The Edinburgh Central Library is a lively, active establishment right in the heart of Edinburgh. It got its start as a Carnegie library, meaning that, like all Carnegie libraries (with the notable exception of the one in Stratford-upon-Avon) it was a new construction building at the time of its founding. For this particular library, that meant 1890 – a good time to have a new library built, anyway, as the Victorians were good at designing large, public buildings that were still elegant and beautiful. It is also fitting in that the public library itself is a Victorian institution; though features have changed over the years and the architecture and layout of the buildings may be different, it was at this time that the nature and role of libraries really became the one that we still hold to today.
The Central Library has changed and modernized since its foundation, of course, expanding to create a new children’s library. This area is thoroughly modernized with child-sized furniture and murals of trees and fantastical animals by children’s book illustrator Catherine Rayner.
Besides providing the children of Edinburgh with free access to books and other resources, the library encourages them to utilize these resources through the “Book Bug” initiative, which encourages children under five to engage with books and literature from a young age. Not only are books fun for kids, but more interaction with books and literature helps them to be better prepared for school.
The Central Library’s mission is to provide the best service possible while still preserving the organization’s rich history. With 400,000 visits per year, it is a busy place that must make use of modern advances to keep up. Self check stations speed the check out process for patrons, and give the library staff more time to design and implement programming for their diverse patron groups.
Central Library is not the only one in the city; there are thirty additional branches, many of which are gradually become parts of “Next Generation Hubs,” in which the library is part of a larger complex, including things like neighborhood centers, cafes, and meeting spaces. Central Library integrates with the Music Library, used by local musicians, and the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, which is used by people all over the world, for things ranging from genealogy to Edinburgh history. It is heavily used also by Edinburgh authors doing research for both fiction and nonfiction projects. People everywhere can utilize digital resources tied to these collections, such as Our Town Stories, which provides interactive guides to places and events in Edinburgh history.
“Let there be light” is written on the outside of the building, and this ideal carries through both figuratively in the effort to bring knowledge to all, and also physically in the natural light emphasized within this bright and beautiful library.