Edinburgh Napier University

Month: March 2022

Unusual Libraries from the UK

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University libraries tend to be large spaces with shelves with thousands of books, computers and study spaces. Students are used to and expect to have these facilities. You may also use public libraries which may not be as big, but still house a huge variety of books and other resources, but not all libraries are the same……

Here are two Unusual Libraries from the UK

Bethnal Green tube station library

When war broke out in 1939 Bethnal Green Underground station was partly completed, and work was halted. In late 1940 it was decided that as the works were far enough ahead it could be used as a safe shelter for the public during air raids. Over a period of months, the station was transformed to house enough bunks to sleep up to 5000 people, a café, theatre and a nursery. This community 78 feet underground also gained a library in 1941-Britain’s only tube station library.

In September 1940 a bomb had fallen on the roof of Bethnal Green Public Library causing vast destruction to the adult learning library. Librarian George F. Vale and his deputy Stanley Snaith pulled a tarpaulin over the shattered glass dome roof and vowed to bring a library to the underground community. The council approved a grant of £50 and a library was created over the boarded-up tracks of the westbound tunnel. Stanley Snaith wrote “All last summer the caverns echoed to the din of hammers and saws. The result was a triumph.” Later in the Library Review 1942, he wrote “Libraries in converted shops, in village halls, in mobile vans are common enough. But libraries in tube shelters are something new under the sun.”

The tiny library measured 15 feet square and opened from 5.30-8pm every evening. It housed 4000 titles that had survived the bombing of the main library. Romances, classics, poetry and children’s books could be borrowed and help the residents to escape from the horrors happening above ground. Snaith wrote of his patrons, “Each dusk sees the first contingent making its way down to the bowels of the earth. The well and the ill, the old and the young, they come trooping down… In the library the youngsters are vocally busy with their book selection, but why should they not chatter to their heart’s content.” Now the “youngsters” are in their 90’s, but they still have fond memories of the tube station library. Pat Spicer, now 92 said, “You can’t imagine what that library represented to me as a place of safety. It sparked a lifelong love of reading.”

As the war dragged on many would have been anxious about what the future held, but in October Bethnal Green Library celebrates its centenary and tube trains still come and go from Bethnal Green station.

Phone box libraries 

Across the UK many redundant old red phone boxes have found a new use as micro libraries. This is often in rural areas which have been affected by cuts to spending on public libraries due to cuts in local council funding. The idea is simple-anyone can take a book home, but they are expected to bring it back or bring a replacement.

The first phone box library was set up in 2009 in Westbury-Sub-Mendip following cuts to the mobile library funding. The parish council purchased the box for £1 and locals put up wooden shelves and donated books.

These micro libraries operate on a system of trust and house a large range of titles from cookery books to classics and children’s books. In villages where everyone knows everyone, the system works well, but in some cities, micro libraries have been vandalised and the local community has had to fund and carry out repairs.

These are just 2 examples of libraries in unusual places. If you would like to find out about some other unusual libraries click on the links below:

The Worlds Oddest Libraries

Donkey Libraries of Columbia


Also, check out our amazing article on

Wilderness Libraries of edamalakudi


By Vivienne Hamilton

AM Explorer Database: Millions of pages of primary sources spanning the 15th – 21st centuries

Trial Access to AM Explorer Database

We have trial access to AM Explorer from Adam Matthew Digital until 5 May 2022.

This fascinating resource will be of interest to staff and students in the School of Arts & Creative Industries and the School of Applied Science, but it is very wide-ranging and potentially useful to all.

AM Explorer brings together a range of the most popular database products from Adam Matthew Digital. These award-winning digital resources which cover the social sciences and humanities were developed in collaboration with leading libraries and archives. They comprise of digitised versions of documents of historical interest collected from public and private sources of the past, but may also include photographs and video content, depending on the topic.

AM Explorer database screenshot

Features include:

  • Millions of pages of primary sources spanning the 15th – 21st centuries, including a wealth of new content added every year.
  • Powerful digital collections that transform teaching and research on important themes such as: Borders and Migrations, Gender and Sexuality, Global History, and War and Conflict
  • Range of additional features to enhance student engagement including Handwritten Text Recognition, Data Visualisation, Video and Oral Histories

You can access AM Explorer from the A-Z Databases list by clicking on the Databases tab in LibrarySearch, or via the URL https://libguides.napier.ac.uk/AMExplorer



If you have any questions or comments on this database, please contact Marian Kirton, Subject Librarian for the School of Arts & Creative Industries m.kirton@napier.ac.uk. We are grateful for your thoughts as they will influence future decisions to purchase this resource.


By Sarah Jeffcot


Learn more about our other databases, Nexis and IBISWorld.


World Sleep Day Friday 18th March

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Wakey, wakey!

I trust you had a good night’s sleep and are feeling bright and perky. No? Well, maybe you’re one of the 16 million UK adults who suffer from insomnia. 36% of us struggle to get to sleep at least once a week, and 55% of people aged 18-24 at least once a month. These statistics are concerning. Why? Well, I’m a big advocate of laughter, but I suggest it is, in fact, sleep that is the best medicine. The Dalai Lama puts it slightly differently: “sleep is the best meditation”.

Sleep is the most effective, cheapest and portable therapeutic treatment. It repairs your immune system, helps you think clearly, regulates weight and blood pressure, helps to stave off a whole range of diseases from heart issues to diabetes. It’s vital for mental health too. It manages emotional well-being, keeps worry, anxiety and depression at bay. Sleep is so important, we need lashings of it every night to keep us fit and healthy.

To sleep or not to sleep?

It’s had its critics, sleep. Novelist Virginia Woolf described it as “that deplorable curtailment of the joy of life.” Rapper Tupac Shakur declared that “the only time I have problems is when I sleep”.  And Shakespeare’s Scottish king lamented that “good things of the day begin to droop and drowse, whiles night’s black agent to their preys do rouse.” (Macbeth, III, II, 45). Well, no disrespect to big Mac, but maybe if he’d enjoyed a good kip, he’d have woken up in a better mood and not felt so, well, murderous.

I am a champion sleeper. I’ll be the first to admit that I take refuge in sleep when life gets hard or I’m feeling low. It’s always my drug of choice. But too much sleep is just as bad as too little. As with all things in life, balance is needed.

World Sleep Day

This Friday, the 18th, is World Sleep Day, and if you are struggling from too little, too much, interrupted or troubled sleep, help is available. https://worldsleepday.org

https://sleepscotland.org cater particularly for families, but if you’re sleep-deprived and want to chat to someone about it, you’ll find the national sleep helpline number here: https://thesleepcharity.org.uk  And the NHS Inform has compiled a self-help guide: Sleep problems and insomnia self-help guide | NHS inform

Here at Edinburgh Napier, we have a range of resources to support you. Sign in to LibrarySearch to find the Sleep Well Kit, Sleep, and Sleep: a very short introduction among many others.

Let’s leave the last word to peace activist Mahatma Gandhi: “Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”

Read more on how to take care of yourself by reading our article on self-care books in 2022

Or why not check out our Virtual Relaxation Space!

By Lesley McRobb


Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day

“Imagine a gender equal world.

A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Together we can forge women’s equality.

Collectively we can all” #BreakTheBias.

(Source: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/)

History of International Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day! A global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women. It took place officially for the first time on March 8, 1911 in Denmark, Austria, Germany and Switzerland (Source). Coinciding with the female suffragette movement at the time.

The United Nations started sponsoring International Women’s day in 1975 and the United Nations General Assembly stated it was…‘To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security (Source)

March has since become the celebratory month of women’s contributions to history, science, culture and society. It started off as a week celebrated in California and eventually became a celebratory month recognised globally. The 1960s saw an increase in feminism movements which brought more attention to achievements and contributions made by women throughout history.

Break the Bias

This year’s theme is “Break the Bias”. It is asking us to stand up to the bias we see in the world and to take action! Read more on International Women’s Day at www.internationalwomensday.com/

Here at Edinburgh Napier University, there will be a number of activities taking place to show our support. We have an event on Women Working in Films & TV, this is an opportunity to network and to hear from a panel of experts in this field. The event takes place on Tuesday 8 March 2022, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm in the Glassroom at our Merchiston campus. More info here.

The ENU Women’s Network is inviting colleagues, irrespective of gender identity, to join them as they build on the network over the coming months. You can learn more and get involved here.

Further Reading

Want to know more about some amazing Scottish Women who have made incredible contributions, read our article Wonder Women of Scotland. Also, check out our other articles on Women’s History and Women in Science :

Women in Science

Women’s History

Women in Engineering


By Maya Green and Juliet Kinsey

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