Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Dunfermline Carnegie Library (Tuesday, July 20)

Our first visit on Tuesday was to the town of Dunfermline, located in Fife, on the other side of the Firth of Forth. That's almost a tongue-twister. However, we were not visiting to give our tongues exercise, we were there because Dunfermline is the hometown of Andrew Carnegie, and as such is also home to the first Carnegie library.
The Dunfermline Carnegie Library consists of many different departments, all housed in the same building, with the original Carnegie-built portion in the middle and a number of extensions to complement the library's growth throughout the years. It has an intriguing history. First opened in 1883, it was an immediate success-- by the end of the first day all the books available had been lent out. It is still a busy part of the community. The Local and Family History Library, with collections including ordinance survey maps, old photographs, vintage postcards, and census records dating back to 1841, is almost always busy. However, the librarians have noticed that there is always a further increased surge of interest after each episode of the TV show Who Do You Think You Are?, shown on both BBC and NBC. The filing system of the Local & Family History Room is one that was designed specifically for the collection, called DULCIMER, or the Dunfermline Electric Method of Retrieval. The majority of the collection is housed in the first climate-controlled room that we have come across in all of our tours. Since the Dunfermline library was not the largest or most prestigious institute we have visited, this was somewhat amusing to us, and amazed the librarians when we mentioned it. Then it was time for us to say goodbye to the Local and Family History and its librarians, and make our way to the Special Collections Room. The majority of the room's collections are dedicated to the Robert Burns collection, of the poet sometimes called "Scotland's favorite son" who was also the favorite obsession of a number of collectors who bequeathed their private collections to the library. It's also the annual meeting place of a Robert Burns fan club, who gather to read poetry and lay a wreath by one of the busts.
A funny thing that we noticed upon looking around is that almost every single picture featured Burns looking in the same direction. The librarian explained that it was because there is one portrait that has been called the most like RB, and in that one he was facing that direction, so all the copies that have been made ever since of course showed him facing that same way.
After this it was time for us to see other parts of the library, to include the children's room (which everyone loved, because of its bright colors and all the cute kids enjoying themselves) and the more general rooms of the library which held the bigger collections of Reference and Fiction. We also learned of some of the special programs running at the library, such as the Prescription for Books program, where someone may go to their doctor and be given a prescription for a book on a certain medical condition. This program has just recently been extended into the children's room as well. There's also the Beating the Blues computer program, a quiet, private program which acts as a therapist for a number of conditions, which has been found to be very successful.
More Edinburgh (and mini-break) adventures on the way! I'll be posting them tomorrow, so keep reading!
Pictures from the respective Wikipedia pages of the subjects, Andrew Carnegie and Robert Burns

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