Thursday, August 14, 2014

July 15: New College Library

I truly enjoyed the library visit today, which was the New College Library. This library serves the University 
of Edinburgh's Divinity School and has a vast collection of books and other materials pertaining to religion, especially Christianity. On the side here is a picture of a first edition of the King James Bible, for instance.

The librarians, as with pretty much every librarian we have encountered in the UK, were very kind and open to questions. They gave us a tour of the interiors of the library and discussed some of their policies. Originally, the building was a church, which is why the interior is so lovely and has such beautiful stained glass windows. Truly, this is one of the prettiest libraries we have visited. 

One element of the library that struck me was the pamphlet about student disability services at their library. I was intrigued because so many of the places we visited in London were not accessible at all to people with disabilities, but Scotland seems to be a bit different. During the Q&A, I asked the main librarian if Scotland had different building codes than London, and I told her I thought Scotland seemed more aware of the challenges disabled patrons face. She told me that, sadly, they have to contend with Historic Scotland when it comes to renovation, even if the renovation is to improve accessibility, and they have a very tight rope to walk. Saddest of all is the fact that students in wheelchairs cannot enter the building because of the absence of wheelchair ramps. She said students in wheelchairs do, however, have the option of employing a helper who will come to the library on their behalf and check out any materials they need. She said, though, that often times when a student in a wheelchair is accepted to their school, they do have to talk to the student about the extra challenges he or she will face and often advise him or her to find another school. I was really shocked hearing this, knowing anything even close to that would warrant a lawsuit in the United States. This goes to show you there are cultural differences. That being said, I felt the librarians at New College were trying their very best to make the library as accessible as possible to disabled students while trying not to violate any building codes or historic preservation regulations. You can read about New College Library's efforts to make the space as accessible as possible on their website. In spite of what the librarian told me, though, this library is still far more accessible than any library I saw in London. 

There was a vast amount of books and sources at the New College Library, and I found myself marveling many of them, special collections or otherwise. In enjoyed the tours we had of the archives and shelves upon shelves of books. The reading space is comfortable, and the information available tremendous. Overall, I enjoyed this library, although I was disturbed by the information about disabled students.

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