Sunday, August 14, 2011

The First Carnegie Library, Dunfermline, Scotland

On our second class day in Scotland, we took a train ride to Dunfermline, which is the hometown of Andrew Carnegie and also the home to the first Carnegie funded library. The library opened on August 29, 1883 and thousands of Dunfermline citizens were present to welcome philanthropist Andrew Carnegie home; since then, there have been over 2,500 Carnegie libraries built throughout the United States and other English-speaking countries. Carnegie provided eight thousand pounds for a library to be built.  Due to a need for more space, the library has added on extensions--the first in 1922, designed by James Shearer, and the second in 1992, which added on exhibit and meeting rooms, a Local History Centre, and children's and music libraries. There are currently plans to build a museum next to the library, which should be open in 2013.

We were given a tour by Ross Manning, the customer services librarian. We walked through the adult collection area; the area was split into non-fiction and fiction books, and there was a desk in the middle of the room for checking out books.  The library has about 59,000 items for adults and children to check out, and there were displays set up to entice readers to check out certain books. There are also displays and exhibition space throughout the building that library users can book for their organization to put up a display or for them to do a display on a topic of interest. For example, there was a display set up about a football star, with tickets, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia while we were there.,_Dunfermline.jpg
The children's department was the second stop on our tour; it was very brightly painted and was a very inviting space for children, with tables they could sit at, shelves that they could reach, and books for all reading levels. The library participates in the summer reading scheme that the UK has just started, much like the summer reading program that the ALA organizes in the United States. The theme this year was Circus Stars, and for most libraries, it asks children to read six books over their summer break, and if they complete that goal, they receive prizes. The children's department also puts on craft events, rhyme times, and story times for toddlers.

The library also has a nice reference library, reserved for private study and Internet use. Also in the reference library are the special collections for the library; this includes a collection of materials on Robert Burns as well as illuminated manuscripts, some as old as the 16th century; since England and Scotland have a much longer history, many of the libraries, even a small public library, has rare texts.

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Lott
My favorite part of the library was a room in the newest extension of the library that housed the local history collection. They have materials on local history and culture, which are arranged by locality and then subject. They also have photograph collections of the area, arranged alphabetically by village names--they acquire these photographs through donation and also have volunteers actively taking photos of certain areas. They also keep family history materials, including parish registers and census material. The library also has a map room, and they showed us a map from the 1700s that they had just acquired, and they have newspapers from the 1850s on microfilm and in print.

I really enjoyed this library--the people were very welcoming and gracious, and the space was inviting. There were plenty of places for library users to sit and study or to sit and read a book. One thing that we didn't really address while we were there was the online resources that the library has, including online databases and social media.The local history collection would be very useful for people trying to do family history or learn more about the place that they live.

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