Tour of University of Edinburgh Law School: 6th June 2019

Many thanks to SLLG member Sara Berry for her guest post on our recent visit to the newly refurbished School of Law Library at the University of Edinburgh:

The group met near the grassy quad outside the new library on a wonderfully sunny day. The Librarian, Liz Stevenson, gave us a brief introduction to the library and how the modern architects have tried to honour the spirit of the original design. The Old College was founded in 1789 and the initial Robert Adam design was started but not completed after Adam’s death a couple of years later, and the Napoleonic wars halted progress.   William Playfair took over as architect in 1817 and kept to Adams’ designs to the most part except for creating one large quadrangle instead of two

The decision was taken a few years ago to move the library space from its original 4th floor main location over what is now the entrance to the Law School, to the next entrance and two floors down.   There was some uncertainty over the temporary location of the library while works were underway, and how much needed to go into storage. The library eventually moved to the David Hume tower for the duration of the works and moved back into its new home in January 2019.  The Law School Library has had to make some decisions about stock as overall the shelving capacity has gone down by about a 1,000 feet. They moved the Europa collection to the main University Library and make use of storage in different areas both on site and off.

The light oak wood shelves make a strong impression as you enter the library itself, as does the bespoke shape of the shelving units not all of which are linear, but form an oval and winding pattern throughout the library. There are two floors with seating for 251 students, each desk having its own sockets and discreet lighting. The library is open to all students at Edinburgh and has also proved popular with those studying non-law disciplines due to its location, space and general air of quiet. This does at times cause some competition for prime areas.

The library classification is Library of Congress and books are bought according to a number of factors including if they are a core text on a course (though some lecturers can change the core text at the first lecture!), if titles are covered in online resources (Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomsbury etc), or if they have the previous edition for example. Increasingly though students are using online resources for much of their research.

Our tour ended at William Burke’s passage, where the architects have glassed in and preserved part of the underground route by which Burke’s body was brought to Old College for dissection. Due to riots in the streets they couldn’t get it there any other way!

Many thanks are due to Liz for kindly giving up her time and giving us all a fascinating glimpse into this wonderful library. Thanks also to Kirstie Hustler for organising this and the lovely tea after.

Sara Berry
Advocates Library

1 Comment

  1. I haven’t been to the Old College for many years and so my first shock was grass in the quad! The new library looks limpressive but I have many fond memories of the old one. It had so many hideaway spots where students chattered away about law .. and many other things.”Let’s inhibit the cottage” was one of my favourite overheard remarks.

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