Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dalkeith Library & Arts Centre, Scotland

Good Morning Dalkeith. A Jumpstart, but No Takeoff! Don’t Worry, be Happy!

The day began very early with an anticipation of getting a lot of work accomplished a few days prior to my departure to Paris! With two libraries to visit, I had just enough time left to do some exploring and touring in Edinburgh, do some observational research/field work and pack it all up so that I may leave Scotland for the next country on Stacey’s agenda. With so much on my mind, I woke up sometime after 5:30 am, which is something I ‘never’ do, but being in another country and having no one to depend upon/fall back on but yourself, this survivalist mode turned on naturally and set me in gear, full speed ahead. Yet, maybe a little too much on this day! But the sun was shining and I was ready to start my day and that I did. My friend and fellow SLIS classmate, Sheila, was to meet with me this morning to do a quick tour of the local Dalkeith library and Arts Centre on White Hart Street, just a few blocks away from the lovely County Hotel on High Street I had been happily staying at.

The only problem is that I quickly learned after a brisk walk there to locate the library that it did not open until a very late 9:30 am, so I walked around the quaint, small town of Dalkeith, waiting for coffee shops to open while snapping pictures of buildings and as many flowers beds as I could. I was reworking in my mind the flower beds I have at home in Baton Rouge, as I took note of the lovely gardens and hanging arrangements in this historic town outside of Edinburgh, Scotland.

I actually saw a few British Studies program students wandering about either alone as myself or in small groups looking for breakfast, yet they discovered as I had, that Dalkeith was not fully awaken yet! These very small towns have businesses and shops that are slow to open and quick to close at the end of the day. What that means for us students is to make sure to gather supplies and food when the opportunity presents itself during our scheduled days.

The Midlothian Library and Arts Centre in Dalkeith, Scotland:

The visit at the Dalkeith Library began by taking initial pictures (after introducing myself as a library student and getting permission to use my camera, which is something that is typically not allowed) and walking around the outer and inner perimeter of the library. I jotted notes of what I observed about the general layout and my initial exposure and responses to the surroundings, such as the physical accommodations for patrons, posted informational flyers and signage, available seating, and who was coming in or already seated in the library. Immediately, I discovered that there was not a public restroom there, having consumed several large cups of coffee earlier, and had to walk one block over to a public restroom in a questionable alley in the back of some office buildings that was near the library. Possibly, the town is so small that having a restroom in the library was not deemed necessary, as one could arrive back at home with a hop, skip and a jump in this small town? The adjoining Art Centre was not open, so I assumed that it had a restroom within, but did not ask because I did not want to appear rude after the staff allowed me to take pictures, ask questions and observe that morning! While this seemed a big inconvenience to patrons, I quickly made my pit stop out of sheer necessity and zoomed back to the library!

There were a number of more elderly individuals coming in and I noticed the “Live It Computer Zone” was busy enough for a small library, with mostly young adults who were quietly at work. Towards the back of the library I discovered that the Children’s Room nicely integrated with the Teen Zone, which was separated by shorter bookshelves to offer somewhat of a barrier. There there was a buzz about the library as the library staff looked as though they were in some steady preparation for a children’s event that was soon to begin. The parents and very young children and infants were trickling in. There was a small but fairly good representation of all patron age groups there that morning!

A Town Profile to put the Library into Perspective of its Community: An Overview of the Library and Collections

The Town:

Dalkeith is a town in Midlothian, Scotland that is nestled on the River North Esk and has a population of 11,566 residents according to the 2001 census. The name is Scottish Gaelic meaning ‘the valley with the wood’ and the town motto is ‘once the Keeper, always the Defender.’ The Scottish town has four distinctive zones: the historic Towne Centre and the historic core; Eskbank on the West that encompasses many large Victorian homes and newer constructions; and Woodburn on the Eastern side, consisting of the working class council estate. Dalkeith is 400 miles north of London and only eight miles southeast of Edinburgh, making this a convenient stay given good bus transportation funnelling students and teachers to and from Dalkeith and Edinburgh for our required class visits and touring needs.

The economy is primarily based off of dairy, printing, bookbinding, wool-spinning, supermarkets, grain milling and cattle. What was historically a market town due to its thriving grain, horse and cattle market, has been built up over the years around the notable and historic 12th Century Dalkeith Castle (the seat of Scottish government under Oliver Cromwell, in 1650), which the majority of British Studies students stayed at during our brief stay.

The Library:

The Dalkeith Library is part of a branched library network that is managed by Midlothian libraries that offers an assorted collection to serve its community which includes a large reference section, digital resources, tools and Microsoft software, a learning centre, career information, periodicals and office equipment for the public to freely access and use. The library is made very accessible with full wheel chair access, enlarged keyboards for personal computers, screenreader software, hearing loops and magnification equipment. I learned while there that the adjoining Arts Centre was part of a modernization and renovation effort of the town centre by the mayor in a single story building with an outdoor patio adjoining to the library. The promotion of the arts followed the formation of the Dalkeith & District Arts Guild with an offer of arts events and activities, musical performances and exhibitions to name a few. Of benefit to the local and nearby community organizations is use the facility in promotion of the arts, cultural, and heritage interests that are open to the public.

Upon entering the library that morning, I noticed that it was fairly small and very colourful, livened up with reds, yellows and blue colors, along with fairly modern library furniture.

The nearest library sections to the front door are the community information zone, the reference books and a huge large-print collection to service the large elderly community as well as the visually impaired. I noticed many stacks of chairs off to one side wall for library events. The reference books included many outdated items such as: encyclopaedias, Oxford English Dictionary (OED), a small section of government documents, Scottish Parliament Acts and other publications. I observed a sign in the reference area that said many of these books and registers are searchable in ‘KnowUK’ on the library computers and I was in hopes that the digital reference books were more updated.

Following my initial conversation with the librarian about my research work, getting permission to use my camera and directions to the public restrooms around the corner, I asked a little later about the talking books on CD because the equipment to preview it within the library was partially removed. The very nice but uninformed library worker stated that she was unsure why it was removed and did not know when it would be returning, yet stated it had been well used in the past.

Of interest was a Photo ID Booth in front of the library. It was certainly a unique addition to the library with the offer of a picture booth with curtains, yet I think that having it in a library is a nice and appropriate offer for a small community as it is centrally located for all to use without having to access in a postal centre with possibly lesser hours to access it. One of the greatest benefits of using this library was the free wireless/Internet access and other computer technologies, as well as the offer of a wonderful community meeting place where needed information could be obtained and entertainment needs could be met.

Community Resources:

The community resources on display offered many brochures, flyers, booklets and pamphlets near the photo booth and was free information for the public to access for a range of information that may assist with things as health issues, abuse issues, safety, education and technology training for examples. Basically, information was made available as services and programs through the library or community organiations to promote healthy and productive living in order to thrive in the Dalkeith community.

Servicing Special Needs Groups and the Collection:

As far as the library offering a safe haven that provides handicapped persons successful access to the building and a supply of resources, I observed a front door ramp and electronic doors for entry. The tables found throughout the library allowed ample spacing for wheelchair access and manoeuvrability. Even in the smaller areas, as was found in the small periodicals section that maintained a collection of newspapers, magazines and journals of local news, Scottish history and health primarily, movement and free flowing turn around space was allowed for those on foot or in a wheelchair. Open spaces was definitely the theme in this small library that appeared to be working well for the library patrons on the day of my visit. I observed a wheelchair-bound man to manipulate his way through the library front entry to the outdoors with no problems. The electronic doors are a big plus for libraries and when working efficiently serves all patrons!

Special collection tables highlighting local or award winning authors were found in several locations. Of interest to me was one on the Mallorca collection of suspense and comedy. I was very surprised to see such a huge collection of crime books. The rows of talking books were fairly extensive to serve special needs populations, as well as an alternative format that youth enjoy as well as travellers to name others. To service poor vision or blind patrons, ‘The Advertiser’ was advertised as a community service outside where patrons could request sample copies of the Midlothian Newspaper to take home on Cassette tape. All patrons needed to do was ask the library workers if there were any questions or just call or email for more information.

The collection offered a small amount of CD’s that were on display tables near the centre of the library to include classical, folk & country, easy listening, pop & rock and jazz. Other parts of the collection I observed as I made my way through the library was the signage near the periodicals advertising the electronic database 'Proquest' as an offer of an alternative format for up-to-date news for the United Kingdom.

Management Rules of the Library:

To become a registered borrower at the Dalkeith Library, patrons would have to be a resident, employed or attending a school or college in the Midlothian Council area. Individuals can apply to become a registered borrower by completion of an application. Visitors, such as myself, can borrow materials when producing identification and a home address. Children ages 0-10 can join by a parent filling out and signing an application for them. Those aged 11 -13 can fill out a teen application signed by a parent or other responsible adult to become a registered borrower. Those youth in secondary education also fill out an application with a parent’s signature for borrowing rights. The loan period is 28 days with extensions being given in person, over the telephone and by letter. Patrons can borrow audio, video, multimedia and other materials. There are fees for overdue items as determined by the Council. Lastly, no pets are allowed in the library, other than guide dogs for the blind.

Live It Computer Zone:

This computer zone was a popular area in the Dalkeith Library and offered career resources and books as well as computer help guides on surrounding tables. The offer of a printer/scanner, large keyboard with big and colourful keys and ten computers was a plus for the patrons. I dared not stay in this section long, because I had no intentions of using the computers and did not want to disturb the workers! The computers looked in very good condition and I appreciated the fact the library offered large monitors for every work station. The offer of the Midlothian Library Catalogue was a plus and while I did not manipulate it/use it, I observed it to offer a simple database with author, title, subject, keyword and ISBN searches.

Other Interesting Tidbits to Mention about the Collection and Services:

The largest part of the collection appeared to be Non-Fiction interestingly, with a generous amount of travel books. A part-time library worker informed me that as a member of the Midlothian Council and Library, patrons are offered a wider choice in selections to also include access to the Lothian libraries of the east and west. These patrons benefit as well by having access to the Napier University campus libraries.

As far as classification schemes for the collection, the Dalkeith library uses the Dewey Decimal System. Some subjects are simply alphabetised though, such as the romance books. Another exception is the adventure books which are organized and arranged on the shelf by subject (ie. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Crime).

The library does just a little weeding of the collection as needed and discards books for sale. These items are for sale at 50 pence per item. The library may also request/interlibrary loan items published by the Midlothian Council in the community. Items typically requested are language, large print, Braille (Dalkeith Library does not have Braille items)or audio.

Insightful Information about the library from a Library Worker:

The library worker I spoke with, that I unfortunately ceased to write her name down legibly, stated the ongoing children's program that had just flowered in the Children's room with the offer of nursery rhymes singing that helps to promote literacy, is called 'Rhyme Time'. The children ranged from 0 - 5 years old. The parents looked to be having as much fun as the children! What a wonderfully creative avenue for parents to come together with their children and have some fun while building language skills through music at the library!

Other notes of interest that the library worker mentioned were the members of the Blind Institute being provided with resources through the library. She also mentioned that because the reference books are outdated and the collection fund is extremely limited, the library staff buys books from the Grocery, as it is quicker and cheaper than purchasing through library vendors! She also informed me that with such a large elderly and poor population, the collection caters to meeting their needs. There are three full time library workers and three part time library workers. There is only one head librarian in the library system and the rest of the library staff are considered ‘library assistants'. Dalkeith Library is one of 12 branches of the Midlothian libraries, with the main library residing in the town of Loanhead, which is west of Dalkeith. Sheila and I thanked the library staff worker for speaking with us and we were off once again to Edinburgh to visit the Central library and do a bit more sightseeing, shopping, eating and picture taking!


Websites of Interest:

Midlothian Library Services

Midlothian Council: Learning and Libraries

Welcome to Dalkeith! Information on Dalkeith Castle

Dalkeith County Hotel