The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 requires the National Library of Scotland to produce and maintain a publication scheme. We have chosen to adopt the Scottish Information Commissioner's Model Publication Scheme.
What follows is a guide to our information about who we are, what we do, and how we do it. We will tell you about:
- Availability and formats
- Exempt information
- Who to contact about access to information
- The classes of information (with links to what is available online)
Page last updated: 29 September 2020.
Availability and formats
Here you can find information about the National Library of Scotland that we make available on our website without request. We offer alternative arrangements for people who do not want to, or cannot, access the information online. For example, we can usually arrange to send information to you in paper copy, although there may be a photocopying and postage charge for this. (See 'Charges' paragraphs'.)
You can make a request online for access to any information that we have on record that isn't in our publication scheme under the terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
If you prefer, you can write to:
Intellectual Property Officer
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
We will publish the information we hold that falls within the classes of information below. If a document contains information that is exempt under Scotland's freedom of information laws (for example where personal data is involved), we will remove or 'black out' the information before publication and explain why.
Requests for information from our collections
Sometimes people make FOI requests for access to information in books and other items in our collections. These requests are nearly always exempt under section 25 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act, because this information is already in the public domain.
If your request is for information from our collections rather than for information about the Library as an organisation, you can ask a question online.
Because of our role as a library, it is important to note that copyright applies to two different kinds of information in a different way:
- Our own corporate information — that is, information that we produce about our business or in the course of our business
- Material in our collections (books, manuscripts, maps and so on).
Library corporate information
Without formal permission you can copy or reproduce Library corporate information — reports, statistics, policies and procedures, corporate correspondence, and so on — where we hold the copyright, provided that:
- It is copied or reproduced accurately
- It is not used in a misleading context, and
- The source of the material is identified.
Material in our collections
Copyright restrictions are likely to apply to material in our collections. Our website has information about:
With the exception of our commercial publications in class 8, all of the information in our publication scheme is free and is usually available online. Hard copies of the information can also be provided on request to the Intellectual Property Officer (contact details below).
You do not have to pay for:
- Any information downloaded from our website
- A single copy of any corporate document
- Information sent in electronic format as an email attachment
- Copies of any corporate publications which are already printed and available for free.
You may have to pay for:
- Printing or photocopying costs of 10p per page (unless your request is for fewer than 50 pages or if it is a single document)
- Information provided on CD-ROM (which will be charged at 50p per computer disc)
- Postage or other delivery (Royal Mail first class).
You will have to pay for:
- Any commercial publications falling under class 8 of this scheme
- Reprographic costs for items from our national collections.
We will always tell you what the cost is before providing the information to you.
If you are dissatisfied with the accessibility of information in the Publication Scheme, or with the way in which we have dealt with your request for information, you may raise the matter with us or ask the Library to conduct a review of our decision(s) regarding your request. Please contact
Intellectual Property Officer
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
To begin a review of a decision we have made about your request, please contact us in writing (including by letter or email) or by another recorded form (for example, audio or video recording) and describe the original request, explain your dissatisfaction, and provide an address for correspondence.
You have 40 working days from receipt of our decision or response to your request to submit a request for review. We will respond within 20 working days of receipt of your request for review.
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of a review, you can launch an appeal with the Scottish Information Commissioner.
Classes of information
The information in our publication scheme is grouped into eight classes, which are as follows:
- Class 1: About the Library
- Class 2: How we deliver our functions and services
- Class 3: How the Library takes decisions and what we have decided
- Class 4: What the Library spends and how we spend it
- Class 5: How we manage our human, physical and information resources
- Class 6: How the Library procures goods and services from external providers
- Class 7: How the Library is performing
- Class 8: Our commercial publications
- Class 9: Our open data
Although we hope that the classes of information below will help you find the information that you want quickly, we know that there are always other ways to classify information (we are librarians after all). On our website you will also find:
Class 1: About the Library
General information about the Library
The National Library of Scotland is the successor to the historic library of the Faculty of Advocates, which opened off Edinburgh's Royal Mile in 1689. Today the Library is Scotland's foremost general research library and the world's leading repository for the printed and manuscript record of Scotland's history and culture.
We are the legal deposit library for Scotland, entitled to request a copy of all UK and Irish publications. Approximately 6,000 items a week reach us this way.
Three centuries after its foundation, the Library now holds 15 million printed books, seven million manuscripts items, almost two million maps, and 100,000 journal, magazine and newspaper titles.
Our principal address is:
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
Further general information about the Library:
Governance, legislation and legal status
The Library was established in 1925 by the National Library of Scotland Act 1925 (PDF) (103 KB; 8 pages). The governance of the Library was amended by the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985 (PDF) (77.4 KB; 6 pages). The Scottish Government passed the National Library of Scotland Act 2012 which further amended the governance of the Library.
We are governed by a Board, and managed by senior managers under the leadership of the National Librarian and Chief Executive, Dr John Scally.
- List of Board members
- Board Register of interests (PDF) (as at 31 July 2021) (149 KB; 11 pages)
- Code of Conduct (PDF) (293 KB; 19 pages)
- Scheme of Delegation (PDF) (214 KB; 7 pages)
- Standing Orders (PDF) (136 KB; 8 pages)
- Meetings minutes (from 2011)
We are a non-departmental public body, funded by the Scottish Government, reporting to the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs. The relationship between the Library and the Scottish Government is set out on the Framework Document:
- Framework Document (PDF) (246 KB; 15 pages)
We are also a Registered Scottish Charity (Scottish Charity No. SC011086).
We benefit greatly from our status as a legal deposit library, and have done since the library of the Faculty of Advocates was given this status in 1710. This status is currently conferred on us by the Legal Deposit Libraries Act, which was amended to reflect the increase in non-print publishing output.
Key corporate documents
- Reaching people: Library strategy 2020-2025 (PDF) (2.33 MB; 24 pages)
- Library Plan 2019-2020 (PDF) (1 MB; 34 pages)
The National Library of Scotland works especially closely with the other copyright libraries covered by the legal deposit legislation, specifically:
- The British Library
- The Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford
- Cambridge University Library
- The Library of Trinity College, Dublin
- National Library of Wales
The Agency for Legal Deposit Libraries (ALDL) manages the receipt of legal deposit material. The agency is jointly owned and funded by the legal deposit libraries. It operates from the National Library of Scotland's Causewayside building.
We collaborate with other nationwide and local library organisations, and also work closely with other collecting organisations in Scotland, principally:
- The National Records of Scotland
- The National Galleries of Scotland
- The National Museums Scotland
- The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
- Historic Environment Scotland.
You can read further information on our collaborative partnerships:
- Nationwide library collaboration
- Local and regional library networks
- NEWSPLAN Scotland
- Rare Books in Scotland
- Scottish Maps Forum
As a charitable organisation, we conduct fundraising activities to help to develop our collections and services. You can read online about our fundraising activities and how you can support the Library.
Keeping others informed
There are a number of other ways that you can find out about what we are currently doing:
Class 2: How we deliver our functions and services
The Library collects, preserves, and makes available millions of items to customers in Scotland and across the globe, both in our buildings and on our website.
Mainly because of the physical scale of our collections and the way we store them, but also for reasons of security and preservation, customers are unable to browse our miles and miles of shelves. Instead, customers can search our catalogues online or in person at the Library. Many of our digital collections can also be accessed on our website.
One of our key functions is to preserve our collections for future generations.
Everyone is welcome to use the National Library of Scotland. You can register to become a reader either online or in person at our George IV Bridge Building in Edinburgh. Use of our reading rooms and collections is governed by our terms and conditions.
For more information about our collections and services, see:
The Library is committed to widening the diversity of those who work here and those who use our collections and services. The Equality Act 2010 requires us to publish information about what we have been doing and what we plan to do to deliver equality and encourage diversity and good relations between people and communities.
Our Equalities Mainstreaming and Outcomes Report includes:
- Equality outcomes
- Equal pay (gender) audit
- Statement on equal pay and occupational segregation.
Equalities Mainstreaming and Outcomes Report — April 2019:
- Equalities Outcomes 2019 (PDF) (393 KB; 52 pages)
Equalities Mainstreaming and Outcomes Report — April 2017:
- Equalities Outcomes 2017 part 1 (PDF) (93 KB; 16 pages)
- Equalities Outcomes 2017 part 2 (PDF) (107 KB; 29 pages)
- Equalities Outcomes 2017 part 3 (PDF) (214 KB; 20 pages)
See other equalities documents on our Corporate documents page.
Although you are free to explore our collections for yourselves, you can also contact our collection specialists if you need help by using the 'Ask a Librarian' service, or by contacting a particular department.
We have put together some guides on our website for groups of people who may have a particular relationship with the Library, or who may benefit from further information. There are guides for:
- How to join
- First-time website visitors
- People with disabilities
Visit the 'Using the Library' pages for further information
Class 3: How the Library takes decisions and what we have decided
The Library is governed by a Board, and managed by the National Librarian and Chief Executive, Dr John Scally. Strategic decisions are made in line with the Library's strategy, 'The way forward', and the Library Plan. Strategic decisions are recorded in the minutes of the Library Leadership Team.
- Reaching people: Library strategy 2020-2025(PDF) (2.33 MB; 24 pages)
- Library Plan 2019-2020 (PDF) (1 MB; 34 pages)
- Library Plan 2018-2019 (PDF) (770 KB; 34 pages)
- Library Plan 2017-2018 (PDF) (119 KB; 28 pages)
Class 4: What the Library spends and how we spend it
Our annual report and accounts give a detailed breakdown on the funding that we receive and the things that we spend it on.
Under the terms of recent legislation (the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act), the Library now also publishes the following information on the following areas of expenditure:
- Public relations activities
- Overseas travel
- External consultancy
- Transactions over £25,000 and Government procurement card transactions over £500 are available on our Data Foundry website. Please note these datasets are presented in Microsoft Excel CSV format.
You can read details of our expenditure in these areas and information about the steps that we have taken to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the expenditure disclosure documents:
- 2019-2020 expenditure disclosures document (PDF) (161 KB; 4 pages)
- 2018-2019 expenditure disclosures document (PDF) (163 KB; 4 pages)
- 2017-2018 expenditure disclosures document (PDF) (46 KB; 4 pages)
- 2016-2017 expenditure disclosures document (PDF) (27 KB; 7 pages)
- 2015-2016 expenditure disclosures document (PDF) (56 KB; 5 pages)
- 2014-2015 expenditure disclosures document (PDF) (52 KB; 5 pages)
- 2013-2014 expenditure disclosures document (PDF) (31 KB; 5 pages)
- 2012-2013 expenditure disclosures document (PDF) (28 KB; 4 pages)
- 2011-2012 expenditure disclosures document (PDF) (38 KB; 5 pages).
We manage our finances and budgets in accordance with the following policies and supporting documentation:
- Budget holder's handbook
- Business Travel and Expenses Policy
- Fraud Prevention Policy (PDF) (60 KB; 6 pages)
- Fraud Response Policy (PDF) (49 KB; 3 pages)
- Gifts, Fees, Hospitality, Bribery and Corruption Policy (PDF) (82 KB: 6 pages)
Class 5: How the Library manages its human, physical and information resources
The Library employs approximately 300 people. We use an external recruitment system to advertise jobs online.
We have the following policies in place:
- Annual Leave Policy
- Attendance Management Policy
- Bullying and Harassment Policy
- Career Breaks Policy
- Code of Conduct
- Discipline and Grievance Policy
- Family Friendly Leave Policy
- Induction and Probation Policy
- Learning and Development Policy
- Performance Management Policy
- Recruitment Policy
- Redeployment Policy and Procedure
- Volunteers Policy
- Whistleblowing Policy (PDF) (83 KB; 5 pages)
The Library has eight buildings in total. Five are occupied by staff, and the other three are used for storage. We have four buildings in central Edinburgh, two buildings at Sighthill on the outskirts of Edinburgh, one premises at Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, and one at Kirkintilloch. We manage our estate in accordance with our Property Asset Management Plan.
In 2010 the Library made a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% over five years. By the end of March 2016, we had made a reduction of 47%.
You can read reports on recent progress we have made:
- 2019-2020 Public Sector Sustainability Report (PDF) (310 KB; 19 pages) — October 2020
- 2018-2019 Public Sector Sustainability Report (PDF) (306 KB; 18 pages) — June 2019
- 2017-2018 Public Sector Sustainability Report (PDF) (430 KB; 18 pages) — July 2018
- 2016-2017 Public Sector Sustainability report (PDF) (258 KB; 17 pages)
- 2015-2016 Public Sector Sustainability Report (PDF) (332 KB; 16 pages)
Health and Safety at the Library is managed in accordance with three policies:
- Health and Safety Policy (PDF) (1.6 MB; 13 pages)
- Fire Safety Policy (PDF) (393 KB; 29 pages)
- Asbestos Management Policy
In addition to our collections, we also hold corporate information about our business, our staff, and our customers. We manage these information resources in accordance with:
- Data Protection Policy (PDF) (270 KB; 32 pages)
- Information Security Policy (PDF) (210 KB; 14 pages)
- Retention schedules
We publish data relating to the use of facility time — paid time-off during working hours for trade union representatives to carry out trade union duties — in accordance with the Trade Union (Facility Time Publication Requirements) Regulations 2017. This data is also reported on the UK Government website.
- Facility time publication and statement 2020-2021 (PDF) (130 KB; 1 page)
Class 6: How the Library procures goods and services from external providers
As a public funded body, the National Library of Scotland has to procure its goods, services and construction-related activities sustainably, ethically, fairly and transparently in line with European Union and Scottish Government Guidance.
Our procurement documentation — including our procedures, policies and register of contracts awarded — is available online.
Class 7: How the Library is performing
On our website we publish both our annual report and accounts (which gives a statistical breakdown of our funding, spending, and statutory compliance), and an annual review, which looks at the performance and development of our services more generally.
We also publish our Mainstreaming Equality Reports and employee and board equality monitoring reports produced under the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012. See equalities documents on our website.
Class 8: Our commercial publications
In recent years we have published several books about Library collections and history, and occasionally we collaborate with other publishers.
We publish open data in accordance with Scotland's Open Data Strategy. Our Open Data Publication Plan and our open data are available on our Data site.