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

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Downie Allison Downie book repair course

SLLG member, Kirstie Hustler of the Advocates Library, reviews one of Downie Allison Downie’s bookbinding courses which are taught on Saturdays throughout the year at their workshop in Glasgow.

This was the second course I had attended at DAD Bookbinders and I was really looking forward to it. I had given my dad a place on the course as a birthday present so it turned out to be a very enjoyable “Daddy Daughter Day” as well as a day for learning new library related skills.

dad-bookbinding

Take this hammer: book repair in action

The workshop was easy to find and close to the station. There was a cup of coffee and introductions on arrival and then we got stuck in. On this particular day there were four students and two teachers (Karen and Gemma) which ensured everyone had help when they required it. The atmosphere was friendly and supportive and we were even provided with lunch.

Each person had brought some books which were candidates for repair and we discussed them with the tutors and made our selection. My books weren’t very old (well no older than me) but were definitely well-used and well-loved.

tatty-books

Before…

First of all we had to mend any pages which were torn. This involved cutting paper to match the torn edge and attaching it using heat sensitive tape. I couldn’t believe I was ironing and actually enjoying it.

Using the techniques learned in the beginners class we created new covers for our old books. Some people peeled away the old spines and reattached them to the new bindings.

Another part of the process I really enjoyed was hammering the edges of the pages into a curve and rolling the new cover across a metal bar to create a curved spine. One of my books was an old paperback which was shedding its pages. I made a hard cover for this and it looks great. My other book was a big book of children’s stories and I had brought wrapping paper to use as a facing for the inside covers. I was very happy with the finished effect.

bound-books

…and after

Finally we used a machine to stamp the book titles onto their new covers. At the end of the day we had breathed new life into old books and I really felt I had elevated old favourites into new treasures. I would really recommend you have a look through the scruffier parts of your library and sign up for this course.


Kirstie attended the Book Repair course, held on 28 April 2018 from 10am until 4pm, priced £75.00 including materials and lunch. Details of future bookbinding courses can be found on the DAD website.

The Sheriff Court Library Service: Visiting Courts

The Sheriff Courts of Scotland have a new library service. Assistant Librarian Julie McGregor kindly agreed to tell SLLG about some of the early challenges of setting up a multi-site service.

The Sheriff Court Library Service was officially launched in April 2017 to provide a library service for all 38 of Scotland’s Sheriff Courts. As part of the SCTS Library Service, the Sheriff Court Library Service mirrors that of the Supreme Court Library Service. The service centralises  the purchase and management of library materials for all sheriff courts, provides an enquiry service and offers training in e-resources to the judiciary and court staff.

The plan 

Although we are based in Edinburgh, it is vital that we visit all the courts to meet staff, assess and record stock and catalogue. Introductory visits to at least one sheriff court in each of the six sheriffdoms were made during summer 2017 but more detailed visits to all courts were then planned for autumn.

The visits

We opted to go to the far flung courts of Grampian, Highland and Islands in October and November before the weather became too troublesome. We worked out that three courts per trip was a realistic plan. Fort William, Portree and Lochmaddy became our first trip and took four days. A couple of weeks later we jetsetted off for three days to Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick. Two full days in Perth were also fitted around the two big trips.

The challenge 

Our big challenge when preparing for these visits was to plan routes that would cover the courts – all by train, bus, ferry or plane. We also had to fit in with courts that only sit every 2 or even 4 weeks. It felt quite strange being given the key to a sheriff court and just letting ourselves in. What and how much library stock would we find? What condition would it be in and where would it be stored? How are the materials being used? Are Sheriffs and staff in smaller, more remote courts relying on print material or accessing it all online? Would we have enough time to weed, reorganise, record and photograph the stock? Would we have time to visit Orkney and Shetland Public Libraries?!

Observations and reflections

  • Larger courts have a dedicated library room but most courts have library material in various rooms such as Sheriff’s Chambers, on the bench, in solicitors’ rooms or sometimes even in Witness Rooms. Every court seems to have a grand old collection of Public General Acts – although these are now easily available online we left these for display purposes.
  • It’s important to plan but be flexible. We were able to complete our work in some courts; in others we had to fit work around the running of the court and may need to return.
  • The sheriffs and staff we met use a combination of a small number of textbooks and online resources. Both court staff and sheriffs may work in more than one location so it’s not practical to carry looseleafs, books etc. between the courts.
  • Meeting and chatting to the staff in the courts has been a valuable and enjoyable experience. The smooth running of the library service relies on the relationships we build with the staff in the courts. It has been good to put faces to names and we found that our colleagues in the courts we visited are very pleased to have the support of a library service. Having met us they are more likely to get in touch with us for help.
  • Orkney Public Library and Shetland Public Library are worth visiting!

We documented our trips on twitter under #shedlibsontour so watch this space for the further adventures of the Sheriff Court librarians!

Sheriff Courts image

Clockwise from top left: Sheriff Courts of Lochmaddy, Aberdeen, Fort William, Portree, Kirkwall and Lerwick. Photos courtesy of SCTS and J.McGregor.

Law Librarians Explained, a Law School Toolbox blog post

Link: Law Librarians Explained: Everything a 1L Should Know 

Although the context is for American law students, this is a good little introductory blog about law librarians.

Respect your law librarian—they are not just there to reshelf your books

John Passmore’s post includes quotable lines which are worth taking away for any of us explaining our law information service.

….don’t doubt a law librarian’s ability to dig just a little deeper and search just a little more precisely than you can

Even if it might have mentioned loose-leaf updating a bit more, it’s only an introduction to all the amazing stuff we do, after all, so I suppose not everything could fit in it.

Having a highly educated and experienced legal information professional in your corner is huge

If anyone has a comment on the Toolbox blog post or has one (or more!) blog posts they’d also like to share with the group, please let us know.