Spending a wee while with Lyell 

Following in the brilliant footsteps of Claire, Sarah and Joanne – we have been lucky to have Sarah Partington working on conserving the Lyell Collection. For 14 weeks, Sarah was able to finally tackle one series of records that had been assessed, but not worked on, and, to provide a wee bit more general TLC to the collection. An extra layer of care, as it were. Here, she tells us what that has involved: 

As the Charles Lyell Project continues, more is being understood about the collection. The entire collection is comprised of different accessions, made at different times. Careful interrogation of the different series is allowing us to understand how they fit together, and, how Lyell used them.

Lyell’s collection of Offprints is similar in scale to the two series of correspondence, demonstrating how collecting and reading different papers would help him stay abreast of the latest finds, research and thinking.  

An Offprint is a separate printing of a work that originally appeared as part of a larger publication, usually one of composite authorship, such as an academic journal,  magazine or edited boos. Offprints are used by authors to promote their work,and ensure a wider dissemination and longer life that might  be achieved by the publication alone. They are valued as being akin to the first separate edition of the work, and as they often are given away, may bear an inscription from the author. Historically, the exchange of Offprints has been a method of correspondence between scholars.

I began my Lyell journey by cleaning and rehousing the 18 boxes of Offprints collected by Lyell. Currently uncatalogued, voluminous, and densely packed in non-archival boxes, these records had been assessed, and found to be exhibiting signs of historic mould. This needed to be dealt with, as although historic and not active, it could ultimately pose a cross-contamination risk to other collections. These records could not be accessed in their current state – both by archivists, and by any potential users.

Surface dirt had to be carefully removed, following Health & Safety guidance.

Cleaning the offprints proved somewhat of a challenge (even for a mould aficionado like myself!).

In some cases, the biological damage was so severe that the paper had partially deteriorated. This complicated the cleaning process, because I had to mitigate further structural damage, whilst still ensuring the satisfactory removal of damaging mould. Throughout the cleaning process, I had to carefully to observe Health and Safety guidance and take precautions to protect my colleagues and myself.

I cleaned each page in the fume cupboard, eliminating mould using a museum vacuum on a low-suction setting, with an interleaving layer of mesh to prevent the loss of material.

An affected Offprint before cleaning. Working in the fume cupboard, all of the surface mould was removed.

After everything had been cleaned, I rehoused the offprints in acid-free boxes, separating out those that had been especially cramped in their original housing. Rehousing generally equates to more boxes! To support the greater extent of boxes, we rationalised shelving in the storeroom and created additional space 

Cleaning this series of the collection was time consumingbut the benefit of the newly cleaned items to the health and safety of the collection is immense. Now properly re packaged, and stored in a climate-controlled environment, work can begin to start to make them discoverable.




A conservator’s worst nightmare: the pocket folder! The contents can be damaged simply taking them out!

At the end of the Offprints series, 5 boxes were identified as being different; they were not Offprints but were actually manuscript material. This material was not housed in a suitable manner, with the usual, historical pocket folders having been chosen as the filing weapon of choice! Not only were these not up to archival standard, but they were also overfilled, and mostly contained items of a non-uninform size and type.

Our closer inspection confirmed that these boxes contain examples of Lyell’s editorial notes, his review of chapters, and included letters, drawings, engravings, notes, maps, as well as his original packaging, which was large sheets of contemporary newspaper.

The different format and sizes meant that there was a risk that items could fall out of sequence or get caught on the edges of the folder when removing or replacing material. To depose the evil pocket folders, I opted for acid-free triptych folders, which open out in such a way that the material is instantly accessible, therefore reducing the risk of damage occurring. I separated out the material into more than one folder where required, making sure that none of the folders were too overcrowded. Thinking about access, and as the items are still loose, we will create guidance for our Reading Room Team and users, to ensure folders are carefully handed over when being accessed.

As well as rehousing these manuscript papers, I was able to look out for documents that needed a bit more TLC. After a little bit of training from Paper Conservator, Emily Hick, I was ready to start carrying out some basic interventive treatment, such as flattening folds and removing pins. I flattened folds manually with a bone folder and an interleaving sheet of bondina and, where appropriate, I used a ‘mister’ – a small hand held tool, used within the beauty industry which sprays a fine mist – to apply localised humidity to the paper, which could then be placed under magnets and left to flatten.

Manually flattening folds.

Sarah using a beauty mister to lightly flatten folds.

Folds shown before and after treatment. Much more relaxed!













Some original pins were still in place, which had started to corrode and were difficult to remove. Emily gave me a pair of pliers and gentle techniques to carefully wiggle them out without causing further damage to the paper. I replaced them with an acid-free paper slip to group pages together. In order to retain the integrity of the sequence, I ensured that nothing came out of order and the items were clearly stored with their original packaging. Any outsized items, or items that required further treatment, were flagged up in an Excel document.

Geared up for another rehousing spree, I then moved onto to the most recent accession in the collection, the Acceptance in Lieu material, consisting of 18 boxes. The strategy this time was to start at the end of this series, giving back a bit more time and care to this series of records.

Loose-leaf material, now held in an acid-free paper fold

Being given the opportunity to support access and research into the Lyell Collection through conservation work has been a real privilege. As an aspiring paper conservator, it has been great to add a few more paper treatment strings to my bow, and to apply my skills to a collection this significant. By working closely with the Lyell Collection, I have also learnt a lot about him and the way in which he planned, researched and worked. I’ll leave all of you lovely Lyell fans with what is possibly my favourite thing that I have learnt whilst focusing on Lyell and his correspondence… apparently Charles Darwin enjoyed a good moan to his pals now and then like the rest of us!


A big thank you to all the conservation people who have contributed their time and skills, and to our funders for ensuring Lyell’s records are in the best condition they can be. There is always more work to be done – but for now, we can look to start the work to make these records available to people.


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The History of Access to University

Ash Mowat is one of our volunteers in the Civic Engagement Team. Ash has been researching the history of access to study at University, via our University Archives and shares that information with us here.

Introducing Ash: I was born and have lived in Edinburgh most of my life. I attended University of Glasgow in the late 1980s where I hoped to complete an honours degree in English literature, but unfortunately due to ill health I was only able to obtain a degree at ordinary level. I have diverse interests in literature, the visual arts and science and history. I also worked for almost 25 years in social housing and have a passion for social justice, and equalities.

This piece outlines the history of access, affordable or otherwise, to University Education. It primarily focuses on the 20th century unto the present, and some features will apply to UK Universities and not just University of Edinburgh or other Scottish Universities, as many of the laws and practices were implemented by UK Government. Some aspects, however, are particular to Scotland following devolution in 1999.

Robert Anderson (Professor emeritus of History University of Edinburgh) summarises the changing systems of fees and grants available for university students to pay or access.[1] He highlights the period between 1962 and the 1990’s when ‘University education in the UK was effectively free as the state paid students’ tuition fees and also offered maintenance grants to many’. There is also a brief summary of grants available in early periods.

The following tables aims to summarise some of the history of changes in direct and indirect accessibility to a University education.

Dates History
19th Century There was no free access to study at University in Scotland, however unlike in England there were some State grants, but not wider UK Government supplementary benefits like rent assistance, as these would not come into effect until the implementation of the Welfare state in the 1940s. Fees and living costs were also low in Scotland, in comparison to English Universities, especially the prodigious ones like Oxford and Cambridge.

In the pre second world war period, those on lowest incomes in the UK could be given a Board of Education Endowment to fund their University studies. This came with the proviso that on graduation they undertook one year in teacher training and subsequently worked for several years as a school teacher. If they failed to honour this, their grant would have to be repaid. Interestingly in this period, students from middle and upper classes disproportionally studied subjects in the likes of medicine and engineering, whilst those from lower income backgrounds tended to study in the arts, perhaps a reflection of the higher fees and costs associated with subjects like medicine. Male students even from lower income backgrounds tended to see their financial, career progression and class status greatly improved following graduations, an outcome not reflected equally amongst female graduates, many of whom if went on into employment would see their careers often constricted such as to be within the School teaching sector.[2]

1962 to


There were no fees payable to study at UK Universities in this period as there were met by the state. Maintenance grants were available to those without their own funding means or from parental income. By 1963 almost 70% of UK University students were receiving grants from UK Government state funding.

Wider benefits were available from UK Government, including Housing Benefit to meet in part or full rental costs. Students could keep this Housing Benefit and therefore retain accommodation over University holidays, and if eligible claim unemployment benefits in the breaks between terms.

However, by the mid-1990s UK Government Benefits such as Housing Benefit and Income Support were abolished for most full time students (one exception being lone parents), with the Government argument being that students should receive financial assistance solely from the further Education system only and not also from the wider Welfare system.

1979 to 1988 Access University systems in Scotland. Access schemes, where students without standardly required qualifications could gain entry to study at University level, were introduced in Glasgow University (1979), Dundee University (1980), Aberdeen University (1984), Strathclyde University (1985), and Edinburgh University in 1998.

These were often ran in partnership with local colleges and were limited in number of students permitted annually. The subsequent introduction withdrawal of grants and access to Welfare Benefits as detailed below, served to undermine the viability of the access and general admission routes into a University education from those without their own or parental means of funding or support.[3]

Image shows Newspaper Article on Access Course Launch

31st May 1988 newspaper article on access course launch (EUA IN1/ADS/SEC/CRR)

April 1988 From April 1988, a series of incremental cuts were introduced by the UK Government reducing rates of Housing Benefit and supplementary benefit (financial benefits payable to students during summer term break). This was exacerbated by introduction of the Community Charge, more commonly referred to as the “Poll Tax”, a despised and unjust tax as was charged as a flat rate on all individuals regardless of wealth. The hugely unpopular Poll Tax (in a poll 78% of UK population opposed it) led to protests across the UK culminating in a huge rally of over 200,000 people in Trafalgar Square London in 1990 where serious rioting ensued. The Poll Tax was subsequently abolished and replaced by Council Tax in 1993, a still problematic tax but one based on property value and with ability to pay aspects and rebates available. No Council Tax is payable in properties exclusively occupied by full time students.[4]



In November 1989, in what was reported as the biggest ever to date UK University demonstration, a march and rally took place to protest the viewed as unfair Student Loan scheme being introduced from 1990. Over 20,000 were estimated to have attended. The introduction of Student loans was driven by the UK Government seeking to withdraw Welfare state benefits from those in further education.[5]

On their introduction in 1990, some 180,000 UK students took out a loan in the first year, for a then average of £390.00.[6]

1991 The 1991 Student Hardship Report of the Scottish Presidents Group demonstrates the impact on loss of benefits on students. Rents had increased by 11% in one year from 1990 to 1991. In the same time students who previously received housing benefit during the summer vacation to cover rent and now having this entitlement cancelled, were losing £457.00 over a 15-week period. (Edinburgh figures, equivalent to £1229.00 today). Income Support was also withdrawn with the UK Government reasoning that students would be able to find work during holidays and thereby afford rent and living costs without welfare assistance. However when this was introduced 36% of Edinburgh University students said they could not find work (this was during the height of a major recession), and a further 34% couldn’t be available for work due to their course study commitments.

Nevertheless the numbers of students who were also required to work during term time continued to rise, despite the pressures to combine this with adequate time to manage their studies.

Despite the UK Government assertion that students should fair equally or better under the student loans system, 54% of Edinburgh University students polled stated they were worse off than under the previous system of grants and welfare benefits. The report concludes, “Students are encouraged to acquire significant debts, with little prospect of lucrative employment at the end of their studies to repay these debts. The policy seems, at best, unlikely to encourage increased numbers of students to enter higher education.”[7]

The 1991 student hardship report of the Scottish Presidents Group, EUA IN1/ADS/SEC/CRR

1998 The reintroduction of tuition fees to enrol at UK Universities was implemented by UK Government, with fees set initially at £1000.00 per annum.
2001 From April in Scotland, the Graduate Endowment Scheme was introduced. This brought in University study in Scotland without any tuition fees, however on graduation a fee of £2000.00 was repayable by the student. [8]
2004 Tuition fees increased to £3000.00 per annum. [9]
2006 From this year, student loans could be issued to meet not just living costs but to cover tuition fees. [10]
2007 The Scottish Government introduce free tuition fees to Scottish students, or students from other nationalities whose home has been in Scotland for at least three consecutive full years. Student loans remain in place to assist with living costs. [11]
2010 Tuition fees to students at English Universities increased to £9000.00 per annum (currently £9250.00 per annum). [12]

In addition to the affordability of studying at University, one question raised is the outcome for the graduate in terms of student loan debt burden and prospective career benefits in having a degree. Before going into the dry financial bones of the issue, it is worth reflecting that people choose to go to University primarily for the joy and enrichment of learning in the subjects of their choice, and for the wider social and personal development experiences that come with it.

Price Waterhouse Coopers in their 2007 report The Economic Benefits of a Degree, included one somewhat start and contrasting result based on choice of subject studied. Those studying Medicine or Dentistry could expect to see an additional lifetime earnings premium of £340,000 throughout their working career as a consequence of their specific degree obtained. Conversely, the lifetime earnings premium for an arts graduate is just £35,000. [13]

The burden of student loans accrued by students needs to be considered and can be off-putting to many potential University applicants. In England the average student loan debt is currently £45,000, whilst for Scottish students entitled to free tuition fees the average debt is much lower at £15,000.

Student loans accrue interest currently around 6% per annum, but don’t have to begin repayments until salary exceeds £27,295 per year, and even then by phased instalments: e.g. on a salary of £31,295 per year, annual repayments to loans would be £360.00. Student loans cannot be entered into bankruptcy, but any remaining balances will be written off automatically after 30 years (and earlier if individual is disabled and unable to work).

If you’d like to know more information about the archival documents consulted during the writing of this article, you can get in touch on is-crc@ed.ac.uk.

[1] https://www.historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/papers/university-fees-in-historical-perspective#:~:text=Introduction,at%20%C2%A31000%20per%20year. Accessed on 07/12/22.

[2] https://www.historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/papers/going-to-university-funding-costs-benefits. Accessed on 07/12/22

[3] Students/Access Courses, 1986-10-01 – 1988-03-01, 31st May 1988 newspaper article on access course launch. Accessed on 30/11/22.

[4] April 1988, 1987/1988 – The Student (ed.ac.uk). Accessed on 07.12.22.

[5] “biggest ever student march slams loans” https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1842/25651/30_11_1989_OCR.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y. Accessed on 7th December 2022.

[6] take up statistics 1991-2005 (archive.org) accessed 0n 7th December 2022

[7] ‘”The 1991 student hardship report of the Scottish Presidents Group”, Students/Access Courses, 1986-10-01 – 1988-03-01, University of Edinburgh Archives. Accessed on 07/12/22.

[8] untitled (legislation.gov.uk) accessed on 7th December 2022

[9] Timeline of tuition fees in the United Kingdom – Wikipedia accessed on 7th December 2022

[10] The Education (Student Loans for Tuition Fees) (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (legislation.gov.uk) accessed on 7th December 2022

[11] The Education (Fees and Awards) (Scotland) Regulations 2007 (legislation.gov.uk) accessed on 7th December 2022

[12] Timeline of tuition fees in the United Kingdom – Wikipedia accessed on 7th December 2022

[13] https://1drv.ms/b/s!AjnBrv_NtsULlRV4RgGY1sjnK-O1 accessed on 7th December 2022

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Resolving to reference in 2023

Whether you’re the type of person who makes New Years resolutions or not, we hope you’ll consider resolving to get comfortable with referencing this year. We have lots of resources available to help you with citations in your assignments, and we know it’s something many students struggle with and so can often leave to the end of their work. Some top tips for getting ahead of the referencing panic:

  1. Record the information you read as you go. You can do this using a reference manager, bookmarking tools in your browser or DiscoverEd, or good old pen and paper. Whatever method you’re comfortable with, starting off with good organisation will help you down the line.
  2. Leave more time than you think you’ll need. Do you usually give yourself a day or two before the assignment deadline to sort references? Double it! Triple it! Build in contingency time for writing up and correcting references – and for asking for help if you need it – and if you end up not needing all that time then submit early and then reward yourself with a treat for being ahead of the game!
  3. Be consistent. There are lots of referencing styles out there (you may already be familiar with Harvard, APA, Chicago, OSCOLA), but whichever one you use for your work, be consistent in how you reference. Make sure you have all the component parts of each type of reference and then style them in the same way each time – this helps you spot when information is missing as well as looking good.
  4. Use the tools available to you. This includes reference managers like Endnote, Zotero and Mendeley (or any others!), or even ‘quick’ citation engines like ZoteroBib or Cite This For Me. We highly recommend you use Cite Them Right Online which is a database we subscribe to for all staff and students to use – it will show you how to construct references for every type of material in a huge range of styles. Not sure how to reference a personal email, a blog post or a youtube clip? Use Cite Them Right to check! NOTE: Please make sure you check any reference that is created by a citation tool, as they are not guaranteed to be accurate.
  5. Get help in plenty of time! Still feeling lost at sea? We’ve got training sessions on the MyEd booking system and also recordings on Media Hopper (click on ‘174 media’ below the title card for the full list of videos) designed specifically to help you. There’s also part of the LibSmart online information literacy course dedicated to the basics of referencing, and we have a whole subject guide on the topic. If all else fails, contact your Academic Support Librarian and ask for a one-to-one appointment where we can sit down with you and work through the problems you’re facing.

Do you have any top tips for referencing? We’d love to hear them, you can leave them in the comments or tweet us @EdUniLibraries

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What the NFT?!

The purpose of this blog post is not to endorse or criticise NFTs but to explain what they are and – briefly – discuss if they are relevant to libraries.

When a colleague asked me if I know what non-fungible tokens are, I must confess that she gave me pause. As I regained my bearings, I remembered that mobile goods can be classified as fungible and non-fungible. According to my old Civil Law textbook – fungible goods can be determined by number, measure or weight therefore can be replaced with similar ones when executing a contract. I also remembered the example given by the professor: if someone buys one tonne of apples that go bad before delivery, then the seller must replace them with another tonne of apples of similar type and quality and the contractual obligation can be still respected. The seller will bear the loss but that’s the nature of fungible goods. Per a contrario, this means that non-fungible goods are irreplaceable or unique goods.

A non-fungible token (NFT) is a record of who owns a unique piece of digital content. It’s the digital equivalent of the deeds of a house. Ownership is recorded on blockchain – a publicly accessible and transparent cloud ledger for digital assets. Content can be anything – art, music, graphics, tweets etc. – as long as it is unique.

Last year, American band Kings of Leon released their When You See Yourself album using the usual channels (vinyl, CD, streaming etc) and as an NFT. In fact, there were two types of NFTs: one digital download deluxe version of the album which came with some digital & real perks was sold for $50. The other type is a set of 4 front-row seats for all future Kings of Leon concerts. 18 such NFTs were minted and only 6 were sold – the rest will be auctioned in the future. This may make more economic sense for investors or fans of the band as they can use them or sell / rent them but still it depends on how long the band will stay together.

One key advantage is that NFTs will put all money directly (and immediately) in the pockets of the artists, but the list of possibilities is endless, being limited by technology, creativity and – crucially – whether NFTs will get enough traction to provoke a shift in the industry. Attaching copyright or royalties to the NFT is theoretically possible but it may not be viable for all types of content.

Are NFTs relevant to libraries?

NFTs are not similar with the ebooks that can be bought from Amazon or other publishers. Unlike Kindle books, NFTs are unique (or limited series) and come with the ownership of the digital book and therefore can be easily resold on blockchain.

Many universities and university libraries have physical possession and sometimes ownerships of rare and limited-edition items which can be digitised, tokenised, and auctioned. Many of these items should be digitised for preservation purposes anyway. As money are always tight, NFTs may look like a source of income as well as creating opportunities for partnerships.  Libraries have always been at the forefront of research & innovation and were among the first to embrace some of the innovative practices the internet has unleashed. Any university library with an open-minded IT and finance department should be able to mint NFTs.

On the negative side, there’s a significant ethical problem as usually university libraries are in the business of making the information more fungible not making it non-fungible. University of Edinburgh’s vision is that ‘our graduates, and the knowledge we discover with our partners, make the world a better place’. We cannot do that by restricting access to knowledge. Another equally significant problem is trust – is the NFTs (and the other cryptocurrencies) bubble going to pass the test and become mainstream or is it going to burst just like the tulip fever in the 17th century?

Like any digital creation, NFTs do require ongoing maintenance for their existence. University libraries have the experience of providing long-term preservation for items they store and fortunately the life expectancy of a library is longer than that of a rock band.

A simple scan (even a 3D one) of a unique manuscript or artefact may not be enough of an incentive for someone to buy an NFT. To make them desirable, something new, innovative should be added. This may be an ideal opportunity to innovate, to create partnerships with students and young, original creators and help them build their careers.

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Referencing, research: one-to-one appointments

Do you need help with your research? Have you got yourself into a muddle using legal resources online? Do you just need to know what you need to know?

Book a one-to-one meeting with our Law Librarian team to discuss your research issues or library problems. In previous one-to-ones we’ve helped students with:

  • search strategies
  • using our subscription databases
  • finding international case law
  • finding historical Scots material online (specifically the Institutional Writers)
  • referencing (specifically using OSCOLA)
  • setting up news alerts for cases or legislation

We arrange appointments once a fortnight using the MyEd booking system. Search for “Literature search clinic” and select the Law specific event, or search for “Law” and select provider group “IS Library and University Collections” to find all our Law related training. Future dates include:

  • 19th January
  • 9th February
  • 23rd February
  • 1st March
  • 15th March
  • 30th March
  • 13th April
  • 4th May

Please note: due to our current staffing situation these appointments are all on Wednesdays and Thursdays. If you require a different day please get in touch.

We release appointments approximately three weeks before each scheduled date. This semester we’re trialling a combination of online and in-person appointments so when you book feel free to contact us to discuss how you would prefer to meet. If you cannot see an available meeting slot that suits you please email law.librarian@ed.ac.uk and we will find a suitable time.

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New year, new team members!

The Research Data Support team has had some noteworthy changes in the last few months.

Pauline WardLongtime staff member Pauline Ward has embraced a new management role as Data Repository Operations Officer, where she will work with two Research Data Support Assistants, myself as service owner, and the Digital Library software engineers. The Digital Library hosts our open and restricted access repositories, DataShare and DataVault – to ensure smooth operations of these data archiving solutions into the future. The two new Research Data Support Assistants are Maeve McCann and Stefano Bordoni, who will be supporting users with our repositories Edinburgh DataShare and DataVault, among other activities with the team (time will tell!).

Maeve has previously worked for the IT team at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Maeve McCannPhilosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences (PPLS), where she was responsible for the development and management of the student and volunteer research databases.  She led the implementation of the Volunteer Panel – a bespoke system for researchers and participants to post and sign up for studies and Maeve also provided technical support for the PPLS Ethics system.

Prior to working for the university, Maeve has held roles with several children’s charities and management consultancy firms.  In her free time, Maeve enjoys mountain biking, skiing and travel.

Stefano Bordoni has recently completed a Doctorate in Archaeology at The University of Edinburgh, with a thesis on historic masonry techniques and building materials in Umbria (Italy). During this experience, he took advantage of IT tools in exploring the informative potential stored in medieval and early modern constructions. In his years in academia, he has taken part in several archaeological projects and excavations. Among them, he established and supervised the Pietrarossa Archaeological Excavation (University of Perugia) and managed the GIS platform for the Water in Istanbul Project (British Institute at Ankara & partners).

Stefano BordoniPrior to his current role, he has worked within the University of Edinburgh as a Tutor in the School of History, Classics & Archaeology, a CDCS Training Fellow (at the Centre for Data, Culture & Society), and EdHelp Information and Support Assistant, in Information Services. In his free time, he loves cooking traditional Umbrian food, foraging wild mushrooms and cycling.

Before the end of the year we bid goodbye to colleagues Dr Bob Sanders, now taking up a lead training role with the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR) based in the School of Geosciences here, and Yue Gu, Research Data Steward, a PhD candidate in Econometrics who has taken an analyst role at Natwest.

Good luck to everyone in their new roles!

Robin Rice
Data Librarian and Head, Research Data Support

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Finding key resources: Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia

For those rejoining us in January for Semester Two, welcome back! For those who are new to the Law School or just this blog, welcome! This is where we report news, updates and offer tips for training in library resources. The blog is currently written by SarahLouise, the Law Librarian who works Wednesdays to Fridays, as we have a vacancy for the other half of the post. We hope to have a new Law Librarian joining the team over the next few months and will introduce them when they start!

We’ve received quite a few queries about locating some key resources for research and study over the last few months so we wanted to clarify how best to access these. First up, the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia. This is a resource which is core for our undergraduate students as they get to grips with Scots Law. We do have instructions listed on the Law Databases Help & Training page under ‘Resources for Scottish Legal System’, but we wanted to add some screenshots here for the visual learners.

  • To log in to Lexis+, you will need to select ‘academic log in’. You may then be presented with a dropdown box to select ‘UK Access Federation’. Select ‘University of Edinburgh’ from the list, and you will be logged in. Alternatively you may have the option to select ‘University of Edinburgh from the front page – do this if available!

Screengrab of login page for LexisLibrary/Lexis+. The words 'use academic sign in' and 'university of edinburgh' have been highlighted in yellow to indicate areas to click on.

  • You may be asked to log in with your UUN at this stage if you’re not on-campus. Use your usual student ID and password.
  • In the middle panel in the centre of the page, select ‘content’ from the navigation menu.

Screengrab of main panel when logged in to Lexis+. In the central pane there are a number of links across a navigational bar, and in this image the link to 'content' is highlighted in yellow.

  • The resource will be one of the first items listed as ‘Halsburys Laws and Stair’. Click this.
  • Then you will see a link to Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia. Click the title, and use the plus and minus boxes to navigate through to find the section you need.
  • If you want to, use the pushpin icon near the title to add this to your pinned sources. This bookmarking tool means that a shortcut will appear under ‘My Sources’ on the main panel when you log in to Lexis in future, which will save you a few steps.

Screengrab of the contents page of the Stair ebook is shown. There is a pushpin icon in the top right of the image which has been highlighted in yellow.

Screengrab of main panel of Lexis+ again, this time with 'My Sources' selected. Below the navigational bar the direct link to the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia is highlighted in yellow.

We hope this is helpful. If you have a resource you’d like a little more advice on accessing, please let us know by email (law.librarian@ed.ac.uk) or by commenting on this post.

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E-Resources trials from the library

Welcome back to all staff and students! This blog has been a bit quiet of late due to high workload and some understaffing in our team, but we wanted to start off the new year with some good news and thought we’d alert everyone to some of the excellent e-resource trials we have going on!

Did you know?
Before the library subscribes to a new database we often arrange for a trial free of charge and link them on the E-Resources Trials page. We then ask anyone who’s tested the resource out to fill in a short feedback form to let us know their thoughts so we can decide how useful it will be for our users. Some of the trials we have ongoing at the moment are listed below.

Radical Irish Newspaper Archives

Radical Irish Newspaper Archives is an extraordinary collection of over 115 Irish radical and political newspapers, journals, pamphlets and bulletins. Fully searchable and consisting of more than 11,000 editions with a total page count of 102,755 these newspapers, according to Dr Ciarán Reilly of Maynooth University, ‘hold the key to understanding Ireland in the turbulent decades of the early twentieth century’. Spanning one of the most important periods in Irish history, from the Home Rule debates of the 1880s to Ireland on the eve of the Second World War, these somewhat obscure titles provide an insight into a myriad of opinions on Irish life.

Trial access until: 08/01/2023 (so have a look this weekend!) 

SAGE Research Methods: Doing Research Online

This new multimedia collection has been designed to support novice or experienced social science researchers who are conducting research online. Whether conducting their first or their hundredth study online, users will find support to employ a variety of digital methods from online surveys, interviews to digital ethnography, social media, and text analysis, as well as learn how to manage, store and archive digital data. Privacy and other ethical considerations specific to conducting research online are also covered. Researchers will also get support with how to navigate the challenges of being supervised online.

Content & Features:

  • ‘How to Guides’ (providing practical help with using digital research methods);
  • Videos (tutorials, expert interviews, video case studies, etc.);
  • Case studies (focused on challenges of designing and conducting research online);
  • Teaching sets of data with a guide (suggesting a method to analyze both digitally created and existing online data, plus a step-by-step guide to how to do it so that students can practice data analysis);

Trial access until: 26/02/2023.

Archives of Sexuality and Gender: International Perspectives on LGBTQ Activism and Culture

Archives of Sexuality and Gender: International Perspectives on LGBTQ Activism and Culture examines diversity in underrepresented areas of the world such as southern Africa and Australia, highlighting cultural and social histories, struggles for rights and freedoms, explorations of sexuality, and organizations and key figures in LGBTQ history. It insures LGBTQ stories and experiences are preserved. Among many diverse and historical 20th century collections, materials include: the Papers of Simon Nkoli, a prominent South African anti-apartheid, gay and lesbian rights, and HIV/AIDS activist; Exit newspaper (formerly Link/Skakel), South Africa’s longest running monthly LGBTQ publication; Geographic Files, also known as “Lesbians in…” with coverage from Albania to Zimbabwe; and the largest available collection of digitized Australian LGBTQ periodicals.

NB The Library has purchased access to three other modules of the Archives of Sexuality and Gender database – these can be found on the A databases page.

Trial access until: 12/07/2023.

We actually have TWELVE trials currently running at the moment. You can find out more on the E-Resources Trials page of the library website, where we have links and descriptions for all items as well as a link to the feedback form (login required).

If there’s a resource you’d like us to get a quote and trial for, please let us know by contacting the relevant librarian for your subject area.

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Warm wishes from your Law Librarian

Working in the Law Library today has been like night and day since the study space scramble of last week, and that’s because most students have now finished up for the term and are beginning their winter breaks. The Law Library is still open until 4.50pm tomorrow (Thursday 22nd December), and we will then close our doors until Wednesday 4th January 2022. If you are studying or conducting research over the winter break you will find our online resources remain accessible via the usual channels, but should you run into difficulties we will not be able to respond to any messages until we return in January. Alternatively the Main Library is available during the holidays, you can find out more on their page on the website.

It’s been a bit of a tricky year in the land of Law Libraries as we’ve been short staffed for much of Semester One both on the Helpdesk and in the Academic Support Librarian team. We appreciate your patience while we do what we can in the time available, and look forward to Semester Two where we hope we’ll be back up to a full complement before too long.

We wish you a pleasant and restful winter break and hope for your health and happiness during your time away from the University. See you next Semester!

 – SarahLouise 

Christmas tree on display in the quad at Old College.


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Review 2022 and a look towards 2023

A lot has happened in 2022! Supported by both core and external funding, and with a return to more normal ways of working, we have been able to re-start and complete many of our plans.


Sarah carefully treating minor folds

The care of the Lyell archives was our priority. Supported by external funding from the John R. Murray Charitable Trust, the National Manuscript Conservation Trust and others, professional Conservator Claire Hutchison worked on the collection from January – July 2022, along with two project interns, Joanne and Sarah M. We were able to slightly extend the conservation project, so a big thanks is due to Sarah P, who was able to clean Lyell’s Offprints and treat minor folds and tears found in his MS edits.


The University’s Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service have been making good headway, and we are 50% of the way there. At present, the digital images are hosted on the University’s image website Luna. You can use the left hand menu to select the Notebooks, select particular pages and zoom in on the detail – really helpful when deciphering Lyell’s handwriting. Mindful of any conservation needs, the team are able to also prioritise notebooks specially requested by researchers -so do get in touch –  the team are very much bolstered by enthusiastic responses!

Charles Lyell’s World Online

Hosting the digital images online is one thing, but we also want to enhance digital access online. Funding provided by the International Association of Sedimentologists has enabled us to bring a Lyell Website Developer onboard. We know that Lyell’s Notebooks are packed with information; this information can jump around from topic to topic, but also builds, from observation to noting queries he needs answers to. The Web Team are currently working to apply the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) that will allow the user to view the Notebooks, and flip seamlessly through the pages. Once this step is completed, we will explore what other functionality can be added to enhance the reader’s experience.

Cataloguing & transcription

We are using the Notebook indexes to create a catalogue entry – they are often written by Mary, they can run to 6 or 7 pages – or missing entirely!

We have two cataloguing priorities – the Notebook indexes, and one set of Lyell’s correspondence. As we now have a large amount of Lyell’s handwriting digitised, we can start to share out the work to remotely transcribe the indexes using the AI platform Transkribus. The transcriptions are not completely accurate and need to be manually checked, so it’s time consuming, but the results produce rich descriptions that will enable good searching. A small group of remote online volunteers are working away on this (and doing a great job – thank you!). Please get in touch if you would like to join us!

We’ve also recruited on site volunteers, who are able to visit the CRC reading room, and view records that are not digitised. They are working away on one tranche of Lyell’s correspondence, identifying the senders and enhancing description. So far we’ve encountered some eminent correspondents, including Lucas Barrett and Samuel Beckles – yes, we are at the ‘B‘s!

Beckles’ Pit at Durlston Bay, with Samuel Beckles wearing a top hat, directing operations. He is in touch with Lyell as soon as he starts finding specimens, Christmas 1856.

Looking ahead to 2023

As well as working on the website, plans are now in place for us to host what will be the first major exhibition on Lyell. This will be located in the Main Library Exhibition Gallery and will run from November 2023 to February 2024, so see you there! Lyell represents a huge topic – both in terms of scale and impact. The depth and breadth of the collection held at the University of Edinburgh offers a brilliant opportunity to show how he worked to develop and then promote his ideas. We’re also delighted to have secured funding to support a Lyell intern, who will focus on collating historical context and Lyell’s travels to populate both the exhibition and the website – more from them in 2023.

Thanks for all your support so far – enjoy the holidays when they come.


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