Scotland Culture, sport and tourism, Personal and organisational development

The National Library of Scotland: what’s in it for you?


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Although it may look like a solid block of stone from the outside, the National Library of Scotland is one of the most extraordinary buildings in Scotland. Behind those walls is a gateway to 120 miles of shelves which store 30 million items. What this means is that it is extremely unlikely that the library can’t be useful to you in some way. Whether you are trying to understand a historic policy change, get to grips with something scientific, economic, environmental, cultural, or political; or find out more about a local area, community, industry, or hobby – there’s probably something at the National Library of Scotland that will be of use.

Fiona takes us through some of the information that’s on offer and how you can access it:

Funded by the Scottish Government, the National Library of Scotland is one of only six legal deposit libraries in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Since 1710 we have had the legal right to claim a copy of every book published in Britain and Ireland. This has made us one of the largest research and reference libraries in Europe.

We can help even if you aren’t able to visit the Library in person. All you have to do is register online to receive free access to over 100 electronic resources covering a wide range of subjects.

What does the National Library have to offer you? 

  • Access to around 100 electronic databases from your office or home upon online registration, if you have a residential address in Scotland
  • A comprehensive collection of the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament full -text electronic publications as well as many Agencies and NDPBs, freely accessible without need to register
  • An enquiry service to help and advise you where to find the information that you require [email protected] ; 0131-623-3700 ;  Library Chat service

Some examples of the electronic databases available to you upon free registration are:

  • OECD iLibrary which contains a wealth of resources covering productivity and trade statistics; economic surveys; pension indicators; health profiles –for the UK as well as comparisons across the globe. An advanced search will allow you to narrow down your search and get to the content that is most relevant to you. It is also possible to set up an alert to notify you when new content under your topic is added.
  • K. Parliamentary Papers is a searchable full-text database of the entire collection of 18th 19th and 20th century House of Commons Parliamentary Papers including access to Hansard parliamentary debates 1803-2005.
  • SAGE, JSTOR and OXFORD Journals provide full text access to hundreds of journal titles in the humanities, social science, business and law which have substantial coverage of national and local politics and governance issues.
  • Greenfile is an indexing and abstracting database for environmental issues, with some full text on selected titles.
  • State Papers Online offers original historical materials across the widest range of government concern, from high level international politics and diplomacy to the charges against a steward for poisoning a dozen or more people. The correspondence, reports, memoranda, and parliamentary drafts from ambassadors, civil servants and provincial administrators present a full picture of Tudor and Stuart Britain.

As well as digital content we have been collecting print for over three hundred years and our Library search facility allows you to search both print and/or digital content for your field of research.

Our print collections are available to consult in our reading rooms in Edinburgh and our electronic legal deposit collections can be accessed in both Edinburgh and Glasgow at Kelvin Hall.

Further to all of this content, we have millions of pages of archival and manuscript material relating to writers, publishers, politicians, and national organisations, which span the centuries. A vast collection of maps, both current and historic, means that you can also see the development of Scotland over the decades.

Whether you are already using the Library, or have only just thought about us, we would love to hear from you so that we can talk about how we can support your important work in local government

If you would like to know more about a particular database or have any queries regarding accessing the collections please contact [email protected]