Historic Environment Scotland visit report – October 2018

Here’s another view of the excellent visit to HES last week (I am increasingly sorry I missed it!). Words by Morag Ferguson of the Advocates Library, pictures by Lesa Ng of Heriot-Watt University.

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On 8 October 2018 I visited John Sinclair House, at 16 Bernard Terrace Edinburgh for a tour of the Search Rooms and Library at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) organised by ELISA. Neil Fraser, the Public Services Manager kindly hosted our visit and welcomed us with tea, coffee and biscuits which is always a good start.

HES came into being in October 2015 following the amalgamation of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments. As well as caring for historical buildings such as Edinburgh and Stirling Castle, HES also has responsibility for digital archives such as SCRANCANMORE and NCAP  (National Collection of Aerial Photography). I found this particularly interesting as BBC Scotland is currently showing ‘Scotland from the Sky’ which was produced and presented by one of the HES staff, James Crawford.

In its conservation role HES has responsibility for the Engine Shed in Stirling which is a central hub for building and conservation professionals with a visitor centre. I’m originally from Stirling so now plan to visit the Engine Shed on my next trip home. Neil took us on a tour of the Search Rooms and Library where Joe McAllister, the Access Officer had laid out some interesting drawings of Craigend house in Renfrewshire. The Search Rooms and Library are open to the Public Tuesday to Friday 9.30-4.30 where you can browse open access items such as books and photographs but it is best to give advance notice of your visit. They provide a range of copying facilities and permit self-copying (cameras or phones) of certain material. If you need to see original historic drawings and manuscripts, these can be ordered in advance.

Thereafter we were taken to the archives to view the collections stored where Architects firms can choose to deposit their drawings and materials. We also visited their conservation workshop where the archivist explained the delicate work required to repair older materials. Apparently there has been a shift back to using ancient Japanese techniques for conservation repairs as these have proved to be more durable and less harmful than some of the more modern methods.

Finally in the foyer we had a chance to view some of the newer publications produced by HES. I spotted a copy of “Bloody Scotland” a compilation of short stories by Crime writers at the Bloody Scotland Festival in Stirling. I thought it surprising that HES should be involved in the publication of this book but Neil explained that all the murders took place in Scottish built heritage, which explained the connection.  I thoroughly enjoyed this ELISA visit which enabled me to learn a great deal more about the work and responsibilities of Historic Environment Scotland so special thanks to Neil Fraser of HES and Jennifer Higgins from the National Library of Scotland for organising this.

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ELISA Library and archive visits – coming soon!

ELISA have two exciting visits coming up soon and tickets are available now.

On October 8th at 2:00pm there is a visit to Historic Environment Scotland.
This will include an introduction to HES’ work and its Archive and collections with the opportunity to ask questions about the Canmore database, Scran, PastMap and ScotlandsPlaces.
There will also be a tour of the Search Room at HES’ Archives and other points of interest in the building.
Tickets are available via Eventbrite 
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On November 8th there is a visit to Lloyds Bank’s archives at Sighthill in Edinburgh.
The Archivist at Lloyds’ will conduct a tour of the Bank’s archive stores.
The visit offers an opportunity to learn more about records management and enquiry handling within a private-sector organisation and compare this with the practice of, say, the National Records of Scotland, recently visited by ELISA.
This visit is open to all and will have a broad appeal to colleagues working in conservation and with local and family history records.
Tickets are available via Eventbrite 

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ELISA visit to St Cecilia’s Hall

The ELISA spring programme of visits is going well and proving very popular.  Most visits have ‘sold out’ although there are a few tickets for the visit to Boroughmuir High School still available.  We now have wait-lists in operation for all events so please sign up to the wait-list and if a place becomes available you will be contacted automatically via Eventbrite.  Also please remember if you do book a place on one of our visits but can’t attend or have a change of plans, it’s easy to cancel your ticket through Eventbrite.

The latest news is that we have a visit to St Cecilia’s Hall planned for Wednesday, 13 June 2018 from 15:00 to 16:30.

Tickets available here on Eventbrite

St Cecilia’s Hall is home to one of the most important historic musical instrument collections anywhere in the world.  It is Scotland’s oldest purpose-built concert hall. Originally built by the Edinburgh Musical Society in 1762, the Georgian venue is a real hidden gem, tucked away in the heart of Edinburgh’s Cowgate.
Having undergone a £6.5 million renovation St Cecilia’s Hall and Music Museum is now the Edinburgh University’s first visitor attraction and a fantastic addition to Edinburgh’s offer of museums and event venues.
St Cecilia’s Hall comprises of a Concert Room, hosting a range of concerts and public events, and a Music Museum, which is open to the public and brings together the University’s historic collection of musical instruments for the first time.
Dr Sarah Deters will give a tour of the museum and collections.

 

 

ELISA visit to Edinburgh Tool Library

Report by Jennifer Higgins

After a long hiatus, what better way to re-launch ELISA’s library visits than with an outing to the warmly welcoming, buzzing Edinburgh Tool Library? This visit saw a group of librarians assemble at the Library’s Custom Lane workshop to haphazardly put up (rather than knock down) Little Free Libraries under the patient and charismatic watch of founder Chris Hellawell. We’d been invited to join the Library’s Tools4Life programme, one of a raft of projects launched by the Library since its inception in 2014 that mentors young people looking for employment in the skilled trades. Trainees learn how to use and maintain tools and demonstrate them to members with guided supervision from retired, skilled tradespeople. Kindly lending their expertise were good-spirited volunteer Dennis and apprentice Lee doing their best to keep a level head as flat-pack library anarchy ensued.

For those who might have been expecting a leisurely afternoon to down tools, this visit pleasantly delivered the opposite as we were put straight to work building the libraries popularised by the US movement. Little Free Libraries, as the Library profession is perhaps all too familiar, are intended for the not-for-profit exchange of reading materials between local communities. With the help of volunteers, Edinburgh Tool Library are building and distributing the wooden boxes across the city with the democratic aim of making reading materials more widely accessible. As we rolled up our sleeves and sported our safety goggles, Chris spoke about ETL’s rapid construction from loaning members tools out of a disused Police Box on Leith Walk (exactly like a lending library but with tools instead of books) to offering all sorts of civic-minded services in co-operation with local charities, community trusts and the council including a satellite service for lending at Edinburgh City Libraries. From skilled apprenticeship programmes for young people to ramp-building for building accessibility to a mobile soup kitchen for people experiencing homelessness, the Library’s projects are numerous and varied. Much of the delivery relies on the willingness of the Library’s ‘Tooligans’; volunteer recruits who lend their skills and time to projects taking place within their communities. It’s a gung-ho, do-it-yourself, build it and they will come (and they will keep building) community culture that puts ownership back in the hands of the people who are quite literally, building the service from the grassroots up. This was reflected in the participatory format of our visit as, in teams, all of us learned the basics of using a power tool to fit a screw. It’s the standard library drill: ETL passes on its knowledge and services to equip its users with the tools needed to create something themselves. This extends to its environmental ethos which has Edinburgh communities donating tools, equipment, materials, pots of paint, anything that can be salvaged or recycled and put to use anew. Timber left in the aftermath of the Edinburgh Festival and from what used to be the organic food shop Earthy, has been reclaimed by the Library and is being used to make new things. Though not driftwood that has been accumulating along Scotland’s East Coast since a cargo vessel was wrecked in last month’s stormy weather – Chris wistfully added!

There’s a swathe of appeal in this buccaneer attitude which is attracting friends and funding. Edinburgh Tool Library runs as a charity yet its financial dexterity has so far been successful in securing employment for a small team of staff which continues to grow with a recent recruitment drive for three new networking posts to help manage the Library’s expansion across Edinburgh. There are the nitty-gritties of a social enterprise at work; charitable grants add to the pot but building commissions for local organisations might also be undertaken following successful pilot projects. The Library’s subscription model too, is largely capable of covering its overheads by charging £20 (or whatever members can afford) for annual membership to loan tools and equipment. Workspace and practical tutorials offering DIY advice are supplementary services which, ELISA can vouch, are welcoming to even the most amateur carpenter!

That said, there was palpable relief among the group as we turned from our work-benches to Chris’ laptop on which the nuts and bolts of ‘the database’ were demonstrated, The library management system and catalogue follows the same premise as any lending library’s where members sign up, search, borrow and return tools. Since being approached by Edinburgh City Libraries, Edinburgh Tool Library operates at certain times out of public library locations at Craigmillar, Portobello and Piershill. There’s been varied success with good uptake at Portobello Library while Craigmillar and Piershill have lagged. The proximity of Piershill to Portobello and the conglomerate nature of social services at Craigmillar could explain the disparity though Chris may have hit the nail on the head later in the conversation when discussing the Library’s diverse user groups. While the Library loans to people who couldn’t afford the tools otherwise, it also loans to people with a low carbon, eco-friendly philosophy who use libraries because they don’t want to own a lot of stuff. If sharing is caring, then a shared set of ethical principles may also be what is binding to the Tool Library’s increasing popularity. Reference to the Library of Things in Hillsboro, Oregon a librarian-run venture (with ukuleles and gold-panning kits for loan!) suggested how public libraries might expand their collections in equally sustainable ways or leave it to social enterprises to get the job done. The community-run Library of Things in London for example, charges access to loan from its collection; a trend also symptomatic of the revival currently being under-gone by the subscription library.

This isn’t necessarily all about Netflix convenience and on-demand service availability. What was most striking about our visit is how Edinburgh Tool Library is successfully trading on its big-heartedness and authenticity: they genuinely seem to care about sustainability and supporting people to become valued members of their communities. To sum up, we were shown a YouTube clip of the Library’s ‘Challenge Anneka’-style makeover at Balgreen Primary School’s playground. Other achievements Chris cites are supporting someone who had been living in refuge to coat the walls of their new home with donated paint and a Men’s Shed for skilled craftspeople of different nationalities who share little language but meet at the workshop to share their skills and to socialise. The parallel between such anecdotes and public library service experiences was an unforeseen outcome of the visit which, while acknowledging the different funding mechanisms and volunteer nature of the Tool Library, concurs on egalitarian, social and educational objectives. It’s up for debate whether the library profession will ever be reconciled with the community ownership ideals behind Little Free Libraries, but ETL’s openness to our visit and the interest this shows in librarians’ input to its projects shows a creative nimbleness and open-mindedness to learn from others. That seems a solid foundation on which to be building a library using very limited resources. A good workman never did blame his tools.

 

Report by Jennifer Higgins (ELISA Training & Development Group)
Acquisitions Librarian, National Library of Scotland.

ELISA visit to Boroughmuir High School

Another exciting Library visit organised by ELISA – this time it is a visit to the new Boroughmuir High School at Viewforth / Fountainbridge.  You may have seen the new building as you walk along the Union Canal.

Boroughmuir High School School moved to its brand new premises at Viewforth Edinburgh beside the Union Canal in February 2018. The state-of-the-art building now takes 1,165 pupils with the new facilities (including a roof-top social area and soundproof dance theatre) designed to make the most of a compact, inner-city site.

ELISA are invited on a tour of the Library on 8th June 2018 with Library Resource Centre Coordinator Fiona Aleksandrowicz. Fiona will discuss the planning of the move, its implementation, and show some of the Library’s resources and equipment as the service gets settled in the new space.

Tickets for the visit are available on Eventbrite 

 

ELISA visit to National Records of Scotland – Mon 16th Oct

There is an ELISA visit to General Register House on Monday 16 October between 15:30 and 17:30

The details are:
15:30 – Introductory talks in the Lord Clerk Register’s Room
– ScotlandsPeople Centre by Iain Ferguson
– Overview of the archive collections by Tristram Clarke, Outreach Officer (or a member of his team)
– Q and A

16:15 A brief tour of General Register House

16:30-17:30  Introduction to Historical and Legal Search Room services by Alison Lindsay and a chance to see the catalogues, etc in the Historical Search Room

There are up to 30 places available on the visit.
If you would like a place, please book via Eventbrite

 

 

ELISA Summer Gathering and AGM

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Mackenzie Building

Hello all

This year’s Summer Gathering and AGM will be hosted by the Advocates Library and will take place on Monday 29th August, from 2.30-5pm.

The meeting will be held in the nearby MacKenzie Building (pictured) where refreshments will be provided. After the AGM, myself and Senior Librarian Andrea Longson will provide tours of the Advocates Library building and Parliament Hall.

Please register your attendance via Eventbrite using your organisational email address (for administrative purposes).

Details:
ELISA Summer Gathering and AGM
Monday 29th August, 2.30-5pm

Location:
MacKenzie Building
172 High Street (Old Assembly Close)
EH1 1QX
See location on GoogleMaps

We look forward to seeing you there.