Annual Review 2004-2005

An overview of the Library's activities and collection acquisitions during the year 2004-2005.

Introduction from the Chairman and the National Librarian

This has been the first full year since the National Library of Scotland's new strategy, 'Breaking through the walls', was launched in March 2004 and it has been a period of tremendous change. These changes have been customer driven, informed by vigorous research and evaluation, and focused towards developing our collections, services and the ways in which NLS reaches out to the wider world.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to staff both new and long serving, not only for the consistent excellence and expertise with which they have performed their roles, but also for their commitment and positive response to the challenges such change brings. Our colleagues remain pivotal to achieving the ambitious strategic goals the Library has set itself.

This review reflects this by profiling staff in a cross-section of roles, both public facing and 'behind the scenes', which demonstrate the range of skills needed to serve a national library with changing customer needs and continually growing collections.

The year has seen a dramatic increase in outwardly focused activity such as exhibitions, events, outreach and consultation. This is due to the energy and efforts of multi-disciplinary teams working across the Library. We have also formulated a new strategy for the Digital National Library, which aims to improve access for the many people who are unable to come to Edinburgh. For those who can visit the Library, we have been developing plans to create more welcoming public spaces in our buildings, reflecting the changing face of the Library as it continues to evolve in the coming years.

Our relationship with the wider world remains central to our future success and we have explored partnerships with organisations in virtually every relevant sphere of learning, research, culture, heritage and public service over the past year.

Our mission to enrich lives through celebrating and preserving the recorded culture of Scotland and Scots, here and abroad, continues to be reflected in the varied and unique material collected during the year and the creativity and insight of our staff in finding fresh and interesting ways of sharing it with the people of Scotland and beyond.

Offering excellent collections, services and expertise for all remains at the heart of everything we do. The initiatives of the past year detailed within this year's Review give ourselves, the National Librarian and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, every confidence that this aspiration remains a reality thanks to our colleagues, supporters and partners.

Martyn Wade, National Librarian
Professor Michael Anderson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Listening to customers

We completed a comprehensive schedule of market research and user consultation for the first time during 2004-2005. Our primary focus was on the views of both existing and potential users about the Library, its services and activities. The results of the research are now being used to help plan activities, and to set measurements for future achievements.

The research looked at customer satisfaction, perceptions, website usability and web feature content. We also drew results from a National Omnibus Survey, which gives a statistically balanced representation of opinions from across Scotland to gauge awareness of NLS and our range of services.

The market research results led to the development of a new corporate identity for NLS. As a visual expression of the new open direction that NLS is taking, our new logo has been well received by both internal and external stakeholders.

Research into the expectations of those searching the website for digitised content has influenced the NLS digitisation strategy.

We are committed to a continuing programme of market research and stakeholder consultation. Annual Omnibus Surveys will measure our progress in raising awareness.

Improving access

Physical facilities

'Breaking through the walls', the new strategy we unveiled in March 2004, stressed the importance of increasing access to our collections by removing barriers, both physical and perceived. One immediately apparent barrier is the design and lay-out of our physical facilities, in particular the front hall of our George IV Bridge building, the site which houses the majority of our reading room services.

Plans have been made to redevelop the ground floor of the building, to make it a more open, informative and welcoming space for all visitors. The building's imposing façade will be improved with special lighting and backlit window displays to give a better indication of the scope of events, exhibitions and activities taking place inside.

The entrance area will eventually be transformed into an information gateway, with an open-access suite of computer terminals and a more relaxed environment. Visitors will then be able to browse our catalogue and other services, prior to actually applying for a reader's ticket. The security desk will be moved out of the entrance area and a readers' café area is also planned to convey a more inviting impression for visitors. We will also improve physical access for disabled readers and increase reading room capacity for all users.

During the year a project team of designers, architects and planners was established to oversee the first phase of this vital project, which is planned for completion by mid-2006.

Reader services

Alongside the advances made by our Digital Library and online services, we are also making significant steps towards modernising the systems and technology available to reading room users.

One major development in improving the delivery of reader services was the introduction of the online book request system in September 2004. This facility means that users can check availability in advance of their visit and have their materials ready to consult upon arrival. More than 60% of all requests for material consulted in the General Reading Room are now made through the online system.

Further improvements planned for 2005-2006 include a self-registration scheme for readers, the introduction of smartcard technology and wireless broadband internet.

Education and Interpretative Services

Our continuing mission to widen access and reach out to communities outside our traditional audience saw significant developments in 2004-2005, with the establishment of a year round exhibition and events programme for the first time in the Library's history boasting a 34% increase in visitor numbers to the four seasonal exhibitions.


Our task to promote understanding of the significance of the John Murray Archive began in earnest in April 2004, with the launch of the public exhibition, 'Four O'Clock Friends'. The archive's rich spoils of manuscripts and private correspondence of many of the 19th century's most accomplished writers, scientists, explorers and politicians were used as the basis for this exhibition. The work of influential figures such as Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Darwin and David Livingstone, to name but a few, were showcased.

By contrast, our summer exhibition turned the spotlight on altogether less literary themes. 'Read all about it!' uncovered the story of the press over the past four centuries, demonstrating to thousands of fascinated visitors just how much — and how little — the press has changed over the years. This covered everything from the 17th century Scottish broadsides (tabloid-style street handbills) dealing in sensational and often bawdy tales of body-snatching, wife-selling, robbery and executions, to the 'Sunday Sport'' reporting of the 'discovery' of a bus on the North Pole. Interactive elements such as the 'create your own headline' board were a popular innovation, affirming our policy to engage and educate visitors in a variety of inventive ways.

Scholarly audiences were also catered for with 'The private lives of books' and Ian Hamilton Finlay exhibitions. 'The private lives of books' explored book provenance (the history behind the ownership of books), drawing on material from classic literary figures such as Robert Louis Stevenson to popular contemporary figures such as J K Rowling and Sir Alex Ferguson. The exhibition caught the imagination of both visiting school children and international research librarians, whom the Library entertained while hosting the annual Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) conference in November 2004.

'Ian Hamilton Finlay: Of conceits and collaborators' was part of a wider celebration of the great poet and artist's 80th birthday, focusing on his collaborations with other artists and craftspeople. The exhibition gave us the opportunity to make connections between the material in our own collections and stunning visual art material such as the photography of his landscape idyll, Little Sparta, giving interpretative insights into his working practices with other established artists.

Education and outreach

The exhibitions provided inspiration for a variety of engaging education workshops for all levels of learners this year, with hundreds of school pupils from across Scotland visiting the Library. Teachers' packs and resources designed specifically to sustain involvement with young learners were produced for Read all about it!' The foundations for an effective outreach programme were laid during the year, with plans to work closely with under-represented groups from all parts of the community, including children and young people, older people, those with a disability and others who might be socially excluded.


The Library has also strengthened its reputation as a place for debate and cultural learning with a broad programme of events, in terms of both subject matter and format. In addition to the roster of lectures, talks and debates visitors have come to expect, we have hosted events as varied as an internationally flavoured Burns Night of music, song and celebration and a street theatre production with students from Queen Margaret University College's drama department.

Other highlights included a historical news quiz chaired by Magnus Magnusson, printing workshops and even the arrival of spiders and snakes through the Library's doors, via our innovative Zoo Lab project, as part of the Glasgow Science Festival.

The diversity of our events programme has been instrumental in not only boosting event visitor numbers to over 3,000 a year, but crucially in reaching groups who do not normally use our services.

Topical events that sparked the imagination and stoked debate achieved equal prominence to those that reflect the Library's mainstay themes of scholarly literature and history. Topics included Stuart Cosgrove on sports journalism, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook on the Iraq War, historian Tom Devine on European migration and writer Liz Lochhead and singer Carol Laula bringing poetry and passion to the Library on Valentine's Night.

The Collections

Rare Books

An interesting variety of rare printed items were acquired this year, indicating the international influence of renowned Scottish writers and philosophers. This included the first Italian translation of David Hume's 'Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth' from 1752, a Swedish translation of Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations' from 1804 and pamphlets by Colonel Alexander Beatson, the Governor of St Helena, a small island in the South Atlantic from 1812 which indicates the long history of Scots' influence abroad.

We purchased a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's copy of 'Burns' Poetical Works' illustrated with woodcuts by Bewick, which stirred interest when displayed at 'The Private Lives of Books' exhibition. As a result of the 'Read All About It!' exhibition, an extremely rare Greenock newspaper of 1850, printed on calico, was donated by a reader. Highlights from our illustrated acquisitions included 'Representation of the Highlanders' from 1743, a handsome Bible from 1772, 'The Poster: An Illustrated Monthly Chronicle' and two titles produced by William Morris' Kelmscott Press, which completed our collection of Kelmscott publications intended for public sale.

Items from our Rare Book collections were used in 'The Private Lives of Books' exhibition, which complemented the provenance (book ownership) theme of this year's Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) conference.

Rare Book staff were engaged with promotional activities throughout the year, working with education groups at all levels, delivering workshops and organising displays for a wide variety of visiting groups.


Principal accessions included substantial additional material from Dame Muriel Spark, adding to our already extensive collection of the author's papers, letters, diaries and photographs. This material is very recent and includes research papers for her latest novel, 'The finishing school'.

A major donation came in the form of the archive of James Thin from 1848 to 2004. The records of the Edinburgh bookselling firm are an important addition to our holdings of printing, publishing and bookselling archives. Although this world-famous business is no longer trading, its records are now available to those researching Scottish book-trade history.

Other key accessions included papers of the poet W S Graham, including pictorial items, as well as two letters from Jacob Wainwright, David Livingstone's African servant who accompanied the explorer's body back to England. The papers of Alastair Reid, the Scottish literary critic on the staff of 'The New Yorker', were also purchased. We also received as a bequest the papers of former NLS trustee, Dr Janet Adam Smith (1905-1999), which reflect her position at the centre of British literary life over many decades.

The Manuscripts Division was heavily involved in the Library's preparations for the implementation of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, which came into force on 1 January 2005, as well as undertaking substantial work towards the Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the John Murray Archive (see pages 18-19). Material and ideas were provided for several exhibitions including 'The Private Lives of Books' and 'Four O'Clock Friends'. In common with other divisions, there were promotional activities throughout the year, including workshops, seminars, displays and visits.


Celebrations for the 350th anniversary of Scotland's first atlas, by Joan Blaeu, were a focal point for the Map Division's outreach activity this year. The anniversary inspired a winter exhibition: 'Scotland's First Atlas: The nation displayed by Joan Blaeu', which was accompanied both by a host of public talks and the particularly well attended Scottish Maps Forum seminar 'Look at Scotland and enjoy a feast for the eyes', which was organised in collaboration with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

Significant progress was made towards modernising the Map Library's catalogue, with over 40,000 records converted from paper to online records, allowing readers to find these items with greater ease and speed.

Major donations included a plan of the River Tweed from 1774, used to rectify a fishing dispute of the time and some early coastal charts of Britain, Scandinavia and mainland Europe from the 1660s.

A notable acquisition was made of a Perthshire estate plan by Thomas Winter from 1751. This vast map documents the land belonging to the great-grandson of George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, the founder of the Advocates Library, on which the Library's historical foundations are built.

This year has also seen the arrival of a variety of maps pertaining to the wider world, including detailed maps of many eastern European countries released in the post-Soviet era, as well as North Korean atlases, all of which are of great potential interest to those researching global politics. We have also acquired maps of remote reaches such as Burkina Faso in west Africa, as well as a mid-19th century map published in Scotland to encourage and inform emigrants to New Zealand.

Legal Deposit

As one of six legal deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland, we have the right to claim a free copy of all UK and Irish publications. Although we have a special responsibility to acquire material of Scottish interest, this privilege has enabled the Library to build an extensive general collection (over 13 million items) on all subjects. A full lorry load of material (roughly 6,500 items) arrives weekly from publishers and a wide range of organisations and individuals, representing many different sectors of the community.

This year we acquired nearly a quarter of a million items by legal deposit, including books, pamphlets, periodical parts, maps and music. Deposited titles were as diverse as Kim Johnson's graphic novel 'Superman: True Brit', Chris Clarke's 'The science of ice cream', the Western Isles Local Biodiversity Action Plan and the 'Auchterarder local history newsletter'.

We were pleased to host the Scottish launch event for the 'Oxford Dictionary of National Biography', which joined our collection. This set of 60 volumes documents the stories of more than 50,000 people who contributed to British life in any remarkable way and who passed away before the end of 2000.

An innovative system for requesting and receiving local Scottish material directly is being implemented which will help us to identify any gaps in our collections, thus making them more comprehensive for our users.

Electronic legal deposit

Following the implementation of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act in 2003, work continues towards extending the regulations to include electronic publications with the setting up of the statutory Advisory Panel. This will govern how we will collect electronic publications in the coming years, from CD ROMs and electronic journals to websites and databases. In the meantime, we continue to collect hand-held electronic material under the Voluntary Code agreed with publishers, and to investigate voluntary collection of online materials in collaboration with publishers and the other legal deposit libraries.

As a member of the UK Web Archiving Consortium (UKWAC), we are responsible for collecting and archiving websites of Scottish cultural interest, while investigating solutions to the challenges of preserving this material in the longer term as the software and technology deteriorate and become obsolete.

Official Publications

Our collection of Official Publications represents around a fifth of our total holdings, receiving over 40,000 printed items per year, plus an increasing amount of 'born-digital' publications. We are a repository for both the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments and not only house publications from UK Government departments but also those from Eire, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Pakistan, Australia and the USA. Additionally, this collection includes publications from major international organisations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organisation.

With support from NLS Foreign Collections, which has reinstated the purchasing of South Asian materials, we have concentrated our efforts on promoting and developing our India Papers Collection, which comprises publications from the Imperial government and many Indian states. This collection documents an important chapter of colonial history, containing items from the post-Mutiny period to Indian Independence in 1947. A display in 2004 highlighted the diversity of this collection.


The Music service continued to acquire material through legal deposit, purchase and donation. A notable donation was received from the granddaughter of Hugh S Roberton, founding director of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir. The donation includes material relating to the choir as well as music from the Roberton music publishing house.

We are contributing to an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project to catalogue collections of concert programmes and related ephemera held in institutions in the UK and Ireland. Since our early involvement with the initial scoping study, NLS has played a lead role in the Scottish project. We have also contributed more widely to a related international working group, notably through a presentation at this year's International Association of Music Libraries conference in Oslo.

The service was active on the outreach front throughout the year, contributing to our Valentine's Night event, 'The Private Lives of Books' exhibition, mounting a display in the entrance hall of our George IV Bridge building on the 19th century Scottish composer John Thomson, and giving tours of the music collections, as well as a workshop for music students.

Business Information

SCOTBIS is our national business information service, used by Scottish, UK and international businesses ranging in size from sole traders to major companies. Research undertaken during the period as part of a Best Value Review confirmed that SCOTBIS has an important role to play in supporting economic development and enterprise and contributing towards the Scottish Executive's vision for a smart, successful Scotland.

Thorough research among the business community with both users and non-users revealed that the service had a crucial role in providing national business information for the people of Scotland and beyond. It also suggested that there was scope to raise the profile of SCOTBIS and as a result a detailed marketing strategy was devised which will be implemented by Spring 2006.

Another key recommendation suggested opening access to areas of the SCOTBIS website currently restricted to subscribers to reflect our strategy of widening participation.

Enquiries to SCOTBIS rose by 34% this year, showing the obvious demand for this unique collection which is the largest of its kind in Scotland. New additions include the complete set of reports published by MSI Marketing Research for Industry.

Our extensive market research collection (over 14,000 holdings) is now not only the largest collection of its kind outwith the British Library but, in the case of some specific reports, we are the only publicly accessible library in the world to hold such data. The wide range of our printed business collections and electronic resources, including the annual reports of all Scottish quoted companies and over 1,000 trade journals and trade directories, can benefit start-up enterprises or any growing company seeking up-to-date market data and analysis.

Science Information

A wide range of scientific and technical material can be accessed through our Science Information Service. In addition to printed collections, we subscribe to several electronic databases, such as 'ScienceDirect', 'ISI Web of Knowledge', 'Journal Citation Reports' and 'Ei Compendex'. One area of stock frequently consulted is our collection of British Standards. We are one of the few libraries to hold a complete set of both current and superseded printed Standards.

The Science Service continued to support promotional activities this year. This included involvement with the Edinburgh International Science Festival with a display exploring 'Genetics Then and Now', providing opportunities to link contemporary knowledge to historical material. Alongside recently published material on GM crops, DNA fingerprinting and the Human Genome Project was a first edition of Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species', papers on the work of Gregor Mendel, and the 1953 Nature article by Watson and Crick on the structure of DNA.

Foreign Collections

The Library continued its commitment to purchasing publications from overseas. A number of acquisitions were made from the USA and Commonwealth countries dealing with the Scottish diaspora, for example 'Scottish immigrants in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: Their onomastic legacy' by W Watson Buchanan and a more personal account, 'From Scotland to the English river: An account of the Carmichaels, Craigs, McKells & Templetons', by Jean Furcall and Donna Templeton. Notable reference works acquired included the four-volume 'Hawaiian national bibliography 1780-1900'.

We have continued to develop our South Asian collections, renewing our commitment to extending and promoting our collection of materials from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. A large number of current titles covering colonial and post-colonial history and literature of the subcontinent were added to the collections. The provision of South Asian dictionaries, encyclopaedias, sacred texts, and reference works in general was also increased.


The Library has benefited from the generosity of more than 540 donors this year. Our donors range from private individuals to corporate bodies, providing us with a wealth of varied and often startling material. We receive material in all types of formats from print to electronic, and in many languages including Hebrew, Arabic, Japanese and Russian.

The year has seen some unusual donations, such as a pattern and sample book of crests, company letterheads, typefaces and fonts produced by the firm of printers T R Dale, dating from ca. 1950, accompanied by one box of 11 engraved plates and 79 printing blocks and plates.

Major donations included the Jackson Collection of 600 Faroese books, the Elizabeth Clark Collection amounting to ca. 1,000 books of mainly mountaineering and related subjects and the Naismith Collection of 52 maps, manuscripts and architectural books.



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