Annual Review

Annual Review 2003-2004 continued (page 2 of 3)

The virtual National Library of Scotland

The Library is re-focusing its activities to make as much as possible available to as many people as possible — both in Scotland and around the world.

The Library is developing the electronic tools and services we need to widen access and transform our website into an integrated online gateway. Our existing website has proved exceptionally popular with researchers and the wider public, and we have begun the process of transforming it into a Virtual Library, providing an easy-to-navigate portal to our own collections and to other resources of national relevance and international importance.

These are ambitious plans which require strategic thinking and a robust technical framework that can sustain many years of site development. Alongside online catalogues and high quality images, we are developing collections of searchable text and geo-referenced materials, which can be discovered through online maps as well as text-based searching systems.


The Library holds many unique treasures, which deserve to be more widely appreciated. One obvious way of doing this is through a programme of digitisation and display, either on our website or in exhibitions.

A striking example of this process is our digitisation of some 2,000 broadsides — an early kind of popular journalism. This material has been developed as a website resource, in parallel with preparations for the Library's 2004 summer exhibition, Read all about it! The story of the news in Scotland.

Resources for Learning in Scotland (RLS) projects funded by the New Opportunities Fund came to an end in May 2003. The Manuscripts Division contributed to scanning projects on David Hume, Thomas Carlyle, Scots and India, Scots and Africa, golf in Scotland, 300 years of food in Scotland, farm diaries from Barberfield, and images of war 1916-1918. The images were made available through the SCRAN website.

The Resources for Learning in Scotland programme also allowed us to set up a website with images of 250 playbills for Edinburgh's first Theatre Royal, which was open from 1769 to 1859.

The extension of the legal deposit privilege brings us new challenges in the field of preservation, particularly for material that is 'born digital'. Changes in software and the possible degrading of storage media means that we cannot take it for granted that material we receive will remain stable or accessible indefinitely.

The Library is collaborating with other libraries to find long-term solutions to this problem. As well as routine media checking and transferring of data, this may include using magnetic tape to store raw data.

Mini websites

We are already using mini, or satellite, websites to complement our exhibition and educational programmes, to highlight key areas of our collections, such as the Pont Maps, and to provide remote access to purchased electronic resources.

Auchinleck Manuscript

One exciting new web feature is a colour facsimile and searchable transcript of the 14th-century Auchinleck Manuscript, one of the Library's greatest treasures, and an item of great significance for the development of English language and literature.

Maps on the website

Amongst the highlights of our online maps collection is a large number of highly detailed 19th-century Ordnance Survey town plans. In early summer 2003, the maps section of the website almost doubled overnight when we added a further 1900 of these plans, which had been scanned under the Resources for Learning Scotland programme.

In May 2003 we enlarged our Pont Maps website with 50 images from Robert Sibbald's manuscript, Topographical Notices of Scotland. The texts were transcribed for us voluntarily by historian Dr Jean Munro, a descendant of Timothy Pont's sister, and are now searchable by keyword.

In September 2003, a further 450 maps were added under the RLS scanning programme, including more OS maps and town plans, a 1776 road atlas of Scotland, Admiralty Charts and geological and county maps.

Scotland's first atlas was published 350 years ago, in 1654, as volume 5 of Blaeu's Atlas Novus. In January 2004 we launched a special Blaeu Atlas website, with texts specially translated from Latin by Ian Cunningham, another volunteer contributor, and formerly our Keeper of Special Collections.


Scotland has nearly 100,000 small and medium sized businesses, many of which could benefit from improved market and company information.

The SCOTBIS website is our principal means of promoting access to NLS business resources, and during the 2003/04 year we rolled out a new Members' Area — a subscription-based service which has proved popular with libraries and smaller businesses, but has also attracted some high profile companies and public sector organisations.

Website use

Web user sessions continue to increase year on year.

1999-2000   210,935
2000-2001   347,645
2001-2002   564,758
2002-2003   764,778
2003-2004   1,056,000


Catalogue development

Our online catalogue facilities are particularly important for remote users, and are a key tool for improving access.

In order to build on the success of our online maps, we hope to have an online maps catalogue in place by September 2004. This requires the keying-in of many thousands of records, and as a first stage some 28,000 cards were dispatched to the Philippines in December 2003. A second consignment followed in April 2004.

Further manuscript inventories went online during the year, and we now have more than 4000 collection-level descriptions for NLS MSS collections on the SCAN (Scottish Archives Network) database, which went live late in 2003.

Books printed in Scotland before 1701 form one of our highest collecting priorities, and are the subject of a special catalogue originally compiled by H G Aldis. Our online version of Aldis now includes all known pre-1641 books, wherever they are held, and we are now revising it to cover the period 1641-1660.

A wider vision

Exhibitions, displays, events and educational activities are a valuable way for us to promote access and understanding and an area in which the Library has traditionally excelled. We will now expand this into a co-ordinated annual programme supported by complementary cultural events and educational activity.

The Library is an institution of huge complexity with many treasures and a great many stakeholders. We have been collecting evidence to provide a baseline against which we can monitor the progress of our strategies and actions, to serve the Scottish people. During the year we carried out qualitative research on how we engage with under-represented groups, as defined by the Scottish Executive: these include young people, the socially disadvantaged, ethnic minorities, those with disabilities and the over-65s.

Events and exhibitions

Almost 17,000 people visited our major summer exhibition in 2003. 'Wish You Were Here! Travellers' Tales from Scotland' drew heavily on the Library's collection of journals and diaries, along with archive film footage, drawings, maps and artefacts. A travelling version of the exhibition, produced later in the year, will take these stories to an even wider audience around Scotland. An exciting programme of events was created to run alongside the exhibition. Entitled 'As Others See Us', it consisted of talks and discussions by people from other countries living and working in Scotland today, including American-born Susan Rice, Chief Executive of Lloyds TSB Scotland, Bashir Maan, President of the National Association of British Pakistanis, and rugby internationalist Sean Lineen.

In November, an interactive exhibition of contemporary Danish children's literature went on show at the Library. Produced by the Danish Literature Centre in Copenhagen, the exhibition 'World of Wonders' and associated events were organised in association with the Danish Cultural Institute in the UK. Two interactive workshops attracted young children, including schoolchildren from Abbeyhill Primary School in Edinburgh, while older children enjoyed storytelling readings by author Lene Kaaberbol at Wester Hailes Education Centre.

Other displays included a travelling exhibition on the author Muriel Spark, which toured a number of Scottish venues including Aberdeen, Perth, East Kilbride, and Glenrothes, and a bicentenary display on the composer Hector Berlioz. In March, the Library presented a small exhibition of some of the highlights of the John Murray Archive.

The popularity of the NLS events programme continues to grow. Some of the highlights of the year were the visit by Alan Taylor, Associate Editor of the 'Sunday Herald', to talk about his friendship with Muriel Spark; a talk by author Dr Jenny Wormald to commemorate the quatercentenary of the Union of the Crowns; and an 'Evening of Entertainment' with Alexander McCall Smith, bestselling author of 'The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency'.

Our association with the Edinburgh Book Festival continued with two events. The NLS Donald Dewar Lecture was given by Lord Steel on 18 August. This memorial lecture was created by the Library with the approval of Donald Dewar's family as a way of marking the contribution of Scotland's First Minister and his abiding interest in the world of books and intellectual effort. The second event was tied in to the theme of the Library's summer exhibition: entitled 'Edinburgh & The Enlightenment', it was given by James Buchan whose new book 'Capital of the Mind' concentrates on the era when Edinburgh was the intellectual centre of the Western world.

Tours and visits to the Library are also proving increasingly popular. Hundreds of people enjoyed guided tours of the Library's George IV Bridge Building on Doors Open Day in September. Behind-the-scenes tours of the Library were also given to celebrate World Book Day in March. A number of school parties enjoyed sessions given by the Library on early printed books.

In May 2003, we collaborated with the British Cartographic Society, the Charles Close Society and Edinburgh University Library to organise the 15th Edinburgh 3-Day Event. This brought together amateur and professional map enthusiasts from all backgrounds: curators and collectors, researchers and bibliographers, and producers and publishers.

The winners of the annual Robert Louis Stevenson Award were announced in September. Administered jointly with the Scottish Arts Council, the award offers a unique opportunity for writers in Scotland to spend a two-month period working in the Hotel Chevillon, an international arts centre in France. This year's winners were Louise Welsh (author of the acclaimed first novel 'The Cutting Room'), Donal McLaughlin and Gavin Bowd.


The Library loaned rare printed material for exhibitions at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh ('Iona: Island of Inspiration'), MART, Roverto, Italy ('Montagna'), Edinburgh Castle/National Archives of Scotland ('The Universal King: James VI and the Union of the Crowns') and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery for its exhibition 'Patrick Geddes: The French Connection'. We loaned the last letter of Mary, Queen of Scots to The Art Fund's centenary exhibition at London's Hayward Gallery, and an important early 16th-century illuminated St Augustine manuscript to an exhibition in the Austrian city of Graz, to celebrate its election as European City of Culture.

Partnership and collaboration

As Scotland's national library we have a key role to play in nationwide collection development and access strategy. We already work closely with professional library organisations such as the Scottish Library Information Council and Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries (SCURL).

We continued our active involvement in SCURL's North American Studies Group, and have taken up full membership of the Association of European Migration Institutes (AEMI), in order to promote our Scottish emigration holdings in the context of European collaboration. We are also on the steering group for the Virtual Emigration Museum initiative, a project born out of developments in ancestral tourism and the Scottish Executive's New Strategy for Scottish Tourism.

Scotland's national Robert Burns archive is distributed between a variety of institutions, and the Library is part of a working group which aims to promote joint working to preserve the collections and promote public access.

The Library has a national role in improving the distribution of book resources, and ensuring that 'last copies' of material for inter-library lending are retained within Scottish libraries. After the Scottish Borders Library Service contacted us for guidance on its reserve stock, we checked some 37,000 of their records against known Scottish holdings, and the Library was asked to retain about 7% of the items.

The Scottish Books Exchange provides a mechanism for distributing surplus Scottish material within Scotland. We have now replaced the old paper system with a new electronic service: librarians can access the list of available items through a password protected website, and add any 'offers' of their own.

In the field of rare books, we have been working to create a network of specialists in libraries throughout Scotland.

Collaborative Academic Store for Scotland (CASS)

A common problem for high level and academic researchers is access to little-used material. Items may be available only in one or two locations, and be at risk of disposal due to shortage of space.

Using the Collaborative Academic Store for Scotland, infrequently requested journals and books will be retained for future consultation, at a central storage and distribution facility. The service will improve access to specialist material, and at the same time reduce duplication and free up shelf space in libraries all over Scotland.

When the initial project proposal failed to attract funding from within the Scottish higher education sector, the Library stepped in to ensure that the pilot project could be set up. The Inter Library Services division is responsible for processing and delivering material from the CASS store to member libraries in print and electronic formats. Using the Library's Voyager system, online searches will give access to journals and other items, delivered electronically to the user's desktop, and items can be ordered electronically using the Voyagers system's 'callslip' facility. By the end of June 2004, six institutions had deposited CASS material at our Causewayside building, where it will be processed and made available for lending.

The project is attracting worldwide interest: although there are existing collaborative stores, this will be the first to operate through collective ownership of the material. The most important outcome of the project will be that material that might otherwise have been lost will be retained in Scotland for the benefit of students, academics and general users. The future development of a full CASS service as a central part of academic information provision in Scotland is an integral part of the Library's strategy.

The Gale Project

Working to a demanding target of 10,000 microfilm frames per month, the Library is supplying duplicate negative microfilm for the major microfilm series 'The Eighteenth Century', published by Gale International Ltd.

The project involves around 10,000 18th-century English language and British published works, and the process allows us to check cataloguing of NLS items in the English Short Title Catalogue as we go. This will also provide us with a large quantity of preservation masters of unique or rare items.

As well as receiving royalties from 'The Eighteenth Century', our agreement with Gale leaves us free to use our copies of the microfilms for future NLS digitisation projects.


During the Newsplan project, millions of newspaper pages which might otherwise have been irrevocably damaged through age and handling are being preserved on archival standard microfilm.

The Library is co-ordinating the project for Scotland, and microfilms of early newspapers are now reaching public libraries all over Scotland. The Library has agreed to purchase a copy of all the Scottish newspaper titles, adding some 10,000 reels of microfilm to our own collections.


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