The Sir Duncan Rice Library

Kathryn Funderburg University of Aberdeen, Scotland


September 29, 2015

“The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.”— Carl T. Rowan

As an avid reader, libraries are one of my favorite places in the world. I can spend hours contentedly searching the shelves and breathing in that wonderful papery smell. Libraries of all shapes and sizes are a joy to me. Whether it is my personal collection of literature or the fantastically large Denver Public Library, I become a happier person when surrounded by books. This semester I am fortunate enough to have access to the Sir Duncan Rice Library, a truly inspiring space with a staggeringly large collection. The building itself is a work of art; every time I enter I can’t help but look up through the seven stories to the glass ceiling that allows sunlight to filter down, illuminating the books and reading areas.

“Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark ... In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed."- Germaine Greer

The Sir Duncan Rice Library, designed by the Danish architects schmidt hammer lassen was “conceived to mark the ice and light of the north.” Although completed in late 2011 the library was officially opened on the 24th of September, 2012 by Queen Elizabeth.

Costing £57, the building is comprised of:

  • 22,000 tonnes of concrete
  • 2,200 tonnes of steel
  • 760 glass panels
  • 4,700 lights
  • 24 kilometres of shelving

“The student has his Rome, his whole glowing Italy, within the four walls of his library. He has in his books the ruins of an antique world and the glories of a modern one.”— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I have only been at the University of Aberdeen for about three weeks and the library is already one of my favorite locations on campus. The ground floor has a café and a small gallery that currently has an exhibition about the Far North. A swipe of my student I.D. card allows me to access the elevators (or the “lifts” as one says here), and then it’s up to one of the seven floors, which are arranged by subject. The first two levels house the majority of computers, but every floor has abundant seating—there are comfy chairs closer to the center and a continuous desk that runs along the window walls.

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library. — Jorge Luis Borges

For me, one of the most impressive aspects of the library is the technology. Each floor has a printer and copier, and it is free to scan documents and send them to your email! The checkout and return process is completely automated with checkout kiosks on every level. Honestly, I still haven’t gotten over how neat the checkout system is here. The machine reads your card, you type in your pin, and then you place all (yes, that’s right, ALL) of your books on a pad and they are simultaneously scanned, finally you choose whether your receipted is printed or emailed to you. Returning books is also pretty entertaining: you slide your book through a slot which checks it in, then it rides on a conveyor belt until a robotic arm knocks it into the correct bin for shelfing. Another lovely feature of the Sir Duncan Rice Library is the view. From the upper levels the North Sea is easily visible along with part of the campus

“Libraries are as the shrine where all the relics of the ancient saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion or imposture, are preserved and reposed.”― Francis Bacon

Learn more about the Sir Duncan Rice Library

"Queen Opens New Library at Aberdeen University." BBC News. BBC, 24 Sept. 2010. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.

"The Sir Duncan Rice Library." The Sir Duncan Rice Library. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.


Scotland Semester