A Free Day in Edinburgh!

Today we did not have any class tours, but instead were given the opportunity to branch out and explore this awesome city! Dr. Griffis took several of my classmates on a trip to the Dunfermline Carnegie Library; Dunfermline was Andrew Carnegie’s birthplace, and its library was the first Carnegie library. Unfortunately, the library is now closed, and is undergoing renovations to be turned into a museum and art gallery, but Dr. Griffis got special permission for our class to tour the building and to then see the town itself. Though I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, I also wanted to explore Edinburgh – I was not expecting to fall in love with this city, but I have. In the end, I decided to stay behind with Jessica.

One of Jessica’s cousins, Michelle, has been traveling around Europe while we’ve been here, and she came to Edinburgh last night. So Jessica and I met up with her this morning.Though I have to say, I was concerned today would be disastrous – I have a heart condition called Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT for short). I’ve had it my entire life, and was officially diagnosed when I was 7. Though my episodes are not particularly dangerous or life-threatening by any means, they are temporary debilitating and episodes can last a matter of minutes or over 24 hours. As Forrest Gump would say, “Ya never know what you’re gonna get.” So when I woke up early this morning having an episode, I was fearful that my day of fun had been ruined. Luckily, the episode was a short one, and I was soon up and ready to go!

Jessica, Michelle, and I headed into town and walked straight up to Edinburgh Castle. The castle sits atop a rock that was formed

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

from an ancient volcano, similar to the origins of Arthur’s Seat. The rock has been occupied since the 2nd century AD, and there has been a castle there since the 12th century. In the 1600’s, the castle, due to its excellent natural defenses, became heavily used as a military fortress, and many of its buildings were destroyed, though later rebuilt.

One notable exception from the castle’s destruction is St. Margaret’s Chapel, which is still standing from the 12th century, and is the oldest building in Edinburgh. Though the chapel is small, it is still used for weddings and ceremonies today.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

We toured the castle grounds for several hours, and saw all of its main attractions – the One O’Clock Gun was a bit startling! Every day at 1:00pm the master gunner fires off the cannon, and the girls and I wanted to see this. So right before 1, we went to the area and found a bench… all of a sudden, right in the middle of our conversation, BOOM!! I think all 3 of us jumped a foot – guess we should have paid more attention to the time! We also toured the various museums in the compound, including the National War Museum and the Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum, which were excellently done. The military prisons where POWs were housed were both fascinating but also a bit spooky to set foot in. But the crown jewel of the day (no pun intended) had to be seeing the Crown Jewels of Scotland, also called the Honours of Scotland. I highly encourage you to click on the link and read more about their interesting history – they are the oldest regalia from the British Isles, and the crown, sword, and sceptre date back to the 1400 and 1500’s.

I hated to say goodbye to the castle, but we soon walked back down the Royal Mile and began to shop, shop, shop! Obviously the most popular selling items are tartans and other clan-related regalia. I treated myself to a (very expensive!) Harris Tweed bag. (Ignore what’s in the parentheses, Mom). Harris Tweed items are handwoven in Scotland from pure wool, and their trademark is the oldest registered trademark in the UK. Fun Fact: Harris Tweed is actually protected by an Act of Parliament – the Harris Tweed Act from 1993,which provides strict outlines for the conditions in which the cloth is made. See? I wasn’t just buying a satchel – but also supporting these true Scottish artisans. At least that’s what I’ll tell myself when my bank account is mysteriously empty once I return home…

The girls and I decided to stop for lunch at Deacon Brodies Tavern, which is named after William Brodie, who was one of the inspirations behind Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By day, Brodie was an upstanding citizen who even served on the town council, but by night he turned to drinking and gambling; this escalated until Brodie turned towards burglary to settle his debts, and eventually he was caught and hanged. I’m happy to say that there was no mischief about in the

Haggis, neeps, and tatties

Haggis, neeps, and tatties

tavern, and we all had a lovely lunch. AND, you all would be so proud of me – I, Taylor Christine Atkinson, quite possibly one of the pickier eaters on the planet, tried HAGGIS! And… brace yourselves… I actually LIKED IT! We ordered a dish called “Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties,” which turned out to be haggis, turnips, and potatoes, and all very tasty.

Refueled from lunch, we decided to keep shopping. One store actually makes some of their items in the lower level of the building, and you can go down there to see the process yourself. The machines were busy, busy, busy whirring away making two different clan’s regalia.

Weaving clan regalia  Before we knew it, it was pouring rain down on the Royal Mile, so we ducked into an ice cream shop for a break and a treat! Then Jessica and I introduced Michelle to Primark, which is pretty much the British version of our Forever 21 stores, aka cheap clothing (both in price and in quality!) It wasn’t long until it was dinnertime and we decided to eat downtown before heading back to the dorms. By this time we had walked down the Mile a bit, and I just happened to look up and see that we were standing in front of The World’s End pub. Who cares, right? It’s just another pub. WRONG!

See, I have a favorite book series – it’s called Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. (It’s actually being turned into a TV series and will debut on Starz on August 9th). Though impossible to summarize, I’ll try: It’s a bit of a mix of historical fiction, romance, and sci-fi, and follows the British nurse Claire, who served in World War II, with her husband Frank. After the war, while on a second honeymoon in Inverness, Scotland, Claire visits the standing stones at Craigh na Dun, where she time travels through the stones and winds up back in 18th century Scotland. There she meets a man named Jamie, they fall in love, yada yada yada, you can see where this is going… At any rate, the series is phenomenal – GO READ IT!

Sorry for the diversion- The World’s End pub is mentioned several times in the Outlander books, so I was thrilled to be there. The

Rules of the Tavern

Rules of the Tavern

pub is small on the inside, but their cider on tap was delicious, as was the food! My favorite part was the Rules of the Tavern conveniently posted above my head, reading “No urchins, vagabonds, thieves, or sellers of seditious tracts… All claymores, battleaxes, swords, and flintlock pistols to be left at the door.” Good thing I left my sword back at the dorms!

Despite the rocky start, today turned out to be a truly awesome day! Though I would have loved to have seen Dunfermline, I knew I would have regretted spending more time in Edinburgh and experiencing everything it has to offer. I’m unbelievably excited that Jessica, Laura Douglass, and I are flying out in the morning for Ireland, but I’m also sad to be leaving Edinburgh behind; I’ve always thought that London was the only city for me, but Edinburgh has changed that sentiment! It is the best of both worlds, providing all the history and benefits of a large city, but with a bit slower pace and beautiful scenery as an added bonus.

I will miss it.

Off to re-pack for Dublin – I must say, I’m getting a bit tired of living out of suitcases.

Until next time,



New College Library and the Central Library

Part 1: New College Library 

Hello, everyone!

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.

New College's courtyard view

New College’s courtyard view

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.

Main Floor - New College Library

Main Floor – New College Library

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!Underground stacks at New College Library

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!

The Elephant House






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

Children's Library - Central Library

Children’s Library – Central Library

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.

Reference Library - Central Library

Reference Library – Central Library

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 Hiking up Arthur's Seat!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.

View of Edinburgh from the peak of Arthur's Seat

View of Edinburgh from the peak 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:

The girls and I at the top of Arthur's Seat!

From L to R:
Jade, me, Laura Douglass, and Jessica







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!

Goodnight everyone,


National Library and National Archives

Part 1: The National Library of Scotland

Now, normally, I am not at all excited about Mondays – but I’m in beautiful SCOTLAND, so that’s something to be excited about! I’m also pumped about my free and delicious breakfast I had this morning  – complete with scrambled eggs, bacon, a croissant loaded with Nutella, and some fruit… yummy.

Today we made two class trips – first to the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in the morning, and then to the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) after lunch. The two buildings are only blocks away from each other, and are located right off the Royal Mile, which is composed of the main streets of Edinburgh, and is the major shopping and restaurant district. Traveling from our dorms at the University of Edinburgh is easy. Though there’s no tube, Edinburgh uses a bus system that is similar to London’s, with one slight difference – our daily bus pass tickets are scratch-off, like a lottery ticket! Ha.

Shops along the Royal Mile

Shops along the Royal Mile

We were not allowed to take pictures in the NLS, but I’ll have other pictures to show you later. The NLS is actually spread among several buildings throughout Scotland, but we were in the primary one, which is in fact 15 stories high! It’s the largest library in Scotland, and the place to go if you want to research Scottish history and culture. Similarly to the British Library, the NLS is also a legal deposits library, which if you don’t remember, means they are able to have any book published in the UK if they desire. However, the difference is that the NLS must actually claim these published materials directly from the publisher, and so they do not own every book (unlike the British Library, to whom publishers automatically send books).

As opposed to venturing into the stacks and touring the facilities like we’ve done with other libraries, we instead focused on the John Murray Archive and exhibit. This particular archive is composed of materials from the John Murray Publishing House, which was founded in 1768. The website says it best:

“The archive contains manuscripts, private letters and business papers from authors who shaped the modern world through their writings on: Publishing, politics and society, literature, travel and exploration, and science.”

There are many famous people whose works and personal items appear in the archive, including David Livingstone, Charles Darwin, Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Byron, and Jane Austen. The archive is currently composed of 1 million items, crosses every genre, and includes materials in a variety of formats. The exhibit itself is unique and interactive; the exhibit room is quite dark, with custom lighting – displays are only lit when someone approaches the item. Diminished lighting of course helps to preserve these items on display. After all, the primary goal of the archive is to preserve these treasures for future generations, and thus focus on conservation and preservation. Hearing about the “best practices” policies of such prominent archives, libraries, and museums will never get old to me, and I love absorbing the information about budgets, strategic plans, collection development and acquisitions policies, digitization plans, and all other management and administrative issues. I think my 704 class (Management of Libraries) has really rubbed off on me for the better!

Part 2: The National Archives 

After a lunch break, we walked down the National Archives, which is the Scottish government’s official archive, and is also known as the National Records of Scotland. Initially established in 1774, the archives merged with the General Register Office for Scotland back in

National Archives of Scotland

National Archives of Scotland

2011. The General Register Office for Scotland contains numerous materials, including demographic statistics and censuses (records of births/marriages/deaths), deeds for estates and land, business records, and numerous resources and databases pertaining to Scottish genealogy. The archive contains additional items from the 12th-21st centuries, including old parish registers, wills and testaments, taxations records, maps and plans, church records, state and parliamentary papers, government records, court/legal documents, family papers, photographs, etc. Currently, the archive is in possession of 78 km worth of historical records, and they are adding approximately 1 km/year. An interesting note: unlike most libraries/archives/museums, this archive has the power to weed and devaluate records, which is a tricky practice, and according to our guide, has “resulted in poor decision making in the past.” I’m not sure that I would ever feel comfortable simply throwing away or destroying documents – the exception being if there were duplicates. Too much responsibility!

Many of these records are housed in a classically simple, yet elegant room (seen above) with an impressive domed ceiling. Fun Fact: the head of the archives is known as the “Keeper of the Records of Scotland.” It’s such a legit title – I love it! Can you imagine that being on your business card? No big deal…

We were shown some interesting items from the collection, and our guide was kind enough to pull some letters, maps, and press clippings relating to America – including a map of the Charleston Harbor, along with a letter criticizing the British disposition towards South Carolina’s slavery legislation! I think sometimes it’s so easy for us to be consumed in our little bubbles, that we forget how history almost always reveals to have an impact on a grand scale…. who would think that documents relating to good ol’ South Carolina would be found in the National Archives of Scotland of all places?

Once we finished up at the NAS, we were free to explore Edinburgh. A group of us walked up and down the Royal Mile, which

Tea at Mimi's Bakehouse

Tea at Mimi’s Bakehouse

links the Edinburgh Castle and the Holyrood Palace. I’d love to visit both places and hope to have a chance to before we leave on Thursday! We went into several stores, and then Jessica, Jade, and I popped into a charming little place called Mimi’s Bakehouse for some afternoon tea and treats. After we’d explored the Royal Mile, we headed back towards the dorms, but stopped to order Chinese take-away. Though it was pretty chilly and windy, we sat outside the dorms to eat – I just love how clean the air is here!

Remember how I mentioned before that the campus is at the base of Arthur’s Seat? Well, Arthur’s Seat can be seen here in the background…

Arthur's Seat

Arthur’s Seat

It’s a little intimidating to say the least, but we are planning on conquering this gigantic hill tomorrow after class!




And on that note, I think it’s time to get some sleep, so I’m well rested before attempting the impossible tomorrow!

Miss you all,


Road Trip to Edinburgh

Hello everybody,

I just wanted to write a quick post to let you all know that we have safely arrived in Edinburgh!

Our morning was a little hectic – we were told to meet in the courtyard of our dorm rooms at 7:45 am , where we would all hop onto a coach and make the drive to Edinburgh. Well… things didn’t exactly go as planned. Something apparently happened with our original bus, so we were sent a new one, which took several hours to arrive. Yikes! Needless to say, we had a very delayed start to Edinburgh. But I must admit, our bus was awesome! Very comfy, and also a double decker – whoohoo! We made a few stops along the way for bathroom breaks and to eat… but mostly I just enjoyed looking out at the countryside. I’ve seen a gazillion pictures of the English and Scottish countryside, but seeing it with my own two green eyes was a very different experience! Even movies that are filmed in Scotland (Made of Honor, anyone? I just watched it yet again thanks to UK Netflix!) cannot properly reveal the true beauty of the land. You have to see it for yourself… and now I have!

Northern England Countryside

Northern England Countryside

We did have a bit of entertainment on the bus in the form of a movie marathon! First up was An American in Paris (1951), starring the legendary Gene Kelly, and based on the orchestral composition of George Gershwin. I love this film, with its elaborate sets, fantastic music, and lively dances! Unfortunately, the anti motion sickness medicine I had taken earlier that morning hit me hard, and I’m ashamed to say that I fell asleep during the second half. (Sorry, Dr. Griffis!) But I was awake in time to see the ending, and had a BIG laugh when I saw the next movie come on. Yes, ladies and gents, we watched Taken (2008), of all films. You know the movie – Liam Neeson plays an ex CIA operative whose daughter is kidnapped in Paris, prompting him to venture on a bloody rampage to rescue her. I LOVE this film, but have to say that I am quite grateful it was released after my original trip to London, otherwise I’m about 99.9% sure that my mother would not have let me go!

University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh

After a few movies and a fairly long bus ride, we arrived at the University of Edinburgh! The campus is gorgeous, and is right at the base of Arthur’s Seat, which is not too shabby of a backyard view! Our dorms are much bigger than the ones at King’s College (yay!), and we even have free breakfast in the mornings… so far, Edinburgh is not too shabby, y’all. Tonight was the World Cup finale, so we headed straight for the (on campus!) bar for dinner, a few ciders, and some football. Most of the people watching were pulling for Germany (myself included), but there were a few Argentina fans in the crowd. Germany of course ended up winning, so I was a happy girl. What a great way to start off this new journey!

The next few days here in Scotland will be action packed, so I will do my best to keep you updated.

Take care,