Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Scottish Storytelling Centre and Library

Slideshow of Scottish Storytelling Centre and more

Scottish Storytelling Centre

I was really excited to discover the Scottish Storytelling Centre while walking around Edinburgh. It was the perfect thing for my day off Edinburgh to do one my extra library visits for class. I was especially excited to learn the Centre does have a Library, and I was able to access the library and learn all about this innovative new Storytelling Centre in Scotland.

mural: A Mile of Stories by Julie Lacome

Whether you’re looking for an entertaining evening out, fun family activities or the chance to discover more about Scotland’s stories and the art of storytelling, the Scottish Storytelling Centre is the place to start. We present an exciting programme of live storytelling performances, theatre and literature, plus exciting visual arts, workshops and training events. Our programme aims to promote storytelling as a vibrant contemporary artform and to provide opportunities for everyone to celebrate Scotland’s rich storytelling heritage.


The Storytelling Centre has only been open for three years. I had the opportunity to explore the interactive exhibits and storytelling areas.


interactive exhibit: Raised in Edinburgh and steeped in Scotland's stories, Robert Louis Stevenson contributed to many different literary genres. Vistors can touch the green button at the bottom right of each panel to sample Stevenson's tales of travel adventure historical romance and his poetic and spiritual vision.

The George Mackay Brown Storytelling Library

Of special interest is the The George Mackay Brown Library on the 2nd floor. The Library and its associated education facilities are named after the Orkney poet and storyteller George Mackay Brown, who was the founding patron of the Scottish Storytelling Centre. The library is supported by The Barcapel Foundation, The Russell Trust, St Margaret's Chapel Guild and many individual gifts and donations. Additional volumes are loaned by the Scottish Arts Council Literature Department.

The collection includes folktales and fairy tales from around the world, plus an extensive collection of Scottish fairy tales. The collection also has teacher resources and some juvenile fiction. One section of the library has a collection of preschool books on display. Recently one of the storytellers has volunteered their time to organize the library. This library is an excellent Ready Reference resource for any involved with childhood literacy.




Check out my pictures to see the rest of the days activities!
George Heriot's School, J.K. Rowlings inspiration for Harry Potter
Fringe Store, the gift shop for the original Fringe Festival of the world
Ghost & Ghouls Trail, haunted tour of Edinburgh's underground vaults

Pictures of Scottish Storytelling Centre and more

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

National Archives of Scotland

Slideshow of National Archives of Scotland and Poltergeist Tour

I would like to thank our professor, Dr. Teresa Welsh, for arranging these in-depth and behind-the-scenes tours of British libraries. Today, like many of our library and museum tours, we were taken into the stacks to see and sometimes handle rare collections. It has been a privilege to be treated as professional librarians abroad. I’ve heard librarians can’t even get behind-the-scenes tours at the Library of Congress, but over four weeks we have seen stacks, conveyor systems, digitization, conservation, processing and cataloging. The librarians of Great Britain welcomed us, shared valuable knowledge and took interest in American libraries as well.

Our second full day in Scotland, we visited the National Archives of Scotland.

Their mission is to preserve records as an agency of the Scottish government and make the records accessible. The library has three buildings, 160 staff, eight websites and two Divisions, the Records Services Division and the Corporate Services Division. The library has over 70 kilometers of local records shelving, from 12th century to 21st century. The General Register House is used by students, researchers and the public to research ancestry. To access the print and electronic materials, researchers must apply for a Reader’s Ticket. The librarian shared with us some special items from the collection. We saw letters from 1838 that had vertical and horizontal writing crisscrossed and overlapped to save expensive writing paper. Also rich with history was the court documents from the Burke and Hare case. We also saw Suffragette material.

Megan, a science librarian, asked me to join her to visit the Surgeons’ Hall Museum.
I found it amusing that I was the only one willing to go with her; she knew I’m into the creepy stuff! We had great fun at the Museum and also shopping around Edinburgh, we found some good counter-culture stuff. The Museum was closed when we arrived, but the very nice gentlemen at the door let us take a five minute tour, and he even showed us the Medical Library, which doctors can’t go in there until they’ve passed their exams. The Hall also has Sherlock Holmes fame.

Medical Library,

I was delighted to find the witchy little Wyrd Shop, “Scotland’s oldest occult store.”

The Wyrd Shop

I learned the meaning of “hedgewitch.” I also LOVED the list of house rules, “Pax Wyrdica”! They told me all the rules are necessary based on actual events in the shop. Rule #16: Only one re-incarnation of Aleister Crowley in the shop at any one time!

do we look scared?

Edinburgh is known for its haunted history. I took advantage of the ghost tours available for entertainment and history. The Mackenzie Poltergeist Graveyard Tour is possibly the scariest tour in Edinburgh, and I love the chance to tour a graveyard. Turns out Greyfriars Kirkyard is a very historic graveyard, with some Harry Potter connections as well!

Mackenzie Poltergeist Graveyard Tour

J.K. Rowling sat in Elephant House, writing much of the early Harry Potter novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Kirkyard. It’s likely this scenery inspired the mystical settings of Harry Potter. Did J.K. Rowling use Greyfriars Kirkyard for ideas for names of Harry Potter characters? In Greyfriars Kirkyard are graves for Tom Riddle and a McGonagall.

Tom Riddle?

Professor McGonagall?

Greyfriars Bobby is a famous little dog in Edinburgh, supposedly not leaving his master's grave in Greyfriars. He is honored nearby.

Greyfriars Bobby

The view from the graveyard of George Heriot's School at night was really atmospheric! This is the school that Rowling has said inspired Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Could she see the school from The Elephant House maybe? I'm going to visit Heriot's School tomorrow.

school that inspired Hogwarts

Pictures of National Archives of Scotland and Poltergeist Tour

Monday, 27 July 2009

Birthplace of Harry Potter

Slideshow of The Elephant House

Elephant House

I'm sitting at The Elephant House, the place where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter.

The Elephant House: Birthplace of Harry Potter

Elephant House

They have a wall of articles dedicated to J.K. Rowling.
JK Rowling articles at Elephant House

Elephant House

Rowling liked to the view in The Elephant House overlooking Edinburgh castle and Greyfriar's Graveyard for inspiration when writing some of the first Harry Potter novels.
Edinburgh Castle from Elephant House

Ian Rankin, author of the Rebus novels, and Alexander McCall-Smith have both also frequented The Elephant House, as well as many others.

I really love this place! I'm using the internet cafe to finally upload some pictures. I'm sipping my new favorite beverage, Cider (and not that cider beer stuff, the real cider alcohol drink.)
i love cider

And they are playing Michael Jackson and Billie Holiday. Ahhh! Finally... things are have slowed down enough for me to stop and just take in the evening and atmosphere.

Elephant House

friends @ Elephant House

More blogging soon, and don't forget to click on the links to the Photo Albums at the end of most blogs.

Wish you were here!


Pictures of The Elephant House

Edinburgh Central Library

Slideshow of National Library and Edinburgh Central Library

Just across the street from National Library of Scotland is the Edinburgh Central Library.

Edinburgh Central Library

When this lending library first opened in 1890, they had closed stacks. This library is an excellent example of a Carnegie Library.

Andrew Carnagie library
bust of Andrew Carnagie, 1891

Notable Carnagie library characteristics at Edinburgh Central Library include the entry steps and the quote on the front of the building, "Let There Be Light."

Let there be light

Currently there are 50-60 staff members. The library uses Library of Congress classification, except in the children’s collection they use Dewey Decimal System. What is seen on the shelves is only 10% of the collection. The library card catalogs are still active. Two-thirds of the collection is cataloged online. The Reference Library has built-in card catalog drawers. The Reference Library used to be segregated; ladies and gentlemen could not sit together.

The Music Library carries “the finest music in Scotland” including bagpipes. It was nice to hear the Scottish music playing in the library. The Fine Art Library carries fine art, art history, architecture and photography books.

Of special interest to me was the Children’s Library.

children's library

Like the other UK libraries I’ve seen this summer, we once again see QuestSeekers as the Summer Reading Program theme. I also saw this library is promoting Bookstart, a literacy program for babies. Check my Children’s Literature links above for more information on these UK public library programs.

children's library

The Children’s library provides storytimes, rhymetimes and book crawl. Children are limited to borrowing 12 books, but there are no charges for damaged picture or board books. The Children’s library collection includes thousands of story books, picture books in lots of languages, board books, information books for homework, toys and games, Playstations, computers, internet, DVDs and books on CD. I found Harry Potter on audio in the children’s library.

Harry Potter

We had a great talk from Librarian Colm Linnane, of the Reading Champion program. He talked to us about some efforts of the library to reach out to readers. He emphasized the importance of partnerships, such as their partnerships with the Edinburgh Book Festival and UNESCO’s Cities of Literature. Their version of The Big Read is One Book, One Edinburgh. I learned that book groups are very popular in Britain. He shared a great source, 826 Valencia, a publisher of books for kids written by kids.

Memorable quotes:
“In public libraries, we don’t do technology as well as we might.” (So true!)
“When you impose tastes on what young people read, you’re not validating them as a person.”
A challenge for libraries is how to make a library visit more meaningful. The library can do things to make sure youth leave the library wanting to come back. One example is Make Noise in the Library Day. Some other outreach efforts include, taking kids to a book store to give them a sense of ownership. Mr. Linnane told us about his experience providing reading materials for bedtime at group homes. When left alone with their thoughts at nighttime, things would go haywire, reading helps! The overall message from him was to be consistent with child literacy.

This was a very insightful discussion to UK libraries. I’m so pleasantly surprised to see such similarities between American libraries and UK libraries. The struggles of librarians are very much the same. We try to do our best to reach out to youth and promote literacy, while also dealing with budget cuts and hard economic times. Reluctant readers can be found anywhere and librarians around the world can share ideas on reaching these youth.

After the Central Library, I followed our professor and some our classmates to the Scottish Poetry Library.

friends at Scottish Poetry Library

Some of the students were using this library as one of the three extra libraries we must visit on own time.

Scottish Poetry Library

“With the motto By Leaves We Live carved into its entrance, the library feels like a tree house- a hidden, airy and welcoming haven.” – The Herald

Scottish Poetry Library

The Scottish Poetry Library is a national poetry resource offering free reference and lending services. The collection includes, contemporary Scottish poetry, a wide range of other poetry, a junior collection, CDs and tapes, poetry magazines, resources for teachers, readings and events.

We had to go to Hard Rock CafĂ© for dinner, of course. I’m collecting HRC shot glasses from every city for my friend Gail who lent me her digital camera! For my nightly pub experience, I went to Deacon Brodie's Tavern. The story of the true resident of Edinburgh, Deacon Brodie, was the inspiration for the character of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Deacon Brodie's Tavern

I took the night bus home back to Dalkeith Castle. This "Knight Bus" ended up being quite the adventure. After riding around through pitch black Edinburgh, I finally made my way to Dalkeith. I met a nice girl along the way. I had the chance to talk to her about Harry Potter. She said she loved HP just like most kids. She said Harry Potter is popular reading in Scotland just like everywhere else.

Tolbooth Tavern
Tolbooth Tavern in Edinburgh, Scotland

Pictures of National Library and Edinburgh Central Library

National Library of Scotland

Slideshow of National Library and Edinburgh Central Library

The library originated as the Library of Faculty of Advocates of 1689. The library as granted the right to claim a copy of every book published in the British Isles under the 1710 Copyright Act. In 1925, the Parliament established the National Library of Scotland as a legal depository for government documents. The current building for the NLS, on George IV Bridge, opened in 1956. The library has a special focus on the ephemera from Scotland.

National Library of Scotland

Of special interest to me was to learn about the library’s substantial collection of school prize books awarded from 1775 to 1956.

The School Prize Collection
photo from
photo from

I was fascinated to learn about the historic children’s chapbooks, which were cheap booklets sold by peddlers. I imagine that for some children, this was the only opportunity for leisurely reading, like a library bookmobile. The library also has a Theater collection. Other special subjects include sports and leisure, genealogy, official government publications, rare books, manuscripts, Scottish Screen Archive, maps, John Murray Archive, Gaelic and Scots, mountains and mountaineering.

Librarians use exhibits to make the collection accessible. The current exhibit highlights the wealth of materials the NLS had to offer.
14 million books and manuscripts
2 million maps and atlases
300,000 music scores
32,000 films and videos
25,000 contemporary newspapers, magazines and journals
6,000 new items every week

Pictures of National Library of Scotland and Edinburgh Central Library

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Hogwarts Express

Slideshow of Hogwarts Express!

Sunday: Today we take the train to Edinburgh for our short stay in Scotland this week. It feels very much like the Hogwarts Express, the magical train to Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardy in the Harry Potter books. It feels like we are typical witches and wizards in London packing up for our studies. We find our Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross train station and off we go! We have been saving up funky, London candies to have a "candy party" on the train, just like Harry and his friends.

candy party on Hogwarts Express

candy party on Hogwarts Express
squeaking sugar mice like in Harry Potter

The feeling of being students off to Hogwarts is even more so when we arrive at Dalkeith Castle, a 300-year-old castle where we'll be bunking up.

photo from

We settled in our creepy old rooms and then went out to celebrate Chaitra's birthday. Happy Birthday Chai!

Happy Birthday Chaitra!

Back at the castle, a few of us girls watched a movie. Late at night, I explored the castle looking for ghosts, even reading up on the castle's history online to see if I can scare myself!

Dalkeith Dungeon
Dalkeith Dungeon

Pictures of Hogwarts Express!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Camden Town

Slideshow of Creative Crypt, Camden Town and Beach Party

Day 16: Today we had a free, non-academic day. I did all my usual haunts today. The Creative Crypt next door to our dorms is one of my favorite places to relax. It's a small churchyard cemetery, the rest of the grounds has mosaic sculptures.
the Creative Crypt

the Creative Crypt

See the pic below, there's a memorial bench with names in mosaics of the local homeless who have passed. The Waterloo area was called Cardboard City because there was a high homeless population here until they were displaced in 1998. There are plenty of drifters returning to the churchyard daily. It makes a nice place for a memorial.

Jenn and Nicole

I eat at House of Crepes as often as possible, no shame in eating there twice in one day, first cheesy crepes, then sweet crepes!

House of Crepes

It's a group effort!

we love crepes!

I went with the girls to Camden Town, also a very favorite of mine. I end up there almost every day. I love the goth culture and the beautiful canal.

Camden Town

Camden Town

Camden Town

Camden Town

Later that night our friend from the psychology class found a really cool beach party at the Festival Pier by our dorms! We partied on the rocky beach with several hundred people, live DJs and spectacular views of the Thames at night, and the London Eye. The skateboard park nearby had live graffiti artists.

Festival Pier beach party

London Eye

skateboard park

live graffiti

Pictures of Creative Crypt, Camden Town and Beach Party