Music in the National Library of Scotland

By Boehme, Almut | Fontes Artis Musicae, July-September 2011 | Go to article overview
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Music in the National Library of Scotland

Boehme, Almut, Fontes Artis Musicae

Brief historical overview

The National Library of Scotland (NLS) (2) is one of the earliest and largest legal deposit libraries in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland (3), and the largest research library in Scotland. While its history dates back to the beginnings of the Library of the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh of 1689, NLS was founded as a national library in 1925. It is in an unusual position as a national library of a devolved (4) 'nation' within a larger country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Historically Scotland has been an independent country with very different legal and education systems and a distinctive culture. With the union of the crowns in 1603, James VI of Scotland became James I of England, the two countries sharing one king over the following century. Through the Act of Union in 1707 they became one country, though Scotland held on to its separate structures, especially in the legal and education systems. The Queen Anne Act (5) of 1710 gave nine libraries the right to acquire a free copy of all print publications. Five of the nine were Scottish: the Library of the Faculty of Advocates (now National Library of Scotland) and the four universities in Scotland (St. Andrews, Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Edinburgh). The remaining four libraries were English: the British Museum (now British Library), Oxford and Cambridge University libraries, and the Library of Sion College, London. In 1801, Trinity College Dublin received rights to Legal Deposit following the Act of Union connecting Ireland and Great Britain. This right remained after the Republic of Ireland was established in 1922. In 1911, when a new legal deposit act came into force, the National Library of Wales was founded and received legal deposit status. Today there are six legal deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland receiving print and some electronic publications published or issued in the two countries: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Cambridge University Library, the British Library, National Library of Wales, National Library of Scotland, and Trinity College Dublin. The National Library of Ireland was initially established by the Dublin Science Museum Act 1877 becoming an autonomous cultural institution in 2005 under the National Cultural Institution Act, 1997. (6) Its rights are restricted to the receipt of publications issued in the Republic of Ireland. The right to legal deposit differs slightly between the British Library and the other legal deposit libraries: the former has an automatic right to a free copy whereas the other libraries have a right to claim a free copy within 12 months of publication. Today the other five deposit libraries employ an agency, the Agency for Legal Deposit Libraries, to administer claiming and distribution on their behalf.

Later developments to note are the legal deposit extension to electronic publications and discussions on extension to online publications. Sound recordings are still explicitly excluded from legal deposit legislation.

The role of the National Library of Scotland

The role of the National Library of Scotland today is summarised in its mission statement: (7)

* Enrich lives and communities

* Encourage and promote lifelong learning, research and scholarship

*Provide universal access to information by comprehensively collecting and making available the recorded knowledge of Scotland

* Promote access to the ideas and cultures of the world.

The Library is open to anyone who cannot access material elsewhere and its user base has widened considerably over past decades so that it now ranges from schoolchildren to pensioners and from personal researchers to academic scholars.

NLS's unusual position due to Scotland's devolved status frequently raises the question whether it is more akin to a national library of a small country or the state or regional library of a large country.

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