15 August 2011

Dunfermline Carnegie Library

July 19

Another morning train trip, this one bringing us out to Dunfermline, Scotland.  After getting some faulty directions and going in  a big circle, we climbed a rather large hill and finally made it to the Dunfermline Carnegie Library. 
We met Librarian Ross Manning, who brought us all the way to the top of the building to a meeting room to leave our bags, and then the rest of the tour was up and down all over the building.

The Dunfermline Library was opened on 29 August 1883.  Andrew Carnegie was born not far away in the town, so it is a point of pride that this is the very first Carnegie Library.  The most recent addition to the library build was in 1992, adding the Children’s Department and the Local History room.  The Children’s Room holds craft sessions, rhyme time, toddler sessions, etc., providing lots of opportunities for children to become readers (there is also a Harry Potter rug that I took some glee in).

Next to the Children’s Room is the Abbey Room, which is small and quiet, and had a display of Ancient Egyptian artifact replicas and the story of Ancient Egypt.  The Reference Library was originally the lending library, but with more books needed much more space.  There is also a Special Collections room with closed access, which contains both the George Reid Collection and the Murison Burns Collection. Most of the room was filled with Robert Burns materials—books, letters, artifacts, and even a big black statue in the middle.

The room where we spent most of our time was the Local History room. The Local History collection is not a big room, but it contains a lot. While we were there, the middle of the room was taken up with glass display cases, containing a collection put together by a local man in the community, all about soccer player Billy Liddell.  I am not up on my British football players, but it was a nice collections with all kinds of materials in it.  Locals are welcome to do displays but the library also does its own, and some of the displays are located on boards in the hallway just outside.

In this room there is open access to local history materials. There are books, and things like parish registers but also copies of many of the photos the library holds, stored in binders.  The classification is done by locality, then further by date, industry, etc.  This makes it much easier to find items for most researchers, because generally they will come in with a place they want information about or that is somehow associated with their research.

Next to the local history room we were shown a work room crowded with materials.  There is a big cabinet that holds a collection of glass negatives from a local photographer, Morris Allen.  Out of these negatives, some were selected for their local interest and printed off, and these are also included in the binders out front. The library owns the copyright of these photos, and there is a charge per photo for the public to obtain copies.

In this room there is also another photo collections, postcards, a map collection (we were shown one of the local area in the 1760s), and many unprocessed materials that no one has had the time or wherewithal to process.  It’s like any other library or archives, short on funds and manpower, but it’s interesting to know that they have such awesome materials that could possibly be accessed for research.

Another room holds quite a lot of older books and bound newspapers. This room is very full of shelves and I was sort of pushed to the back so I don’t have too many notes for it.

After the grand tour, we walked back up the stairs to the conference room for tea and drinks and some cookies.  I ate the top part off of these cookies covered with big marshmallow puff and had a hot chocolate.  I also took some pictures from the skylights in the angled ceiling and nearly accidentally launched myself out the window when I got up on a chair to do so.  We were also all given a kind of goody bag, with a galley copy of a novel called Blood and Ice, another book called Cardboard Wedding Cakes which was about Dunfermline during WWII, and then some information about the library and the area. 

 View from the skylight

Afterwards most of us walked down to Dunfermline Abbey to look around, although it started to rain and we got very wet.  It interesting trip, one that isn’t on the average vacation.  I like that we went out of the ordinary to see such an important piece of library history and the history of Scotland.

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