What we are

Useful facts about the National Library of Scotland.


What we are

  • One of Europe's major research libraries, with around 15 million printed items in our collections.
  • Scotland's legal deposit library.
  • A reference library — we do not lend our items, although copies of some books are available through Scottish local libraries.

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What we can offer you

  • Collections of international importance, covering all subjects.
  • Books, manuscripts, maps, music (print and recordings), photographs, posters, postcards, newspapers, magazines, electronic journals, CD-ROMS — and more!
  • Online catalogues, with details of millions of items that are on our shelves.
  • An online enquiry service to help you find what you need.
  • Digitised material, including thousands of maps.
  • Copies of most of the items in our collections.
  • Experienced enquiry staff and dedicated specialists.
  • Tours, visits, speakers, exhibitions and events.
  • Discover NLS, our free magazine
  • Resources for learners of all ages in our learning zone.

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Who can use NLS

  • At the Library — anyone can consult our collections and use our services.
  • Online — anyone with a computer with an internet connection can access the material on our website. With an NLS library card, you can also use a wide range of licensed digital resources.

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How NLS is run

  • Governed by a board which meets throughout year.
  • Managed by a team of directors under the guidance of the National Librarian.
  • Answerable to the Scottish Parliament since devolution in 1999.
  • A non-departmental public body (NDPB) with direct funding from the Scottish Government.
  • Registered as a Scottish charity. Scottish charity number: SC011086.

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Forward arrow Memorandum of agreement between NLS and Faculty of Advocates (2011)


NLS history

  • Established by the National Library of Scotland Act in 1925.
  • Collections which had been gifted to the nation were transferred then to NLS from the Advocates Library, founded in the early 1680s.
  • Main building on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, was opened by the Queen on 4 July 1956.
  • Causewayside Building opened in two phases in 1989 and in 1995.

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About us

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