NMS Library tour and Rip It Up, 13 September 2018

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As a librarian friend observed, collectively, if we info groups (CILIPS, EDINA, SLLG, SWOP) haven’t visited every library in Scotland, we’ve made a darned good attempt in our race to dwell among the untrodden alcoves.

Building on the success of last year’s trip to the Moving Image Archive in Glasgow, the SLLG Committee suggested a group outing to a very popular exhibition, Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop, running 22 June to 25 November 2018 at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS). There followed the magic words, ‘Maybe they have a library we can visit.’ Why, yes they do.

Research Library

You know you’re going off the beaten track when the meeting point is the staff entrance. Ines and Morven, our hosts for the afternoon, guided us expertly through the maze that is the NMS.

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Our tour began in the basement which houses the museum archives acquired at various points in its fairly complicated history (see Wikipedia). As with many libraries, across the sectors, the NMS Research Library has been charged with a significant number of items (many from the founding Society of Antiquaries’ collection) which require surveying, describing and preserving. While time and expertise to do so are at a premium, natural museum curios are not: see signs for GIANT OCTOPUS or that well-known cutie, the BLACK RAT SNAKE, with its ‘reputation for being a bad-tempered creature’.

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This basement area also contains the rare book collection used by staff including the museum curators. We noticed several classification schemes on the go along with familiar-to-some carbon copy borrowing slips and several volumes of Acts of the Old Scottish Parliament!

The Library’s main reading room is on level 3 accessed from the Royal Museum side of the building, with study spaces, wifi, periodicals and around 10% of the total book collection on open shelves. This selection aims to assist visitors to further understand the Museum’s objects and activities, and is open to the public so I’d encourage you to seek it out.

(Scottish) life isn’t rubbish

A real gem of the Library is the Scottish Life Archive finding facility. In a world of OPACs and LMSs, this wall of binders brought real cheer to the group with its unceremonious subject headings. Under T alone you’ll find Tartan, Turnips and Turra Coos. You can read more about the Archive here.

So from ‘Popular Disturbances (See under Law etc – 117C)’ to popular music and the next stop on our magical history tour…

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Rip it up and start again

This Stopfordian has loved Scottish indie music since hearing Tigermilk as a teenager. Our visit to Rip It Up, though, demonstrated just how we have our own unique memories of gigs, bands and record stores. Our more ‘mature’ members recognised the bright red carrier bags claiming ‘I found it at Bruce’s’. Others came to life on seeing the stage outfits of Alex Harvey or Shirley Manson, or the huge mixing desk used by Chemikal Underground. We can’t keep living in the past so it was also good to see a nod to recent SAY Award winners such as Sacred Paws and Young Fathers (the latter having a connection to law libraries, I’m told).

Clearly, a huge amount of work went into researching the history and sourcing material, both for the exhibition and the accompanying BBC series which comprised archive footage and stills, and contemporary interviews, not to mention music! So engrossing were the exhibits, our group has to be ushered out as closing time fast approached.

Hip ship

After a tipple at Greyfriars Bobby, we made our way to Checkpoint which, according to the Times, is one of the ‘25 coolest restaurants in Britain’ which proved fairly accurate – we were seated in a shipping container. I ate a whole roast cauliflower followed by avocado dessert (both delicious). Now there’s an entry for the Scottish Life Archive.

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SLLG at the Hidden, 15th August 2018

One wet Wednesday evening 8 intrepid SLLG-ers braved The Hidden at Edinburgh’s Central Library, putting our well-honed librarian skills and information spidey-senses to the test.

Being honest souls we declared from the outset that we were not mere lay participants, but did have a level of library knowledge. This was met with much enthusiasm from the team at Visible Fictions, who were running the event. We on the other hand realised we should perhaps have kept that under our hats in case we somehow failed to solve the mystery and let the profession down…

Once the remaining participants had arrived we were taken down into the library for a short talk from one of the librarians. She began her presentation on the history of the library, discussing the influence of Andrew Carnegie and taking us through some PowerPoint slides. There was then an issue with the computer and when she went off in search of IT, things took a bit of a strange turn…

It was revealed to us that one of the librarians, Daisy Sinclair, had disappeared, missing for a number of days following some mysterious behaviour as she researched a secret of seemingly monumental and dangerous importance. Before we knew it we had agreed to investigate, as the librarian showed us the first clue. Working in groups we set about cracking the code, and before long it we were moving round the library on the trail of Daisy and her Secret.

The general public were still in the library which added a certain something to proceedings, and it was certainly an atmospheric and more authentic setting than other escape room challenges. The allotted hour passed quickly, and my team certainly found ourselves frantically trying to decipher clues as we moved around the main room of the library. Without giving too much away clues were hidden in books; written on old index cards and scribbled on photographs tucked within the pages.

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Returning to base after an anxious search of the library, each team reported back its findings as we tried to work out what was going on and what had happened to Daisy. With a few prompts from the librarian we were able to work as a group to solve the mystery. Whether we could trust her, or her requests to upload our findings to the mysterious computer was another matter!

This was a fun way to spend the evening, and a good opportunity for this particular SLLG member to reacquaint herself with the collections held in the Central Library. The team from Visible Fictions ensured a slickly run event.

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Visible Fictions are keen to roll this out to school groups and I can definitely see it appealing to older teenagers. There are no smartphones, tablets or web searches involved so tech savvy teenagers will have to rely on their wits and some old school code cracking with pen and paper to solve the mystery.

Underneath the fun escape room style adventure, there is a serious message about the power of media, the reach of the internet and trust. Perfect for the Fake News era.

Emma McLarty

HiddenExLibris

Royal Botanic Garden Library: SLLG visit, August 2015

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In August, SLLG members were treated to an informative evening about the history and work of the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, hosted by the Botanic Garden’s enthusiastic librarian, Lorna. 

Maria has sent in her review and photos of the event all the way from Aberdeen for us to share to those who could not attend.

On Tuesday 18th August a group of SLLG members met at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. We were taken into a seminar room and given refreshments (including yummy biscuits so that was a good start!). Once we were all together there was a talk about the history of the Botanic Garden and what working in the library and archives covers and involves today. It’s always so interesting to see what other “librarian” roles involve and compare how different they are to our own, such a diversity!

Information for those who missed the event, information is available on their website.

We were then escorted into the library where a fabulous exhibition of interesting items was laid out and each was shown and described to us in great detail. It was fun to hear the oohs and aahs and see people shuffle closer to the “precious things” as certain items appealed to different people. Not being very green fingered myself I admired the pretty pictures and was quite taken with my first ever viewing of a Hortus Siccus, i.e. bound collection of plant specimens. Amazing to see how well these previously living cuttings had survived pressed into the pages of a book many years ago.

Afterwards, we headed to The Cross and Corner for a pleasant dinner and a good chat through our visit, before each heading home. The point where I wished I was staying in Edinburgh for the night instead of driving home to Aberdeen all alone in the dark… Totally worth it though, another insightful evening in a fascinating location – and of course with lovely and super SLLG colleagues.

Many thanks to our committee member, Alison, for organising the evening for the SLLG membership. The SLLG committee aim to have a varied schedule of training courses, socials and visits to libraries of interest each year for members. If any member would like to suggest a library the group could visit, please contact a member of the committee.

Some of the Botanic Garden book treasures on display

Some of the Botanic Garden collection treasures on display