Getting to Know the National Library of Scotland

Sarah Thomson, Government and Civic Literacy Curator at the National Library of Scotland, shares how you can use the National Library services for more than just reading!

In an era of 24-hour news coverage, it can be hard to know where to find reliable information. Sometimes you’re faced with an overwhelming number of websites, newspaper articles and social media posts and you might not know which ones to trust. If you’re planning to do some research for yourself, the National Library of Scotland might be able to help!

A bit different to libraries you might be used to

The National Library is Scotland’s largest library, and everyone is welcome to join us. We’re a bit different from local or school libraries that you might have visited before.

We try to collect one copy of every single thing that’s published in the UK and Ireland every year (that’s up to 6,000 new things each week!).

These include books, newspapers, websites, magazines, and leaflets. We collect Edinburgh Fringe flyers, priceless Robert Burns manuscripts and everything in between. Whatever topic you’re interested in researching, we guarantee we’ll have something that can help.

If you decide to pay us a visit, there’s one thing you need to know... we’re not a lending library.

That means you can’t take our books home but everyone is welcome to come and read them at the library. Because we only have one copy of each of our books, we have to take really good care of them so that as many people as possible can use them.

How to use the National Library

We’re open to readers of all ages, and we really enjoy seeing young people using our collections. We have a guide for students joining the library which will tell you everything you need to know.

You’ll need to sign up for a library card to use our reading rooms in Edinburgh. It’s free to register and if you need any help, you can ‘Ask a Librarian’ on our website. We answer thousands of questions every year, and there’s no such thing as a silly question! If you need help with a project, our librarians offer to spend up to an hour per person to give advice on your research. For instance, if there’s a book you really enjoyed, we’re happy to help recommend another one or help you browse the catalogue.

We're online too

If you can’t come and visit us in person, we have lots of online resources.

Check out our digital gallery to see some digital copies of our printed collections. We also subscribe to more than 100 different databases which include things like newspapers and access to family history resources. Not sure what you’d like to see? Our learning zone offers some handy ideas of where to start.

Beyond Edinburgh

The library buildings where we store our books are in Edinburgh, but part of our library is also in Glasgow.

The National Library of Scotland at Kelvin Hall is home to our Moving Image and Sound department, and it’s a really cool place to visit! We have more than 5,000 films about Scotland’s history that you can watch at Kelvin Hall. Some of them can be viewed online too.

We’d love to see some of you at your national library, either in person in Edinburgh, Glasgow, or online.

Ask us a question on our website and find us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

More information

Find out more about how misinformation spreads and can affect our views, as well as how to spot the fact from the fake when it comes to researching and finding accurate information sources.

Visit our DigiKnow page for more information and opportunities in the digital world.