Bread Rationing: a surprising and timely subject

Today’s post, highlighting the wide range of newspaper archive databases the Library has and how these can be used to research a particular topic or event, is written by Louise Peterkin, Helpdesk Assistant, University of Edinburgh Libraries. During lockdown Louise also worked part-time with the Library Academic Support team.

I was delighted to be asked to write a blog showcasing the University’s wide range of databases and primary sources. These have been bolstered considerably in the last few months with the exciting addition of 365 new databases through our new ProQuest 350 Access subscription.

Looking for inspiration as to what to write about I searched Google for important events in history that fell between July and August. 22 July 1946 – Bread rationed for the first time in the UK leapt out at me. I always thought bread had been rationed during World War 2? I was keen to find out more.

Screenshot of “Bread Rationing Begins; and Other News Events of the Week.” Illustrated London News, July 27, 1946, 101. The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842-2003.

I researched the topic through the University’s databases, starting with our newspaper archives. We have access to ProQuest Historical Newspapers, which includes access to The Guardian (1821-2003), The Observer (1791-2003) and The Scotsman (1817 -1950) and Gale Primary Sources and Gale News Vault which contain access to many historical newspapers including to the Daily Mail Historical Archive (1896-2004) and Times Digital Archive (1785 to 2011). Read More

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Dissertation Festival: 26th October – 6th November

Dissertation Festival promotional image, including dates of the event and a link to Subject Guide. Are you writing a dissertation this year? Do you want to find out more about the library resources available to support your dissertation?

From the 26th October to the 6th November 2020 we have a fortnight of online events which will highlight what the Library can do for you to help you succeed with your dissertation.

One of the events we’re holding is a Dissertation Fair which showcases library resources and services which support CAHSS students specifically on Thursday 29 October. You can:

  • Make your dissertation something special : find out about the fantastic collections
    available at the Centre for Research Collections
  • Discover the full range of digital resources that you can access via the University
  • Take the first steps to learn new skills in managing your bibliographic references and your research data

For details of how to book this or any of our other events please visit the Dissertation Festival Subject Guide:

Not available to attend live sessions, or feel that your dissertation is still too far away to plan for? Don’t worry! Most live sessions will be recorded and made available after the Dissertation Festival to be used asynchronously at a time that suits you. The Subject Guide will be updated after the events have taken place with more information.


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Edinburgh Research Downloads: September 2020

Edinburgh Research Archive: September 2020 downloads infographic
Edinburgh Research Archive: September 2020 downloads infographic

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Dissertation Festival 2020

From 26 October – 6 November the Library is running a virtual Dissertation Festival. The online events taking place during this two week period will highlight what the Library can do for you to help you succeed with your dissertation.

In this blog post I am going to focus on the sessions that might be of particular interest to dissertation students (undergraduates or postgraduates) in the School of Social and Political Science (SPS). However, to find all sessions available and to book on take a look at the Dissertation guide. Read More

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Training Sessions- Diary Dates

Learn something new or simply refresh your memory!

There are a couple of online training sessions coming up soon that you may find useful:

Using Law Databases (Library Bitesize)-  Wednesday 21st Oct 2020, 12:30- 13:00.  Bookable through MyEd Events and Training: 

Referencing for Law-                        Wednesday 11th Nov 2020, 09:00- 10:30. Bookable through MyEd Event and Training:

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Thank you Friends

Friends of the National Libraries

Friends of Edinburgh University Library

The University of Edinburgh’s Lyell archives continue to grow, thanks to the support of our generous friends. The Friends of the National Libraries and the Friends of Edinburgh University Library united to help us acquire a fascinating Lyell family album of 118 letters and 57 portraits.


The album’s correspondents are quirkily described as “Divines, metaphysicians and philologists.” They date from 1805 to 1899 and include letters from Charles Kingsley, Samuel Wilberforce, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer and Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm.

Lyell album of letters and portraits

The correspondence appears to be mainly unpublished and will be an important resource for researchers seeking to understand the vital social, scientific and intellectual network of Sir Charles Lyell and his extended family.

The album cost $22,000 from an American dealer and was supported by a £10,000 from the Friends of the National Libraries and £500 from the Friends of Edinburgh University. The album’s contents will join his notebooks and other archives as part of our ambitious Creating Charles Lyell’s World Online project. The ongoing support of our many Friends deserves our heartfelt and warm thanks.

David McClay, Philanthropy Manager, Library & University Collections  

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‘Using the Library’ sessions, and catching up

We’re now in week three of semester one, and by this point we’ve been able to conduct introductory ‘Using the Library’ presentations for undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD level students. If you weren’t able to attend the sessions at the time you will be able to catch up by watching the videos which we’ve uploaded to our Media Hopper Channel, here:

Law Librarian Resources Media Hopper Channel

Screen grab of the Law Librarian Media Hopper front page.

Screen grab of the Law Librarian Media Hopper front page.

If you click in to the video that interests you you will also find the slides used for our presentation by clicking on the ‘attachments’ tab.

We intend to continue to upload useful videos on our channel throughout the year, including training and walkthroughs of using our databases, DiscoverEd, Referencing for Law, using reference managers, and any other relevant pieces of training or help we can offer. If you’ve got anything you’d like to see us include please let us know by leaving a comment or emailing

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Attending LIBER and REDUX 2020 Conferences Online

In our continuous shift towards digital culture, and of course during the pandemic, conferences have been adapting their programmes to online formats. This is no mean feat, particularly as even the best laid plans can have technical issues. But at least online you can fix yourself a cup of tea or stretch your legs while the hosts sort issues out, rather than sitting awkwardly in the audience. 

I attended two big conferences online that I usually would have attended in person: LIBER (Europe’s largest association of research libraries) 2020 and the 2020 University Press Redux ConferenceThe former took place over one week while the latter had five webinars spread out over four months. Both conferences had plenty of sessions that revolved around open access and, as open access is very much my area (I run the open access journals hosting service), I was excited to dive in and attend as many as I could. I’ve popped a few of my highlights below and hope you find them useful! 


With an excellent keynote on marketing (by Christine Koontz) two panels, ten sessionssix workshops, and paper presentations, LIBER 2020 was a packed week.

Open Access Insights

Denis Bourguet (UMR CBGP, INRAE, Montpellier) made the case for preprints and argued they are important as a tool of accessibilityas they are free for authors and readers and offer immediate access for researchers. However, as there is no peer review all types of research will be hosted, including the not so good stuff Denis works on the Peer Community In (PCI) project (Winner of the LIBER Award for Library Innovation!) which aims to add peer review into the mix. Meanwhile, in Finland, Malin Sofia Fredriksson (The Donner Institute for Research in Religion and Culture) reported that one of the major funders in Finland requires open access publishing now and that humanities have the smallest proportion of peer-reviewed journals but has the largest share of monographs and edited works. Their biggest hurdle is challenging the idea that open access means lower quality and less visibility. Leo Waaijers (QOAM, The Netherlands) introduced Quality Open Access Market (QUAM) which is an online instrument that helps authors share their publishing experience with colleagues by completing a four-question scorecard about the peer review, editorial board, the value and recommendability of the journal they were publishing in. The journal is then given a Quality of Service indicator, alongside information about publication fees. Sounds handy! 

Libraries as Open Innovators and Leaders

The next session, and one I was really looking forward to given my role. Dr. Markku Roinila, Kimmo Koskinen and Kati Syvälahti (Helsinki University Library, Finland) spoke about their use of the Open Journals System (OJS) to host academicled journals, at no cost to the editors and with maintenance and technical support provided by the library (exactly like us at Edinburgh!)Helsinki University Library empowered the journal managers to become “teachers”, so they could teach the use of OJS and of academic workflows to students. They gathered great feedback about the pilotrealised the importance of technical support from the library and are now looking into launching some student-led journals. Next, Shane Collins and Siobhán Dunne (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland) spoke of open scholarship (instead of open science, so that they are inclusive of AHSS) and how they created a taskforce of staff who look at Plan S and Trinity’s strategic open access targets. They ran events and podcasts with inclusivity at the forefront and found high levels of collaboration between departments. They also said that “bringing the melting pot of people together for culture change requires this type of grass-roots approach”. Finally, Dr. Coen Wilders and Martine Pronk (Utrecht University Library, The Netherlands) see the library as experts on making scientific information fair in a world that is increasingly more open and digital. They spoke of how libraries support the entire research process and said they choose to focus on metadata and repositories (instead of catalogues) as this is in line with their internal target audience. 

Tools for Transparency and Open Access

First up, Sarah Ames (National Library of Scotland, Scotland) spoke about NLS’s Digital Scholarship Service, which encourages, enables and supports use of computational research methods with their collections, among other aspects. They focused on internal and external engagement and worked hard to communicate transparency, including utilising social media, which was highly engaged with. Next, Maurits van der Graaf (Pleiade Management & Consultancy, The Netherlands) looked at a library toolkit for open access and pointed out that institutional repositories are a vital form of green open access. There are currently 5,367 repositories and 82% of publishers allow self-archiving. Maurits concluded by stating the importance of green and gold routes in the move to open access and highlighted the need for more Read and Publish deals as well as more library support for APC-free publishing. Finally, Nicole Krüger and Dr. Tamara Pianos (ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, Germany) spoke of the importance of considering open educational resources (OER) before designing learning materials. They used H5P as it was mobile-friendly and allowed for interactive content. Although content hosted via this route isn’t indexed by search engines, it can be downloaded and adapted for other sites, such as WordPress. Overall, they found H5P very user-friendly.  


Monographs, open access and public policy: UKRI OA consultation 2020

Helen Snaith (the Senior Policy Adviser at Research England) said that monographs should not try to replicate journal open access models and that they need to ensure that policy doesn’t create accessibility issues. Richard Fisher (Vice Chair of Yale University Press) said that removing the financial barrier is only one aspect of open access, and that money needs to be spent on marketing in order to make the book successfulOverall, it was agreed that publishing open access shouldn’t affect the quality of the content. 

Open Access: Sales – Open Access business models for books and journals

Martin Paul Eve (Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing, Birkbeck, University of London) pointed out that books are much more expensive to produce than journals, and this can be an issue for the humanities and social sciences in particular as there is generally less funding. He said that it isn’t as simple as a library switching the book purchasing budget to the book processing charge (BPC) budget, as the former wouldn’t sufficiently cover the latter, and that COVID19 has shown the inaccessibility of books online compared to journals. Similarly to Richard Fisher, Martin said that gold open access may not be the way to go for books. Emily Farrell (Library Sales Executive, The MIT Press) said they rely on a hybrid approach to funding their open access activities, including article processing charges (APCs) and crowdfunding approaches for books, such as Knowledge UnlatchedShe acknowledged that they see a lot more usage when books are open and they aim to roll out a librarycentred collective model by 2021. Lastly, Vivian Berghahn (Manging Director, Berghahn Books) spoke about the subscribe-to-open (S2O) model, where subscribers get discounted access to the content and, if enough subscribers participate, the content is made open access.  Vivian said they have 305 participants to date and the model is working particularly well for their anthropology journal. 


Having the conferences online, in my opinion, worked well. More people could attend due to the lack of a financial barrier (no travel, no accommodation, no delegate fee). And the less air travel the better, of courseWithout these barriers, knowledge can be shared more widely too. The main downside is the lack of organised networking and ability to have in-depth discussions with your colleagues and peers. Perhaps a solution is on the horizon for conference organisers. 

It was brilliant to see so much conversation about open access, including accessibility, be given through open and accessible platforms with no financial restrictions. Open access policy is still developing, and it’s important that conferences continue to highlight and discuss the impact of this.  

A final positive of hosting an online conference is the ability to record and share online for those who can’t make it or to have the information to handSpeaking of which, you can access all the LIBER sessions here and the REDUX ones here. I thoroughly recommend checking out both. Happy watching! 

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Visualising Civic Improvement

Explore Scotland’s capital through the mind of one of Scotland’s greatest social thinkers and join us as we take a closer look at Professor Sir Patrick Geddes’ (1854-1932) photographic survey of Edinburgh.

From Pompei to the present day, humankind has sought to effect its civic surroundings. From promoting security and avoiding danger to eradicating disease and poverty and the promotion of health and well-being, the motives may change over time but often co-exist and are deeply interconnected, and they reflect the civic values of each society’s citizenry.

Photograph of Patrick Geddes, aged 73, at Montpellier, c.1927 (Coll-1167/GPF)

Patrick Geddes, aged 73, at Montpellier, c.1927 (Coll-1167)

Professor Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) held a deep understanding of the complexities and inter-connectedness of civic change. Geddes made a unique and pioneering contribution to the fields of sociology and urban planning, not least through his tireless contributions, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to regenerate the impoverished and dilapidated Old Town of Edinburgh.

Born in the Highlands of Scotland in 1854, Patrick Geddes studied biology and evolutionary theory in London, France and Mexico, before returning to Scotland in 1880 to teach biology at the University of Edinburgh. By the mid-1880s his interests had diverged to sociology, geography, ecology, education theory, cultural activism and urban planning. Geddes was a polymath and inter-disciplinarian.

Research conducted throughout his lifetime in Scotland, Europe, India, Palestine, the United States of America, and Mexico informed his conviction that the development of human communities was primarily biological in nature, consisting of interactions among people, their environment and their activities. Patrick Geddes died in Montpellier, France, in 1932.

Albumen print showing Patrick Geddes and a group of children in front of the Outlook Tower (Patrick Geddes Collection, Ref: Coll-1167/B/23/12​)

Patrick Geddes and a group of children in front of the Outlook Tower (Patrick Geddes Collection, Ref: Coll-1167/B/23/12​)

Geddes believed that civic regeneration ought to be informed by a comprehensive sociological understanding of the city, its region and their inter-relationships. He argued that geology, geography, climate, economic life, and social institutions should all be considered. The basic analysis for his civic survey was derived from his Frederick Le Play inspired triad ‘place, work and folk’.

The survey of Edinburgh and its region was the fundamental purpose of Geddes’ Outlook Tower. Geddes forged and disseminated many of his ideas in this six-storey social laboratory, situated on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, which he purchased and refurbished in 1892. Designed as a civic observatory, Geddes created a series of vertical exhibition spaces intended to help people understand the city in its wider context. He believed that the reconstruction of society would result from the co-operative efforts of informed individuals.

 “The survey of our city and its region is of fundamental importance alike in the understanding of its past and present, and towards the preparation of the Greater Edinburgh of the near future.”
Patrick Geddes, 1919

Geddes amassed a vast collection of maps, views, plans, architectural drawings, photographs and other visual images at his Outlook Tower. The rooftop promontory offered the visitor a 360-degree view of the city of Edinburgh and its region. Together, these vivid and graphic representations illustrated the development of the city of Edinburgh over time, connecting its past to its present, and illuminating its relationship with the wider world. Geddes first exhibited a selection of visual material from his Outlook Tower collections at the Royal Institute of British Architects ‘Cities and Town Planning Exhibition’ in London in 1910. Exhibitions, were his favoured tool of civic education, where he set out and encouraged the adoption of his survey method.

Black and white print from a glass plate negative of on Square, Edinburgh, (Patrick Geddes Collection, Ref: Coll-1167/B/27/4/5)

Tron Square, Edinburgh, (Patrick Geddes Collection, Ref: Coll-1167/B/27/4/5)

Photographs recording the built environment of Edinburgh and the way in which people lived and worked in it, were integral to Geddes’ Survey of Edinburgh. This type of photography was representative of a Scottish Visual Culture which was heavily influenced by Scottish Enlightenment philosophy. Great value was placed on empiricism and practicality, centred around values of improvement, virtue, and practical benefit for the individual and society as a whole. Geddes’ photographic survey forms part of a larger body of work of a network of late nineteenth century Scottish documentary photographers including Thomas Annan in Glasgow, William Donaldson Clark in Edinburgh, and John Thomson in London. Collectively, these photographs bore witness to the lives of the urban poor and were often used to inform social improvement programmes.

Black and white print from glass plate negative of Brown's Close, Canongate, Edinburgh, (Patrick Geddes Collection, Ref: Coll-1167/B/27/5/22)

Brown’s Close, Canongate, Edinburgh, (Patrick Geddes Collection, Ref: Coll-1167/B/27/5/22)

The Photographic Society of Edinburgh established an Edinburgh Photographic Survey group in 1899, with the objective of creating a photographic record of Edinburgh. The Society subsequently staged an exhibition in 1904 which included 359 photographs. It is not clear whether the photographs used by Geddes in his Survey of Edinburgh were loaned to him from the Photographic Society of Edinburgh or in fact commissioned by him. It is thought that many may have been taken by photographers Francis Caird Inglis (fl.1880-1940) and Robert Dykes (fl. 1905-1906) and then a selection made and arranged for the survey by Geddes himself, assisted by Dykes, and two of his children, Norah Geddes (1887-1967) and Alastair Geddes (1891-1917), along with his God-daughter, Mabel Barker (1885-1961).

In the 1880s, Edinburgh’s historic Old Town was afflicted by degraded buildings and social deprivation. Whilst apt to meet the needs of the well-to-do, historically, planners had neglected the needs of all citizens. In failing to provide space for work-shops and industry, Geddes argued that this lack of foresight inevitably led to the unchecked filling up of any and every vacant space with any and every sort of irregular and utilitarian factory and workshop. Thus stately residential order and plan-less squalor could be found on opposite sides of the same street.

Geddes’ Survey of Edinburgh was a call for civic engagement and co-operation. Geddes asked:

“what can be done here and there meanwhile with moderate means and ordinary folk, with such labour and time as they can spare?” Patrick Geddes, 1915

Black and white print from a glass plate negative showing, four children and a woman working in the Children's Garden, Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh (Patrick Geddes Collection, Ref: Coll-1167/B/27/10/9)

Children’s Garden, Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh (Patrick Geddes Collection, Ref: Coll-1167/B/27/10/9)

The Outlook Tower Open Spaces Committee surveyed every open space amid the slums of Edinburgh’s Old Town. They measured 75 pieces, totalling 10 acres. By 1911, over 10 of these had been reclaimed and turned into gardens and were accessible to local-residents, particularly women and children.

By encouraging local people to directly participate in the beautification, art, culture and education of their local community, Geddes provided citizens with the means to influence their local environment. He inspired regeneration from within the community.

Geddes believed that access to nature and natural conditions were essential to mental and physical health, and brought public beauty to areas of former squalor. He understood that private gardens, city parks and the surrounding countryside were often not within the reach of Edinburgh’s Old Town working class and poor. He recommended garden quadrangles replace wasted courts and drying greens so that family members, young and old, could employ themselves together in happy garden activities. This configuration of small proximal green spaces to Old Town residents would be far more accessible and useful to the daily use of childhood and family life.

“What better training in citizenship, as well as opportunity of health, can be offered any of us than in sharing in the upkeep of our parks and gardens?” Patrick Geddes, 1915

Many of the green spaces still to be found in Edinburgh’s Old Town today are due to the work of Geddes over a century ago. In 2020, Johnston Terrace Garden is the smallest of 123 wildlife reserves managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and is teaming with frogs, bees, butterfiles and birds.

Over 250 of the original, glass-plate negatives from Geddes’ Survey of Edinburgh survive within the Patrick Geddes Collections at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections. In September 2020, the University collaborated with Google Arts & Culture to make their collections more accessible to a wider audience. Among the collections featured are a series of photographs from the archives of Sir Patrick Geddes. View ‘Surveying Edinburgh: Civic Regeneration Under Patrick Geddes’ via Google Arts and Culture. Browse through a further 70 images from the collection online via the University of Edinburgh’s Image Collections website. It is also possible to view the original glass plate negatives and prints made from the negatives in person at the Centre for Research Collections. Please visit the Centre for Research Collections web-pages for up to date information and guidance on how you can access collections.

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Welcome to the Law Librarians’ blog, where we will post helpful resources, training materials and news from the library.

Our names are Donna Watson and SarahLouise McDonald, and we are the Academic Support Librarians for the School of Law at the University of Edinburgh.

If there’s anything you’d like to see feature on our blog in future please contact us by leaving a comment, or emailing

students exiting the Law Library building in Old College quad

Law Library exterior, Old College

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