Our libraries have tales to tell

Indras the elephant visits Leith Library in 1976 to remind readers to 'never forget' to return their books

Indras the elephant visits Leith Library in 1976 to remind readers to 'never forget' to return their books

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BEHIND the doors of the National Library of Scotland lies a treasure trove of ancient works from around the world.

This week, the library added to its collection with the purchase of original copies of the first book ever to have been printed in Scotland – but while rare and delicate books such as those are kept in safe, secure conditions, public libraries long been a thriving part of the Capital community.

Captain Pugwash author John Ryan visits Muirhouse Library in 1983

Captain Pugwash author John Ryan visits Muirhouse Library in 1983

Back in January 1976, Leith Library had perhaps its most unusual visitor when Indras the elephant was invited along to help promote a campaign by Edinburgh Library Services reminding people to return their books – because, as everyone knows, elephants never forget.

Edinburgh’s libraries were more used to visits from well-known writers, and in August 1983 children at Muirhouse Library turned out to meet author John Ryan, creator of the famous Captain Pugwash books, to talk about his work and inspiration.

Encouraging youngsters to take up reading has been one of the biggest tasks of libraries everywhere, and in Edinburgh events such as the visit by Snoopy have been used to draw in new readers. The cartoon dog met with children and toddlers at the junior section of the Capital’s Central Library on George IV Bridge in May 1976 to help promote the Children’s Book Bang event.

And back in 1954, children from the city were coming to their local library for a chance to explore new worlds, with the juvenile section of the Edinburgh Public Library one of the busiest.

The children's section at the Central Library in 1954

The children's section at the Central Library in 1954

But it wasn’t just for children, of course, and the public library was a well-used resource by avid readers, students and businesses, which kept the hard-working staff manning the counters busy.

Snoopy entertains kids at the Central Library in 1976

Snoopy entertains kids at the Central Library in 1976