Part 1: New College Library
Our second full day here in Edinburgh has been action packed, so I’ll jump right in. Prepare yourself for lots of pictures!
This morning our class visited the New College Library, which serves the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity. It also happens to be one of the largest theological libraries in the UK, so this former Religious Studies major was thrilled!
Though Edinburgh is similar to London in many ways, there are some particular similarities, with one being architectural styles.
Both cities have clearly been built throughout various historical periods, and so are home to buildings of medieval, gothic, Georgian, Victorian, and modern styles – but it is Edinburgh’s medieval and gothic buildings that stand out to me. This architecture was apparent from the view within the courtyard of New College, as seen in the picture to the right. But I digress…
Inside the New College Library are gorgeous stained glass windows that not only provide light but also a sense of peace and tranquility, which probably stems from the fact that the library was originally a church called the Free High Church; even today, when renovations and work are done in the library, great care is taken to ensure that the original building is left intact.
The library is primarily used by those in the Divinity School, but is open to the entire University as well as the general public. The current collection contains approximately 250,000 books, many of which are rare and valuable, and span a variety of subjects, both religious and otherwise. One interesting thing I noted is that the library contain Reserve books, which reminded me of my dear old Thomas Cooper Library (USC’s Main Library on campus, where I am also a Public Services Intern). Many academic libraries have Reserve books – this allows students to avoid spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on textbooks and instead check them out at the library; typically policies are in place, such as the textbooks cannot leave the building, and can only be checked out for 2-3 hours. Regardless, I think it is a great service to the University community and I can say firsthand from working at Thomas Cooper’s Circulation Desk that our Reserve books are extremely popular!
Though I could have stayed in New College’s underground stacks for hours, we sadly had to move on. The girls, plus Paul and I treated ourselves for lunch! We decided to visit the Elephant House, which is a Tea and Coffee shop in downtown Edinburgh. BUT, this is not just any coffee shop… the Elephant House is where J.K. Rowling herself wrote much of the early Harry Potter books! I tried to contain my excitement when I saw that they have a signed 1st edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – I’d happily empty my bank account to have one of those. The shop is very charming and also quite busy, but our lunch was enjoyable. I can see why she picked such a spot to write!
Part 2: Central Library
After our lunch stop, it was time for tour #2 of the day, which took place at the Central Library. This library is a beautiful building, with the slogan “Let there be Light” over the entrance, and so I was not at all surprised to learn that it is in fact Carnegie Library, which opened in 1890. Our class was split up into several tour groups, and my group visited the Children’s Library first, which was actually not part of the original Carnegie building. The Children’s Library is also currently
hosting a Summer Reading Challenge program, just like the Barbican Library and also my beloved Richland Library back home. I have to say that the library appears to be an awesome place for kids – it’s cozy, but also has room for movement, and just overall seems to be a fun and creative space.
In addition to the separate Children’s Library and the typical Lending Library that any public library has, Central also has an Art Library, a Music Library, Reference Library, and a special Edinburgh and Scottish Collection. We visited the Art Library as well as the Reference Library, which is in an impressively huge and stately room. There were plenty of people in the Reference Library, which is always nice to see as someone who works at a Reference Desk.
After the tours were complete, we had a talk from Jim Thompson, the Development and Quality Manager, where we learned some interesting facts about the library. Apparently it uses the Library of Congress classification system, and is the only public library in Britain to do so. The Central Library also has approximately 500,000 visitors/year, which is an excellent number! The library system has 30 (yes, 30!) branch libraries, and over 70 book groups! (My jaw dropped at those numbers). A library app (the 1st of its kind in the UK) can be traced back to the Central Library, and so it was no surprise to hear that the library has been given the “Gold Standard” in their library accreditation process.
I will admit that I tend to sometimes think that all public libraries are basically the same, and likewise for all academic libraries -but the offerings and facilities of the Central Library certainly proved me wrong! I was blown away by the library, and grateful we had the opportunity to tour such a public library with such high-standards.
Part 3: Arthur’s Seat
Now, here is where I come to what you have all undoubtedly been waiting for ….. our hike up Arthur’s Seat! The elevation of the hill is 823 feet, and though it is often attributed to the legends of King Arthur himself, it was actually formed by a now extinct volcanic system. There are several paths that lead you to the top of the hill, and we (of course) picked the “short but steep” route. Dr. Griffis accompanied the girls and I on this adventure, and it took only about 45 minutes to hike to the top – but I should probably mention that the path we walked was virtually straight uphill! Though I haven’t mentioned it for a few days, I’m still sick, and I was fairly certain that my lungs were going to burst while climbing this hill. (Note to self: Do NOT go hiking when you have a respiratory infection! Also, TOMS are probably not the wisest choice of foot-wear…) We stopped several times to catch our breath and take pictures – the scenery all along the hike was breathtaking, and the higher you climbed, the better views of the city you were rewarded with. Just when I wasn’t sure I could go any further, I made it to the top!! I had to pause and walk away from the others just to catch my breath, both in the literal sense, but also because the 360 degree panoramic view was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Scotland is truly the most amazing place I have ever seen, and I was brought to tears at the top of Arthur’s Seat.
The hike was definitely one of the most challenging things I have probably ever done, and though I may have pushed my body to its limits, I am so proud of all of us for making that hike. We enjoyed absorbing in the views while snapping a ton of pictures, and Dr. Griffis was kind enough to take a photo of the four of us:
After the hike down, which was unexpectedly scarier and more treacherous than the hike up, the girls and I headed back into town and grabbed dinner at the Pizza Express. Though the name may sound like it’s a typical Pizza Hut or Papa John’s type of place, this was actually a nice restaurant, and we deserved those pizza calories after our hill-climbing extravaganza!
All I can say is that I know I will sleep soundly tonight!