This Main Library tour was created prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and is still very useful for finding out what resources, services and facilities are available in the Main Library and familiarising yourself with the building. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic there are changes to access to the building and availability of physical resources, services and facilities. Make sure you check the Library Services Update website for full information and to keep up-to-date with current situation.
If you wish to use any of the study space in the Main Library or any of our site libraries you must book.
In line with Scottish Government regulations, face coverings must be worn in the library. Social distancing guidelines must be adhered to and make sure you follow directional signs. If the building has reached capacity you may have to queue before you can get access.
The Main Library holds books, journals, DVDs, archives, manuscripts, special collections and more.
It also contains study space, computing labs, printing, photocopying & scanning facilities, study pods, Library Cafe, uCreate and uCreate Studio (a community makerspace). There is WiFi throughout the building and you'll find toilets on every floor. On the third floor you'll also find the Careers Service (though you need to contact them online).
There are 8 floors in the Main Library and you have access to them all, from the study space on lower ground floor to the Centre for Research Collections on the 6th floor.
You enter and exit the building on the ground floor.
There are two loan types in the HUB:
Reserve = 3 hour loan*
Short Loan = 1 week loan
* Currently the Reserve books loan period has been extended to 1 week.
You must borrow books on the self-issue machines in the HUB before you can take them out of the HUB area.
You'll also find in the HUB
The books in the HUB (and on 2nd and 3rd floor of Main Library) are shelved according to the Library of Congress classification system. This is when you get letters followed by numbers as the shelfmarks e.g. JA66 Hey.
The books are shelved alphabetically according to the letters, then within that numerically and then alphabetically with the last 3 letters.
Some shelfmark areas you may want to browse as students in the Social and Political Science are:
GN = Anthropology
H = Social Sciences (including HA = Statistics, HM = Sociology (general), HN = Social History, HQ = The Family, Marriage, Women and HV = Social Welfare & Criminology)
J = Political Science (including JC = Political Theory, JX = International Law and JZ = International Relations)
RA = Public Health (also look at shelfmarks starting WA)
T = Technology
Self issue and self return
There are self-issue and self-return machines in the Main Library to allow you to quickly and easily borrow and return books.
There are self-issue machines on the ground floor, 2nd floor, 3rd floor and 4th floor. You must have your student ID card with you to issue books.
The self-return machines are located on the ground floor - 2 are next to the entrance to the HUB and 1 is next to the Reception desk at front door of Main Library. You do not need your student ID card to return books.
On the ground floor you'll also find the IT Support Desk, study pods, Quick Use Computers, a small computing lab and study area, exhibition hall and the Library Cafe. The ground floor does tend to be a bit nosier than some of the other floors in the Main Library.
There are no books or journals on the 1st floor. The 1st floor is a mix of computer labs, uCreate, informal study spaces, individual study space, study pods, uCreate Studio and Accessible Study rooms (allocated through the Student Disability Service). You'll find more MFPs on the 1st floor as well as poster printing facilities in uCreate. There are also some training and meeting rooms on the 1st floor.
As students in the School of Social and Political Science you will spend a lot of time on the 2nd floor as this is where the majority of books on your subject areas, and associated subject areas, are shelved.
You'll find books with shelfmarks starting A - PB on the 2nd floor.
You'll also find on the 2nd floor study space, computing labs, DiscoverEd search points, self-issue machines and MFPs.
Can't find a book on the shelf? Check the Recent Returns shelves. When books are returned they are put here first before they get re-shelved. Always check here first if you can't find a book on the shelf.
The 3rd floor is very similar in layout and facilities as the 2nd floor. On this floor you'll find the books with shelfmarks starting PC - Z. The 3rd floor also holds the East Asian Collection, one of the biggest collections of East Asian books in the UK.
The 3rd floor is home Careers Service. Their offices are currently not open but you can contact them online or by live chat. See their website for more information.
The 4th floor is where you will find all the Main Library's print journals.
Print journals always have a shelfmark that starts Per. (short for Periodical) followed by a decimal number. On the 4th floor you will find journals with shelfmarks Per..0 to Per..9.
As well as the journals there are a smaller collection of older books that use different shelfmarks than Library of Congress e.g. look out for the Centre for African Studies (CAS) book and journal collection on the 4th floor, their shelfmarks all start C.A.S.
The 4th floor also has study spaces, computing labs, self-issue machines, DiscoverEd search points and MFPs.
The 5th floor has fantastic views out over Edinburgh and is a popular study space but do remember it is a silent study space.
Lower Ground Floor
The Lower Ground Floor has study space, computers, MFPs and group study rooms. Unfortunately the group study rooms are currently unavailable.
There's more than just the Main Library
Although you'll spend a lot of time at the Main Library there are 10 other site libraries that you can use and there are other open access computing labs available. You may need to access books or other materials at these libraries or you may simply be looking for alternative study space. The Main Library is very popular and gets very busy so it can be useful to get to know these other libraries and alternative study spaces now.
Study space at the site libraries and other computing labs must be booked.
If you have any questions about using the Main Library, library resources, facilities or services then contact the Library Helpdesk.
Did you know?
The Main Library is over 50 years old. An A-listed building, it was designed by Sir Basil Spence. As you can see while much has changed in 50 years there is much that is still the same!
All photos either © University of Edinburgh or author's own.