Introduction by the National Librarian and Chief Executive
'Whatever Scotland was, is, or may become, politically, culturally, educationally, geographically, historically, this place holds its stories, and the stories of the world also reside in Scotland here. This is one of the foundation stones of who we are, why we are who we are, and it will remain long after all of us gathered here tonight are gone. This is what makes it such a special place.'
That is what the award-winning novelist James Robertson said of the role of the National Library of Scotland at an event in 2012. The memory of Scotland lives within our collections and we are committed to providing access to these riches to assist as many people as possible to learn and understand about their past.
It is always gratifying to hear positive comments on how we are discharging this very important responsibility. In the past year the 'special place' that James Robertson refers to became even more special. There were a number of new developments which improve the services we offer to our users. These include the opening of a new special collections reading room; preparatory work to start harvesting and collecting digital content such as e-books, e-journals and websites; the acquisition of important new items and the further development of our programme to digitise material from our collections and make it more widely available through our website.
One of the most significant developments was the passage of the National Library of Scotland 2012 Act into law. It updates our powers and functions and replaces previous legislation enacted in 1925. This strengthens the role of NLS in safeguarding and sharing knowledge for current and future generations. It also reduces the size of our Board of Trustees.
The former Controller of BBC Radio 4 and founder of Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature, James Boyle, joined as our new Chair, replacing Professor Michael Anderson who stood down after 12 years. I would like to pay particular tribute to Michael under whose chairmanship the Library has developed into a modern, forward thinking, welcoming organisation which has considerably widened access to its collections. Our thanks go to him for his many years of service.
Our exhibitions and events continue to be extremely popular and are attracting increasing numbers of people into the Library. Through this programme we aim to encourage people to learn about the rich culture of Scotland and hope that they are also entertained in the process.
Preparations continued throughout the year in anticipation of the approval of regulations which would give the Library the legal right to collect and store electronic publications in the same way that printed publications have been collected for centuries. This is a landmark development that will allow us to archive valuable digital information and save it for future generations.
We are always looking for new ways to raise awareness of the riches in our collections and to share these with as many people as possible both within Scotland and further afield. We have an active programme of engagement with schools and continue to form partnerships and build relationships with many organisations.
We believe the National Library of Scotland is 'a special place' but it is not restricted to our buildings in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The opportunities available through electronic communication give us the capacity to bring this special place to many more people. Through the work of our dedicated and skilled staff, we will continue to reach as many of them as possible.
National Librarian and Chief Executive
Enriching the collections
The collections at the National Library of Scotland span the centuries, from early times to the digital age, housing millions of books, manuscripts, music and maps covering virtually every subject. They total more than 15 million items and we add around 5,000 new ones every week.
Within this huge volume of material, there are too many special additions to the collections this year to mention but the following were particularly noteworthy:
- A prized collection of papers and books relating to Robert Louis
Stevenson which is said to have few rivals in the world was
donated to the National Library of Scotland and Edinburgh's Napier
University. The collection was built up over 50 years by the
leading independent Stevenson scholar Dr Ernest Mehew who died last
It consists of more than 40 boxes of papers and some 2,000 books, and includes first editions, rarities, biographies, collections of letters, reference books, critical studies and bound copies of the magazines where Stevenson's work first appeared.
Items from the Fermor archive.
He is regarded as a central figure in understanding and appreciating mid-20th-century culture. The archive consists of literary manuscripts and typescripts, correspondence with leading figures — including the poet Sir John Betjeman — photographs, passports, portrait sketches and personal papers, including visitor books and various honours awarded to Leigh Fermor. One of the star items is the only surviving notebook from his youthful trek across Europe.
Acquisition of this archive adds to the wealth of travel literature at NLS and cements the Library's reputation as being at the forefront of 20th-century travel literature research collections
- Letters which tell the story of a remarkable friendship that
inspired one of Scotland's greatest modern writers, George Mackay
Mackay Brown was 64 when he first met Kenna Crawford who, at 26, was less than half his age. That was in 1986 and over the next few years around 100 handwritten letters and several poems were sent by Mackay Brown to the woman who was his last muse. He credited her with inspiring a new period of creativity after a time when he had written very little. The letters and poems enrich the Library's existing Mackay Brown archive which includes many of his important literary papers and correspondence, much of it with other writers.
The key to the Library's collecting is the legal deposit privilege, which entitles us to claim a copy of all printed items published in the UK and Ireland. This privilege (unique to NLS in Scotland) has been responsible for the acquisition of most of our collections for almost 300 years. We welcomed the approval of regulations which extend this privilege to cover publications that appear in a digital form including blogs, e-books and the entire UK web domain.
NLS has worked closely with other legal deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland on developing the systems needed to collect, process and make available digital content within terms agreed by the content's owners. This will ensure that ephemeral materials like websites can be made available to future generations of researchers and will preserve a record of life and society in the UK in the 21st century.
Our exhibitions and events attracted more than 87,500 visitors in 2012-13, comfortably beating targets that had been set. Our summer exhibition looked back at 120 years of cinema and cinema-going in Scotland from the romantic Hollywood image of heather clad hills in 'Brigadoon' to grim urban worlds of contemporary life in films such as 'Trainspotting'. Over the winter months we celebrated the success of the famous Scottish mapmaking firm of John Bartholomew & Son which was world renowned for the quality of its maps.
In addition we presented a series of smaller displays on topics that ranged from American independence, the bi-centenary of publication of Grimms' 'Fairy tales', the 75th anniversary of the appearance of the first ever 'Dandy' comic and a celebration of the achievements of Scottish women of science. The display on American independence is to be taken to the US during 2013 to share material from our collections with an international audience. We staged 27 talks and events throughout the year which attracted a record number of visitors.
This included our popular 'Inspirations' series where prominent Scots are asked to reflect on what has inspired them throughout their lives. This year the Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin and the broadcasters Sally Magnusson and Kirsty Wark entertained audiences with their inspirations which were illustrated with items from the Library's collections.
As part of the promotion of our summer exhibition, we ran a competition on Facebook asking people to put a famous line from the movies into Scots. This proved to be enormously popular with more than 1300 entries and won a Marketing Society Award for the best public sector campaign in Scotland. The competition was part of our continuing work to promote the Library through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Audience figures across these platforms more than doubled throughout the year.
NLS has made it on to a global list of the 100 libraries that provide 'great content' on Facebook. The list has been compiled by a US based academic librarian Matt Anderson who placed NLS 37th on his list of libraries which he says are worth following on Facebook. To put this into context there are some 120,000 libraries in the US alone, including many major institutions.
At the same time, we have developed facilities in our flagship building at George IV Bridge in Edinburgh where a new Special Collections Reading Room was opened by Scotland's Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop. It is a further step in improving research facilities and enhancing the experience of using the Library. The specially designed reading room offers a number of advantages over the previous reading facilities including a doubling of the space from 18 to 40 desks, quicker access to material in the collections and improved security. It is designed for consulting material from the Library's special collections such as manuscripts, rare books and music. It includes audio-visual facilities which make it easier for people to use the Library's audio collections which comprise some 6,000 items.
Not everyone can make it to our buildings in Edinburgh to view the collections or visit our exhibitions and we are committed to developing other ways of sharing the knowledge contained within the Library as widely as possible.
Making more of our collections available online is crucial in opening up access to the information and knowledge they contain. In the past year we digitised a further 705,000 objects to add to the millions of items already available in digital format. This includes 700 historic Scottish Post Office directories dating from 1773 to 1911. They can now be viewed and downloaded for free from anywhere in the world. They have proved hugely popular with more than a million web sessions recorded for this part of our website in its first year.
A special section has been developed on the NLS website called the Learning Zone, specifically for school students. A new tool called Project Blaster was added this year with the aim of helping pupils develop basic research and critical thinking skills in a fun and creative way. It has been designed to meet Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence.
We sponsor events at book festivals across Scotland to connect with local audiences. This included events at the Borders, Ullapool, Lennoxlove, Aye Right and Boswell festivals, as well as the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
A partnership with Scottish Ballet and the Scotsman newspaper was the vehicle for two short story writing competitions for adults and schoolchildren that attracted entries from all over Scotland. This asked budding writers to re-imagine the Hansel and Gretel story and some of the ideas will be used in Scottish Ballet's forthcoming production of the famous tale.
The NLS magazine 'Discover' ['Discover NLS'], which is offered free to the public, won one of the top prizes at the Institute of Internal Communication Scottish awards for the best use of imagery. A front cover from 'Discover' was also nominated in the Scottish Magazine awards as the cover of the decade.
Three photographs from our collections were included in a list considered to be among the most prized images in public collections around the world. Flickr Commons, an online catalogue of the world's public photographic archives, created a gallery of its most viewed and best liked images to celebrate its fifth anniversary. NLS has posted hundreds of photographs on the archive and Flickr Commons chose two pictures of soldiers during WWI and one of construction of the Forth Rail Bridge for its birthday gallery.
Strong media coverage throughout the year helped to increase awareness of the Library's work. This had an advertising value of £2.5 million – the highest total ever achieved by NLS.
This was an important year in the Library's history, marked with the passage of the National Library of Scotland 2012 Act into law. The legislation updates our powers and functions and replaces previous legislation enacted in 1925. It also reduces the size of the Board of Trustees.
The 2012 Act defines the functions of the Library in law for the first time. It states that NLS has the particular functions of:
- Preserving, conserving and developing its collections
- Making the collections accessible to the public and to persons wishing to carry out study and research
- Exhibiting and interpreting objects in the collections, and
- Promoting collaboration and the sharing of good practice with and between other persons providing library and information services, and the adoption of good practice by those persons.
It also states that NLS is to exercise its functions with a view to:
- Encouraging education and research
- Promoting understanding and enjoyment of the collections
- Promoting the diversity of persons accessing the collections, and
- Contributing to understanding of Scotland's national culture.
The new Board of Trustees was established under the Act and began work on setting up its new operational structures.
The Library's current strategy 'Connecting knowledge' covers the period to 2014. Priority is being given to replacing this with a six-year strategic plan that will set out a vision for the development of the Library through to 2020. A comprehensive programme of consultation will take place to ensure that the new strategy meets the needs of all current and potential Library users.
Plans to offer NLS services at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow continue to develop as a part of a £25.5 million project with Glasgow Life and the University of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum. This involves relocating the Library's Scottish Screen Archive, establishing a Scottish National Sound Archive and providing full access to the Library's extensive digital collections at the new location.
Our collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland to create shared back office services continues to develop. A pilot managed service is in place for NLS to deliver HR [human resources] services to both organisations and it is anticipated this will become the first formal service during 2013.
A new streamlined management structure has been introduced and work began on a new pay system which is essential to ensure that NLS is operating at maximum efficiency, given the difficult economic climate facing all public services.
The Library has exceeded targets to reduce emissions and save money on energy usage. In 2010 the Library made a commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2014/15. In 2012/13 emissions reduced by 36% on the baseline year. The Library now uses 2.4 megawatts less energy, consumes 3750 cubic meters less water, recycles 37% more waste and staff travel 700,000 less kilometres than four years ago.
Fellowships of the National Library of Scotland have been awarded to two individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the work of NLS over many years. Lady Janet Balfour is a former NLS Trustee and Chair of the Library's Development Committee. Dr William Zachs is a scholar and long term supporter of the Library who also sits on the Board of the American Patrons of the National Library and National Galleries of Scotland.
The new NLS Act recognises the important leadership role that the Library plays in collecting and sharing knowledge and information for the benefit of people across Scotland.
Collaboration with a wide variety of different agencies, organisations and individuals is part of our daily work. We regularly offer loans of material from the Library to other institutions to support their work.
Some of the notable developments in 2012/13 included:
- Supporting the first ever Book Week Scotland — the country's first national celebration of books — which was officially launched at NLS
- Hosting a visit to the Library for the Tibetan spiritual leader' the Dalai Lama' in partnership with the Edinburgh Inter Faith Association and other organisations
- Producing a DVD of film clips of everyday life in 20th-century Scotland to help people with dementia. The clips from the Scottish Screen Archive can be used to trigger memories in people with dementia. NLS worked with the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at the University of Stirling to make 1,000 copies of the DVD available to care homes across Scotland
- Celebrating the 75th anniversary of 'The Dandy' comic, in partnership with its publisher D C Thomson.
We are also extremely grateful to all the organisations and individuals who support us. In particular we would like to thank all our donors who play a vital part in allowing us to fund special projects which add immeasurably to the appeal and success of the Library.
Fundraising at NLS began in 2006 with the campaign to acquire the world famous John Murray Archive. Since then, funds for many other important projects have been raised through donations. During the year the National Library of Scotland Foundation (NLSF) was established as an independent company and charity to provide financial support for key projects that will enhance the Library's services.
In 2012-13, we also launched a Patrons and Benefactors programme. This special membership scheme offers a range of benefits including invitations to special openings and events including Curator's Choice — a unique private view of some of the treasures from the collections. The programme has proved extremely popular with more than 70 members subscribing in the first year.
More information on the programme is available from the Development Team at NLS either by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling on 0131 623 3733.
Download the 2012-2013 Annual Review PDF (13 pages; 1.8 MB)