Annual Review

An overview of the Library's activities and collection acquisitions during the year 2003-2004.

From the Chairman of the Trustees

The National Library of Scotland is the largest, and one of the most historic, libraries in Scotland. With its origins in the library of the Faculty of Advocates, it has had a central role in collecting and making knowledge accessible for nearly 300 years.

This year has seen a major new step in the development of the Library, with the development of its new strategy 'Breaking through the walls'. This demonstrates how the Library plans to continue to develop its role into the 21st century, maximising its impact for the people of Scotland and beyond.

In the past year the Library has put much effort into building its capacity to deliver this strategy, but, as this Review shows, there has continued to be a strong focus on maintaining and enhancing the collections, services and expertise. The Library remains committed to excellence, both in its own areas of scholarship and in the research environment it provides for its users.

The Library has also continued to develop its provision of digital publications. This year has seen a major development in this area, with the passing of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003. This extends to electronic and digital publications our existing right to request a copy of every print publication in the United Kingdom and Ireland. This important legislation also presents us with one of our greatest ever challenges, and the Library is now at the forefront of a national effort to prepare, collect and preserve such material and make it available now and for future generations.

Within this rapidly changing world our staff have continued to show their dedication and support for the work of the Library, and I would like to record my thanks, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, for their huge contribution to its continuing success.

Professor Michael Anderson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees

From the National Librarian

The past year has been both challenging and stimulating for everyone at the National Library of Scotland, and as we reflect on our progress I would like to thank all our staff for their contribution to the work of the Library. Without the commitment and hard work of the many teams who work unseen by the public but who play a vital role in front line services, as well as those who directly serve the public, the developments outlined in this review would not have been possible.

The Library's new strategy, 'Breaking through the walls', was agreed by the Board of Trustees in March 2004. This clearly establishes the Library's role as a catalyst and support for information, research and life-long learning in Scotland. Excellence has always been at the heart of the Library's activity — through our collections, expertise and services — and this will continue. The strategy sets out how the Library will continue to develop and preserve its collections in print and the developing digital formats, and ensure that they are accessible in new and exciting ways to attract those who do not currently use the Library, whilst maintaining our commitment to our current users and improving the quality of service that they enjoy. During the year I was delighted to welcome several new colleagues to the Library, including three new directors who joined our senior management team. As we continue to develop the organisation and structure I am confident that we will have the skills and vision to support the development of the Library into the future. I would also like to express my thanks and appreciation to recently retired colleagues for their valued service and major contribution to the Library over the years.

Martyn Wade

Breaking through the walls

We are committed to ensuring that all those who could benefit from using the Library see it as a source for their information needs; we need to extend awareness of our services whilst making them more relevant to all.

'Breaking through the walls' — a new draft strategy for the National Library of Scotland — was released for public consultation in December 2003, and the Trustees approved a revised version in March 2004.

To meet the aims set out in this document, and provide strong foundations for development, we need to make intelligent service and organisational changes. The first phase of this process has created a new senior management and departmental structure, and our challenge now is to develop this in detail to ensure that we continue to meet the changing needs of our users.

In order to map and monitor our progress, we have carried out research into the needs of users and non-users, and begun the process of consulting with under-represented groups.

Our aim continues to be to enrich lives and communities by promoting learning, and widening access to the recorded knowledge of Scotland and the ideas and cultures of the world.

Users' areas of study 2003-2004

Social sciences   22%   History   20%
Arts/Humanities   19%   Science   11%
Miscellaneous   9%   Literature   8%
Business   8%   Genealogy   3%


Strategic framework

1. Vision and mission

The Vision and mission identifies the overall purpose of the Library:

  • The National Library of Scotland will enrich lives and communities, encouraging and promoting lifelong learning, research and scholarship, and universal access to information by comprehensively collecting and making available the recorded knowledge of Scotland, and promoting access to the ideas and cultures of the world.

2. Core values

The core values of the Library together clarify how the Library and its staff work to achieve the vision and mission:

  • Service
  • Excellence
  • Learning
  • Commitment

3. Principal Functions

The Library has five Principal Functions that enable it to achieve the vision and mission:

  • To create, preserve and ensure access to a comprehensive collection of the recorded knowledge, culture and history of Scotland, for the benefit of the people of Scotland and throughout the world
  • To promote access to the recorded knowledge, culture and history of the world, particularly for the people of Scotland
  • To preserve, ensure access to, promote and, where appropriate, add to the National Library of Scotland's major historical and heritage collections
  • To encourage and support research and scholarship
  • To provide support and leadership for the library and information sector in Scotland.

Developing the collections

Our world-class collections range from early manuscripts and printed books to modern journals and electronic resources; and from the scholarly and arcane to football programmes and theatre posters.

A new collection development policy

We are preparing a new integrated collection development policy, which will develop our selection criteria and take account of the new formats and methods of acquisition. It is important not only that we maintain the national research collection including local materials and publications in minority languages, but also that we support and collaborate on the development of national lending collections.

Legal Deposit and Modern Collections

The National Library of Scotland is one of only five legal deposit libraries in the UK. The original legal deposit privilege gave us the right to claim a copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland, and the new Legal Deposit Libraries Bill, enacted in November 2003, has extended the right to include electronic publications.

This is a vitally important development and we are collaborating with other legal deposit libraries, and with publishers, over the acquisition and preservation of the many scientific and academic journals which are now published only in electronic formats. We need to develop clear policies for selecting and archiving this material, as well as CDs, DVDs and many other kinds of digital and web-based material.

It will be several years before the legislation is fully operational — meanwhile we have joined a pilot project to preserve websites: our special responsibility is to select and describe websites of Scottish cultural and historic interest.

Overseas publications

Overseas publications are not covered by the legal deposit privilege, so that most of these have to be bought.

One significant recent purchase from the United States was the Alexander Street Press database British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries 1500 to 1900, a collection of approximately 100,000 pages of published personal writings and 4000 facsimile pages of unpublished manuscript material, which is available to readers over the Electronic Resources Network.

We extended our collections of foreign non-print materials by purchasing 'The Presidential Recordings, vols 1-3: John F Kennedy: The Great Crises'. This fascinating set of transcriptions and sound recordings includes the Cuban Missile Crisis, and is complemented by 'The White House Tapes: Eavesdropping on the President', recordings which range from Roosevelt to the Reagan era. We also acquired 'The Uncle Sam Movie Collection', a video collection of 21 original short films, including propaganda and documentaries, from the period of World War II.

Business Information Service

The Library's Business Information Service holds the largest collection of company and industry resources in Scotland. During the year we acquired three major new resources: 'Reuters Business Insight', the 'Datamonitor Business Information Centre', and 'AMA Research'. These offer high quality business and marketing reports at industry, company or country level: AMA provides frequently requested reports that are not available from any other publicly accessible library within the UK.

Science collections

The NLS Science Information Service provides information to businesses, academics and practising scientists, filling a need that is not addressed by any other Scottish institution.

We have one of the largest collections of scientific publications in the country: extensive British collections, including items received through the legal deposit privilege, are supplemented by purchases of foreign material. The Library holds more than 5,000 current scientific and technical journals, and is also a major historical resource, with journals dating back to the eighteenth century. Staff members have been visiting academic and public libraries throughout Scotland, in order to build awareness of our science collections and services.


Our most significant manuscript purchase this year was the final part of the papers of Thomas Graham, Lord Lynedoch (1748-1843), which had remained in private ownership whilst being on deposit at the Library for many years.

Other important purchases included letters from a young Scottish laird, Roger Robertson, on his Grand Tour, 1750-53 and a volume of sketches of Edinburgh and environs, 1824, by the Reverend William Paget. The Library also bought the literary papers of the poets Tom Pow, 1969-2003, and Alexander Scott, 1931-1981. We received deposits of papers of two Conservative politicians: David McLetchie MSP, and Lord Mackay of Clashfern.

The John Murray Archive

The Manuscripts Division has been deeply involved in the Library's ongoing bid to acquire the John Murray Archive. Murray was publisher to leading figures in the 19th-century literary establishment and the family archive includes original manuscripts and around 150,000 letters. This is a unique resource, and the Library is ideally equipped to promote its study and enjoyment by the widest possible range of people.

In March 2004 our campaign received a major boost when the Scottish Executive committed funding of £6.5m, and we have continued to work to acquire this remarkable collection.

Rare Books

The book trade continues to turn up unique or rare editions of books printed in Scotland, Scots authors printed abroad in translation, or materials that demonstrate Scottish influence abroad. The year's purchases included a unique Edinburgh 1696 edition of Erasmus's 'Colloquies', a rare first (1890) French edition of R L Stevenson's 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', and 'Queensland Scottish Advocate, Brisbane, 1908-1911', a journal produced for Scots in Queensland.

The Library has a fine collection of miniature books, and this year we were able to add eight mainly late 19th-century miniature books printed in Scotland, including a New Testament less than an inch tall.

There seems to have been a minor cult of printing on silk in Scotland in the mid-18th century. Our newly purchased copy of a Glasgow 1751 edition of the Greek text of Anacreon's 'Odes' (Glasgow, 1751) is outstanding for using silk in four colours: blue, pink, yellow and cream. Another spectacular book acquired this year is a very rare hand-coloured copy of George Richardson's 'A Book of Ceilings' (London, 1776).

The use of 'surrogates' allows free access to older material without any handling risks: we now subscribe to 'Eighteenth Century Collections Online', a new resource which will eventually provide our users with access to images and searchable text of more than 150,000 18th-century British books.


We were pleased to acquire a complete copy of John Cowley's 'The Geography of England', dated 1744 but published the year before. The high demand for attractive small maps often leads to the 'breaking' of volumes by dealers, and the two other copies in legal deposit libraries are both incomplete.

We also bought a children's atlas, with maps engraved sometime between 1825 and 1836, by Robert Scott of Edinburgh, who was noted for his topographic and landscape work. Although in miniature, the atlas follows the fashion of the day by including plates of the world's longest rivers and tallest mountains.

In the autumn of 2003, we bought three coastal charts by John Ainslie (1745-1828), Scotland's premier late 18th-century map-maker. As part of the campaign against smuggling, Ainslie was employed by the Commissioners of H M Customs to survey the coasts of east and south-west Scotland and engrave a set of six charts, which he completed during 1784-5. We already held three of these charts, and the new purchases — still tied with the original string — complete the set.

It is part of our acquisitions policy to create a general reference collection of maps from around the world, and especially of places with Scottish connections, or which are visited by Scottish travellers. A new series from the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group has allowed us to extend our coverage of the country: we now have about three-quarters of the 513 sheets in the series.

Online ordering

The Library is developing a new 'call-slip' service which will allow users to order books online in advance of a visit. The system has been available to reference staff since the late autumn of 2003, and trials with Library customers began in February 2004. This small development is crucial for readers travelling to the Library.

The Advocates Library

Simplified procedures introduced in the summer of 2003 have allowed readers much better access to early printed material from the Advocates Library, leading to a significant increase in the number of items delivered.

Copyright licences

Recently introduced UK copyright legislation created a potential problem for the Library and its users. Copying for any kind of commercial purpose — which may include research for books — now requires clearance from the publishers and the payment of a copyright fee; but the Library has negotiated with the Copyright Licensing Agency to obtain a Document Delivery Transactional Licence, so we can now deliver copyright-cleared photocopies to Library users, and to other libraries via inter-library lending.


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