Library student, Kirsty Morgan, volunteers for the Music Library

Today, we hand the blog over to one of our volunteers, Kirsty Morgan, who tells us how she’s been getting involved in the Music Library:

“For the past six months, I’ve been enjoying volunteering in Central Library’s Music Library. It started as an 11-week student placement, arranged through the Information and Library Studies Masters that I’m currently studying for at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. I want to make my career in music librarianship, so I’ve continued volunteering after the placement finished.

I’m involved in a project to rearrange how the books are ordered on the shelves. Library staff call this work classification. The aim of the project is to bring the Music Library’s collection of printed sheet music and books in correct line with the Library of Congress classification system which is used for arranging adult non-fiction in Edinburgh Libraries.

Kirsty volunteering in the Music Library

Over time the Music Library staff have created their own version of the classification system, but this has meant that they can’t use records created by other libraries and it’s been less easy for our borrowers to find what they need. In 2014, the Music Library started the project of rearranging the sheet music and sticking to the proper version of Library of Congress. What difference does this make to finding items? A big change is that books are no longer arranged by composer, instead grouped by type of music, format, and instrument and then within that composer. Another change is that books about learning to play instruments are separate from collections of music.

Although I was nervous to begin with, having had very little experience working with Library of Congress, my team leader has guided me, provides ongoing support and checks my work. The staff are very friendly and I’m really enjoying the project. Deciphering where a book belongs is like a detective puzzle. I was interested in the implications of using an American classification system in a Scottish library. Library of Congress uses extra numbers for the main instruments but fewer for the more obscure ones – and in an American library, bagpipes are an obscure instrument…

So far, I’ve classified just over 900 books, which is a small dent in the 100,000 resources that the Music Library carries – although that number includes all the recorded music, too. I’ve found the Music Library placement really rewarding, and I think it will help me towards my goal of working as a music librarian. I’m excited to continue the reclassification project with the library for as long as they let me stay. I’m learning a lot each day, I’m happy I can continue to help with the project and I’m gaining even more music library experience!”

Buzzing about books…in the garden

Staff at Blackhall Library are looking at ways to open the library’s garden space up for readers and community groups to use. It’s a lovely space to sit and read, you can even bring your own picnic!

However, it needs a bit of TLC and we are asking local people to give a helping hand. We are starting a Gardening Volunteer Group on Saturday 23nd June from 10:30 to 11:30am, and fortnightly thereafter. So please bring gardening gloves if you have them, we’ll supply the tools and a cuppa too. Contact Sean or Heather for more details 0131 529 5595

On the reading front we have a Book Group Gathering in the garden on Saturday 14th July. From 11am-noon we’ll have a discussion about ‘Elinor Oliphant is completely fine’ by Gail Honeyman. The book group chat is open to everyone, you don’t have to be in a group. Then from noon-1pm you can bring a picnic along with you and have lunch in the garden. Contact Carol for more info at

We’ve got other events organised over the summer too including a Teddy Bears Picnic, so please check out our Facebook Page.


Libraries Get Online service: the final part of our conversation with a learner and volunteer

We introduced you over the last couple of weeks to two people who have been involved in the Libraries’ Get Online service. Joyce Young recently completed a series of sessions with volunteer Emily Johnson, learning how to use her iPad. We discover here the benefits to the volunteer too.

Have you enjoyed the sessions Emily, and do you feel they have a real benefit from the volunteers’ point of view too?

Emily: I think I’ve found one of the best things about volunteering is that it takes me away from studying all the time; I’ve found it all very relaxed because we’ve chatted a lot too about what Joyce wanted to learn or was interested in; that’s been a big part of it and it’s been really enjoyable. Apart from that though thinking ahead for me, even with a degree, there is so much competition for jobs out there you really have to have different things on your CV – so this kind of volunteering is an example of the sort of thing that just might make you stand out to an employer. So, it is certainly beneficial to me as well and, in fact, thinking about the sessions, I thought I knew the iPad really well but there were things I discovered and things I worked with Joyce on where we had to refer to Google or Youtube or whatever to find out how to do something. So, I was learning sometimes too and Joyce was learning how she’d be able to find things out on her own. I think that all helps to give the person confidence.

Overall then Joyce, you think it has been a worthwhile process?

Joyce: Definitely. You see, I think when you are older, you think things are going to be more difficult than they turn out, and that’s where the help I’ve had was so important. When Emily showed me how to send a photo, I took notes and did it for myself and I couldn’t believe how easy it was compared to how I thought it was going to be. I always thought it was going to be really complicated, that I’d just find it all too difficult to understand but really, after being with Emily, and being shown things properly, it’s a lot easier than I expected it to be. I’m thrilled with what I’ve learnt

Emily: Do you remember the time we were looking at your email and working through how to use it . . . . . . ?

Joyce: Oh yes (laughing) when I discovered that when I send an e-mail, I just put in the first letter of the person I want to send it to and the address goes in for you. For a long time I had a wee book with email addresses in it! There’s times when you could feel a bit foolish but working 1:1 with someone it really doesn’t matter; we often ended up just laughing about it!

Joyce: ” I always thought it was going to be really complicated, that I’d just find it all too difficult to understand but really, after being with Emily, and being shown things properly, it’s a lot easier than I expected it to be”.

As I said before it’s made a big difference to my life and I now also enjoy just ‘pottering about with it’ sometimes too, just looking at photos and places or finding things on the internet – the time I’ve spent with Emily means I can do that and I’ve lost the worry about doing something wrong and breaking it. It’s been great and I’m going to continue using my iPad and learning more.

If you are interested in finding out more about Get Online in the libraries or you would like to book a place click/tap here. We will be running groups over five weekly sessions at Portobello, Stockbridge, Leith and Central Library between now and June. Please note that these are for any device (laptop, iPad, tablet or smartphone!)


Libraries’ Get Online service: continuing our conversation with a learner and volunteer

We introduced you last week to two people who have been involved in the Libraries’ Get Online service. Joyce Young recently completed a series of sessions with volunteer Emily Johnson, learning how to use her iPad. We talked with them about how they had each found the experience.

Joyce, do you think being able to work with the same person 1:1 was important? What kind of things have you learned during the sessions?

It was great to be sitting and working just 1:1. I did try classes years ago when I first had my laptop but, honestly, there must have been fifteen people in the class and you had to make the best of it when the teacher could come to you; really, you were going but not learning an awful lot each time. The thing is too that family often just don’t have the time in their own busy lives to help or are living away so it makes it difficult. However, since I’ve come to the library, every week I came I learned a lot of new things – I can do so many things now I couldn’t before, it’s hard to think of them all –

I use apps like the bus tracker, I look up vouchers for restaurants on the internet and I’ve even recently made holiday arrangements and printed out my own boarding pass for a flight.

It really has been so worthwhile and having your own tutor for the sessions was a big part of it – I felt I got to know Emily over the weeks. I could get Emily to go over things again to make sure I had understood them and was doing things properly. I could make notes and check them with her and she’d give me ‘homework’ too! I know I’ve still got a lot I could learn about and use but I now have so much more confidence that I can do it”. To give you another example I had a plumbing problem in the house – I got onto my iPad and looked up a thing called Trusted Traders that a neighbour had told me about; I found a plumber through that and it’s been fixed. I was really happy with that

and that is all about using the internet and the benefits it can bring. . . .

Well, yes, definitely; I find now I will use the iPad every day. I would say it has made a big difference in so many ways. Now it’s great staying in touch with my son – he travels a lot and he’s sending me photos and updates from where he is, it’s marvellous! One thing leads to another . . . I then learnt how to save photos from an email into the photos app so it’s all organised and I can find them. I tell you I could make a list of so many things like that that I have learned so I’m so glad my son signed me up – best Christmas present ever!

Joyce: “I find now I will use the iPad every day. I would say it has made a big difference in so many ways”.

So you feel being able to use the iPad helps you feel more “in touch” with things around you?

Yes, I think it does. It makes me feel like I’ve caught up with things a wee bit – I’d recommend it especially for older people who are wary of trying the internet. What we need is the kind of help I’ve had at the library and it opens up a whole new world to you

“The thing is there are so many things you can’t do or are getting much more difficult to do without the internet”.

I’m now looking at shopping online for instance. I mean, as I get older, it would be a lot easier, I can’t carry heavy things or even getting them into the car is difficult, so, yes, ordering it through the internet and having it delivered makes sense. I’m sure I’m going to be doing that soon!

Emily: Yes, that’s right, Joyce now has the Amazon app on her iPad and we almost bought something!! We went right through the process so Joyce would be able to start using that or other shopping sites and apps. When we started, I remember Joyce saying to me she felt like she was so far behind with all the new technology that she’d never catch up and it was too big an obstacle to overcome – but she has done it!

The final part of our conversation about Get Online with Joyce and Emily will be here next week

If you are interested in finding out more about Get Online in the libraries or you would like to book a place click/tap here

Libraries’ Get Online service : a conversation with a learner and volunteer

The Libraries’ Get Online service runs groups offering free help and tuition in using new technology and getting the most out of ‘being online’. We provide 1:1 support to people in five weekly sessions. Learners are paired up with one of our volunteers to work on the person’s device (be that laptop, tablet or phone) or indeed to work with anyone who doesn’t yet have a device.

We spoke with a recent learner, Joyce Young, and the volunteer who worked with her, Edinburgh University student, Emily Johnson, about how positive they were about the experience of this service. Here is the first instalment of our conversation. . . .

How did you find yourself coming to Get Online at the library? What did you feel about coming along?

Joyce: “About a month before Christmas my son phoned me to say he was going to get me an iPad for my Christmas and I wasn’t too sure about it at all. However, he also told me that he had signed me up for lessons at Central Library for people needing help with all the new gadgets there are. He arranged this from London actually but, anyway, at first I thought ‘I really don’t know; I don’t know anything about this’. I had had a laptop before but I only used it for one or two things and was really very wary of it. So, when my son suggested the iPad and the lessons I honestly wasn’t sure as I’ve said. As it has turned out I’m very glad I came. I actually had a couple of sessions before Christmas and then we started again towards the end of January. When I think that I came along to the first session the iPad was still in the box (!) . . .  however, I had the same person, Emily, with me each time and she was really good at showing me what to do, very patient and encouraging. Even after just two or three lessons I was thinking ‘you know, I can do this’ and since then I feel I’ve come on in leaps and bounds.

Joyce Young: After just two or three sessions I was thinking ‘you know, I can do this’!

To Emily our volunteer: how have you found being involved in this as a volunteer?

I think my favourite thing from the beginning was the fact it really was great to be involved with Joyce quite literally right from the start. As Joyce said, the iPad was still in the box so there was so much I could look forward to showing Joyce but you didn’t really know what yet, or where it might go. But, I think even the setting up of an iPad – or any other device – is not as straightforward as it might seem; you can’t just switch it on and go.

So even just setting up the device is an issue? 

Emily: Yes, it was good to take Joyce through those steps and past that first hurdle. In fact, that took up pretty much the whole of the first session and I also did step-by step notes for Joyce on how to link her iPad up to her Wi-Fi at home for the first time. That’s not the end of it either, you still have so much ‘setting up’ to do to get the email up and running and getting someone like Joyce to understand about registering for things so she could use say the BBC iPlayer or Spotify or whatever which all involves ‘signing up’ and passwords and all of that.

Emily Johnson : “There is so much ‘setting up’ to do and any of (it) not working could just put people off completely”

All of these are potentially a big thing for people who haven’t any experience of it at all and any of them ‘not working’ could just put people off completely. But, when I think back now, being able to show Joyce things like Spotify (a music app) for example when we looked for an old song she had mentioned. It was such a nice feeling to find it and work in an app; that really went for all the sessions, finding something Joyce enjoyed and, every week, finding something new.

Part Two of the conversation about Get Online with Joyce and Emily will come soon

If you are interested in finding out more about Get Online in the libraries or you would like to book a place click/tap here


Volunteer with Macmillan@Edinburgh Libraries

MacmillanThe Macmillan@Edinburgh Libraries service will launch in the autumn of 2016 in selected Edinburgh Libraries. This will be a free service aiming to provide information, support and signposting to people affected by cancer.

We are recruiting volunteers now!

We are looking for people with good listening skills and an interest in helping people. Full training will be given and expenses are payable.

Interested? Then come along to one of our information drop-ins and find out more:
Craigmillar Library
Monday 11th July 11-3pm
Monday 18th July 11-3pm

Central Library
Thursday 14th July 11-3pm
Thursday 21st July 11-3pm

How we’re rescuing our photograph collection with a hairdryer

IMG_4429Edinburgh Libraries is home to a collection of around 100 000 photographs.

We want these pictures to be seen by as many people as possible, so back in 2007 we started digitising photos and uploading them to the Capital Collections website.

But would you believe the everyday hairdryer has become an integral part of the process? Here’s how.

We discovered that many of the images had been mounted using sticky tape and in some cases the glue was starting to mark the image.

Around 80% of the collection was affected, many more than we could ever afford to have conserved by a professional.  Fortunately the glue had not yet seeped through to the image on most of the items but we needed to take action quickly.

Working with EDFAS (Edinburgh Decorative Fine Art Society) we recruited a dedicated team of volunteers who have been using a relatively low-tech tool to help remove the glue and help save the images. That tool being a hairdryer.


Edinburgh Libraries’ Janette Gollan explains the process: “We are working on prints that belong to the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection within Central LIbrary. The prints haven’t been mounted very well  in the past so we take off the tape and remove the glue. The  hairdryers are used to soften the glue first then we can rub off the residue.   

The vastness of the collection means it’s a task we’d never be able to complete ourselves so the volunteers have been very valuable to us. It’s allowing us to preserve these prints for posterity and digitise them for public access.”

Volunteer Trina adds: “Some photos had quite a bit of residue on them so it could take a while. It’s a fairly intricate process as well and some days you could spend all morning on one photograph.”

So far they’ve got through about 4000 prints, helping save our collection for future generations and in the process of doing that they get a sneak peek at some wonderful shots of Edinburgh’s past.

“Some that stuck in my mind were the ones of Leith during blitz” Trina says. “None of us had realised just how badly Leith had been bombed. It’s photos like this that remind you of the importance in preserving  these moments of history for future generations”

Bomb damage on Portland Place

Bomb damage on Portland Place

Hilary agrees that the history they uncover to be very engaging: “ We’ve had great fun looking on websites locating photographs and finding out about places we didn’t know about.”

“One of the things I’ve just discovered is Sciennes Hill House where the historical meeting between Robert Burns and Walter Scott took place.  It was a house in the country with a long drive and now you can’t see the front of it unless you peer over a wall as it’s been built around so much. It’s lovely discovering things like that.”


At the moment the hairdryers have been put to one side and the group are working on mounting photographs and adding relevant information to them.

When asked about the size of the collection, Irene laughs, joking that maybe Janette’s been keeping that from them.  “I’ve a feeling there’s some way to go yet” she says.

Once the photographs have been cleaned up and remounted they make their way to our photographer for digitisation. Images can then be viewed at