we have two volumes of handwritten ledgers kept by the then Clerk of Works, William Bruce, which record in detail the building works as they progressed.

Clerk of Works’ record books for Edinburgh Public Library

We know from the record books that preparation work had begun as early as 1879 when it was recorded that “Official tests of Pentland Cement” were being methodically undertaken. The pages are filled with neat notes with details such as the amount of cement used, how many days the cement had been set for, and the amount of shrinkage.

On the 18 November 1887, the following words appear at the top of the page:
“The contractors began operations on the 17 Nov…. excavating area of site and carting away stuff”.
So began the building of Central Library.

In the 2 years and 7 months it took from start to finish, many different trades and tradesmen worked on the building. Thanks to the detailed notes by Bruce, we know that at times there were up to 137 tradesmen working on site each day. Building sites in the late 1800s didn’t conform to the same standards of health and safety as they do today. From newspaper reports and an entry in one of the volumes we know that serious accidents occurred. An article in the Edinburgh Evening News of 10 August 1889, describes how:
a plasterer engaged at work at a ceiling inside, fell off the scaffold on which he was working and sustained severe bruises to his back and arms”.

A volume entry dated 14 April 1888 records the tragic death of a workman on site:
a labourer fell from a scaffold about 11ft high in staff staircase, and was killed”.

Note (front) found on Central Library roof in 1974

Note (reverse) found on Central Library roof in 1974

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Clerk of Works refers frequently to the architect, ‘Mr Browne’, in his record books, but few other tradesmen are named individually. However in 1974, while work was being carried out on the roof of the library, evidence was found naming 3 plumbers who worked on the building. A torn page from a diary dated September 1889 was found. On it, written in pencil, are the names of 3 plumbers, T. McLaren , Hugh Brown and G. Cairns. Clerk of Works, William Bruce noted that on 9 November 1889:
“The plumbers work is still delayed by the rubbish on the Reference Library floor”.
Perhaps while they waited to continue, the plumbers took the opportunity go and enjoy the view from the roof, leaving their signatures behind…

Edinburgh Castle and the Grassmarket from the roof of Central Library, 2008

Read all the articles in this series of ‘The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries’:

George Washington Browne: architect

Robert Butchart: City Librarian

Andrew Carnegie: steelmaker and philanthropist

Henry Dyer, engineer, educationist and Japanophile

William McEwan: brewer and philanthropist

David Mather Masson: scholar and biographer

Thomas Ross: architect and antiquarian

Charles Boog Watson: local historian and antiquarian

Digital drop-in

In addition to the regular Get Online groups run by the Libraries’, the Digital drop-in delivered in partnership with Edinburgh University has returned to the Central Library. It will run each week on Friday afternoons from 2 – 4pm with student volunteers on hand and offering you the chance to bring along your computing device (be that a laptop, tablet or smartphone) and get help to sort out any difficulties or issues you may be having. We will work with you 1:1 so it can be a very basic problem, like for example, how to send photos by email or text, or possibly something a bit more complicated like how you save and organise all those photos! If you do not have a computing device we can also offer general advice on what to look for or perhaps get you started on the library public access PCs. If you have attended a previous Get Online group or just have a digital issue you need help with, please just come along – you will find us on the Mezzanine level, Central Library.

Remember there are other digital ‘surgeries’ also offered at Central which are specifically about providing assistance with the Libraries’ e-book/audio and e-magazine/newspaper apps and services. These are again on the Mezzanine level, Central Library, every Tuesday 2 – 3.30pm and the first Thursday of the month 10.30am – 12.

Providing cancer information and support in Edinburgh

macmillan-logoFinding out that you or someone close to you has cancer is life changing. For many it is an introduction to a new and unfamiliar world; one which impacts on every aspect of your life, from your emotions and relationships to your health and even finances. And this can often feel overwhelming.

Knowing what practical, emotional and financial support is available in your area can make the future seem a little less daunting.

macmillan-2Our Macmillan @ Edinburgh Libraries programme is there to give free and confidential information and support to people affected by cancer, whether they are newly diagnosed, finished treatment, a friend, family member or carer. Trained volunteers and cancer support specialists are on hand to provide a listening ear and information on everything from local support groups to help for the financial problems cancer may create.

Information and support sessions can currently be found in Central and Craigmillar Libraries, with sessions at Leith and Drumbrae Libraries set to open in the spring. And you don’t need to make an appointment to visit. Each library has worked hard to provide a warm and welcoming space where people can find lots of information on cancer and its impacts, as well as reading material that may help on a range of topics such as healthy eating.

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All of the cancer books can be requested free of charge from any of our
Libraries. And if the library information point hasn’t got exactly what you are looking for, more specialist information can be ordered free of charge from Macmillan.

Knowing that there is someone else to talk to, and can understand what you’re going through can be a huge help. Our library service is there to make sure that no one in Edinburgh has to face cancer alone.

The opening hours of the service are:
Craigmillar Library            Monday 11am – 3pm
Central Library                 Tuesday 3 – 7pm
Craigmillar Library           Thursday 11am – 3pm
Central Library                 Friday 11am – 3pm

For more information call 0131 242 8125 or email Macmillan.Libraries@edinburgh.gov.uk

Funded by Macmillan Cancer Support, Macmillan @ Edinburgh Libraries is part of a £1 million initiative to provide support to people affected by cancer in the capital. It works closely with other Macmillan projects in the area, including our Move More Edinburgh programme with Edinburgh Leisure, Macmillan and the City of Edinburgh Council’s Welfare Rights programme, and Cancer Support Scotland’s counselling and mindfulness courses.

 

“No one feels judged on their opinion.” Conversation and cake with Morningside Library’s Book Group

IMG_4950The reading experience is something we take very seriously in Edinburgh Libraries, and one of the most successful methods of promoting the joy of reading  is through book groups.

There are dozens of book groups meeting in libraries across Edinburgh. These include specialist groups for teens, dyslexic readers, sci-fi fans and a group concentrating specifically on contemporary European Literature.

With  National Reading Group Day (20th June) fast approaching we visited one of our groups to join in the discussion on The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

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The group have been meeting at Morningside Library for a couple of years now and everyone was quick to point out the benefits. Martha, a first time book-grouper tells us:

“I’ve been really impressed by the level of conversation and all the different ideas which are brought to the group. Even if you have read a book you didn’t like so much, usually, following a discussion you want to read it again.

Also, books you may have rejected before you are now pushed to have an opinion on and think more carefully about them.”

Katrina agrees: “I think it adds more enjoyment to the book to think about in that way. The group is quite good in that no-one feels judged on their opinion. It is quite relaxed and open and easy to make conversation about the books.”

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While  they enjoy tea and generous slices of birthday cake everyone agrees that the social aspect is a key thing for them.

Katrina tells us “it’s a regular group so we’ve all got to know each other pretty well. We’ve started meeting for coffees outwith the group. It’s a good way to reduce isolation for some people and an opportunity to make new friends”.

Do you run a book group? If so, you can borrow up to 15 copies of a title for your group – and with over 250 titles to choose from, you should find something to suit.

And if you want to find out more about book groups in your area visit Reading Groups for Everyone.

The story of Edinburgh Libraries. Part 3 of 3

From one public library in 1890 there are now 28 branches across the city each providing an important service to the community. As well as providing access to information, libraries soon became places to gather and attend events.

Edinburgh’s newest libraries at Drumbrae and Craigmillar have developed this idea with the library housed in a community hub where members of the community can also access other council services.

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Drumbrae Library Hub

Craigmillar Library

East Neighbourhood Centre and Craigmillar Library

There’s always been more to the library than books on shelves. In Edinburgh, libraries have played host to some great events and celebrations over the years.  The recent development of Edinburgh Reads has seen numerous author events take place across the city.

Story hour at McDonald Road Library

Story hour at McDonald Road Library, 1962

 

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Ian Rankin and Jeffery Deaver at an Edinburgh Reads event

On opening the library’s catalogue was listed in books. Technology has come a long way since then.  Computerisation came in 1974 when Central Fiction began lending through an offline system. Public internet access was introduced in 1998 and now all libraries have WiFi. Readers can also access services through a mobile app and a growing collection of electronic resources and e-books are accessible online and through mobile devices.

Public access internet launch in Central Library

Public access internet launch in Central Library

Brodie's Close, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh

Brodie’s Close, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. Reproduction of Bruce J. Home pencil drawing from ‘Old Houses in Edinburgh’. One of the many treasures you can find on Capital Collections.

Over the years, a number of donations have helped shape the special collections held by Edinburgh Libraries. Particular highlights of this collection include the Henry Dyer Collection of Japanese woodblock prints, woodblock printed volumes and painted scrolls; the personal items bequeathed by Charles Boog Watson. Robert Butchart and Thomas Ross as well as an extensive collection of early photography documenting Victorian Edinburgh.

Many of these items form the backbone of Capital Collections, our online image database.

Find out how much you know about Edinburgh Libraries with this quick, fun quiz

masthead quiz

 

The story of Edinburgh Libraries. Part 2 of 3

In 1922 Dr Ernest Savage took over as principal librarian and transformed the service in almost every aspect.  He introduced direct access to the books for the public (something previously forbidden). The Library of Congress Classification system was introduced and the specialist departments of Music and Fine Art were established.

Other branches continued to appear across the city with Leith opening in 1932, Colinton in 1934 and Corstorphine 1936.

Leith Library

Leith Library, 1932

Central Library, Reference Department

Central Library, Reference Department, 1932

Libraries took to the roads with the introduction of the first mobile service in Scotland in 1949 serving areas without permanent library buildings.

The reach of the library also increased with the introduction of a housebound service in 1964 through cooperation with WRVS volunteers. A library link service was launched in 1992 providing transport to and from the library for users who, due to physical constraints, would be otherwise unable to visit.

Mobile library at Clermiston_ Morris 5 tonner

Mobile library at Clermiston circa 1955

Housebound readers service inauguration

Housebound readers service inauguration, 1964

Over the years the library service has maintained an archive of its own history and development. Numerous photographs depict the staff at work and also off duty. Plans, drawings and staff registers all help paint a vivid image of the libraries’ history.

Member of staff at the information desk in Central Library

At the information desk in Central Library, 1934

Members of staff pose for a photograph at Central Library's annual staff dance

Central Library Staff Dance, 1936

At work in Edinburgh Public Libraries' Bindery Department

At work in the Bindery, 1955

Find out how much you know about Edinburgh Libraries with this quick, fun quiz

masthead quiz

Exploring the Henry Dyer Collection

This short film uncovers one of Edinburgh Libraries’ hidden gems: the Henry Dyer Collection.

Edinburgh City Libraries received two donations from the Henry Dyer Collection in 1945 and 1955, gifted by Marie Ferguson Dyer in honour of her father.

These donations together consisted of 50 loose sheets of Japanese woodblock prints, a number of bound woodblock printed volumes, scrolls and a collection of late 19th Century Japanese photographs attributed to Baron Von Stillfried. The remainder of the Dyer Collection was gifted to the Mitchell Library (Glasgow) and Glasgow Museums (Nitshill).

Read more about Henry Dyer’s contribution to Edinburgh Libraries.

There are also a number of Dyer related exhibitions on our image database, Capital Collections, that are worth dipping into.

Watch this space for the second part of this film which explores the wonderful Moromasa scroll.