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68th IFLA Conference Logo  

68th IFLA General Conference and Council

Libraries for Life: Democracy, Diversity, Delivery

August 18th - 24th 2002, Glasgow, Scotland








Contemporary Glasgow


A city to walk around

Food and Drink

Getting around





This section forms a brief introduction to Glasgow.


The exact origins of the city of Glasgow are still a matter of debate amongst historians. However, it is generally acknowledged that in the sixth century the Christian missionary Kentigern - who would become Saint Mungo - founded a monastery around the area where the Molendinar Burn flowed into the Clyde.

In 1175, King William awarded an official charter to the town. In the mid-1400s, the first University (and the second in Scotland) was founded on the site of the ancient monastery. By 1492, Glasgow had achieved city status and was a major population centre within Scotland.

By the early 1700s, Glasgow had become a major port city; in 1770 the Clyde was dredged and jetties built along its banks, allowing larger vessels to dock within the city centre. In the 1830s, as the industrial revolution took hold, Glasgow became a key centre for glass, paper, textile, cotton and chemical manufacturing and distribution.

The 1860s through to the turn of the twentieth century saw Glasgow become the shipbuilding centre of the world. This was partially due to the location, with the Clyde being a perfect natural shipbuilding centre, and partially due to the large increase in the population, attributable in part to mass immigration from Ireland. Over the next century, many of the world's most famous ships, such as the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth II, were built on the banks of the Clyde.

In addition, a programme of building lasting some half a century from the 1870s saw the development of a large number of museums, galleries, and libraries. Infrastructure developments resulted in Glasgow being one of the first cities in Europe with a regulated telephone system, water supply, and gas supply. Great exhibitions of international repute were held in Kelvingrove Park in 1888 and 1901 - the greatest ever held outside London.

Contemporary Glasgow

Over the last 20 years Glasgow has undergone tremendous change. From the 1970s through to the present day, the industrial focus of the city has moved from the heavy industries such as shipbuilding (although this still carries on today in a much reduced capacity), to service-based industries such as IT and tourism.

Whereas in previous decades the centre of Glasgow was considered unsafe during the hours of darkness, a radical transformation has led to Glasgow being one of the safest cities in Britain. The ongoing development of the main shopping precincts and streets in Glasgow, as well as an emerging cafe culture and late night opening, has made Glasgow a pleasant environment in which to work, live, shop and be entertained. In addition, the people of Glasgow have a growing reputation of being amongst the friendliest and most helpful of any British city.

The Clyde has undergone a dramatic redevelopment in recent years, no better exemplified than through the Armadillo, the building which will house the IFLA 2002 conference. Opposite the Armadillo, the Glasgow Science Centre, a complex of business and entertainment facilities, is under construction. Further up the river, modern accommodation complexes and apartments adorn the riverbanks; a stroll along the north bank, from the conference centre to Glasgow Green and back again, is an ideal way of seeing many aspects of the city.

Glasgow has, for many years, been a world leader in design and the arts, and several galleries and museums celebrate the work of artists such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Exhibitions within Glasgow that explore this subject, such as The Lighthouse, are well worth visiting.

Many of Glasgow's old housing problems have been eradicated, by a variety of means. Some warehouses and tenement buildings have been turned into studio flats and other modern accommodation; others have been pulled down, with shops, offices and new flats taking their place. As the transport system has been upgraded in Glasgow, other estates have been removed to make way for rail lines and motorway links; Glasgow is one of the few United Kingdom cities in which a motorway allows access straight to the centre. Other estates, such as the Gorbals, have undergone extensive rebuilding and are now much more welcoming areas of the city.

These, and many more developments, helped Glasgow to become the 1999 UK City of Architecture and Design.


Glasgow contains an astonishing number of theatres, art galleries and museums, from the large Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum, to a myriad of smaller establishments such as the Tron. Many are either free or have small admission fees, making it easy to immerse yourself in several days or weeks of cultural activities at very little cost. In addition, Glasgow is the home of the Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Royal Concert Hall.

Glasgow contains around a dozen cinemas, ranging from small specialist outfits such as the Glasgow Film Theatre, through to larger multiscreen establishments. There are six cinemas within 30 minutes walk of the conference venue, including the recently opened IMAX cinema, which shows specialist films on a screen as large as a tower block.

Music forms an important part of Scottish and Glaswegian culture, from the traditional (such as bagpipe playing) to the contemporary. Glasgow has produced many famous musical bands, including Simple Minds, Texas, Wet Wet Wet, Del Amitri, Lulu and Primal Scream. Glasgow also plays host to several legendary concert venues, such as the Barrowlands and King Tut's Wah Wah Hut.

For better or worse, karaoke is a common event in many pubs; local bands, both traditional and modern, can also be found in many establishments during the evenings. A large and vibrant club and dance scene in Glasgow ensures that the young and energetic can find 24 hour entertainment.

Various listing magazines are available that cover the arts and culture in Glasgow. In addition, there are an increasing number of regularly updated Web-based events listings.

A city to walk around

The West End of Glasgow is the "trendy" area of the city, being the focal point of many of the artists, students and media people who live or work in the Strathclyde region. In this area you will find the University of Glasgow, countless examples of fine architecture, several significant churches and museums, restaurants a-plenty, the Botanical Gardens and Kelvingrove Park. Jim's West End of Glasgow Picture Gallery gives an indication of some of the attractions of the area.

In the central area of Glasgow can be found the Merchant City. This grid of streets contains a number of bars, restaurants, art galleries, cafes, shops, and shopping arcades. Indeed, Glasgow has now one of the largest collections of shops of any European city. Many of these establishments open until late, adding a distinctly continental feel to the city in the long days of the summer. Glasgow is also home to a large number of well-tended parks and possesses more public open spaces than any other city in the United Kingdom.

Getting out of the city for some rural walking is particularly easy. Loch Lomond, one of Scotland's largest lochs, and Ben Lomond, a nearby Munro, is a bus ride away from Buchanan Street bus station. Even some of Scotland's islands, such as Arran, are only a few hours away by train and ferry from the centre of Glasgow. Scotland's collection of regional airports, and its train and coach network, make it easy to visit some of the most scenic locations in the world; it is well worth considering building a holiday to Scotland around attendance at the IFLA 2002 conference.


Being by far Scotland's largest city, Glasgow is the home of several league teams, including Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle and Queens Park. The rivalry between Celtic and Rangers is traditionally one of the fiercest between any two sporting sides in the world. Not far behind football in terms of profile is rugby (slightly similar to American Football, but without the excessive padding).

Golf is, of course, a sport also indelibly linked to Scotland, and the suburbs of the city boast several courses. Other sports played within Glasgow include cricket, greyhound racing and ice hockey. Due to the diverse countryside, pursuits such as fishing, climbing, mountain biking and hiking are becoming increasingly popular.

Further out into the hills and mountains, skiing and other winter sports are undertaken in increasing numbers, especially around Aviemore. Curling, a version of bowls, but played on ice and involving the astute application of brooms, is a sport in which Scotland is a world leader.

Highland games, which take place in several locations throughout Scotland in the summer, feature a number of interesting events that are unfortunately unlikely to grace the Olympic stage in the near future. The most well-know of these events is "Tossing the Caber", which involves a large man throwing a tree whilst wearing a kilt (do not try this at home).

Food and Drink

One of the many things that Glasgow is famous for is its pub and drinking scene. Despite the modernisation of much of Glasgow in the last 20 years, many pubs have retained their traditional aspects. At the contemporary end of the spectrum, a large number of wine bars, upmarket drinking establishments and themed pubs have opened in recent times, especially in the city centre and the West End. Of the Web-based guides, Travel Scotland and the Places to Drink section of the Scotland the Best! travel guide will provide useful advice.

Glasgow has a stomach-stretching array of restaurants, serving a wide selection of cuisines with establishments ranging from takeaway meals costing a few pounds sterling per meal to formal evening dining experiences. Some restaurants offer hefty discounts for same-day bookings. However, to immerse yourself fully in the experience that is Glasgow, you should partake on at least one occasion of a "chip supper and Irn Bru" (a large portion of fish and chips, with Scotland's most popular soft drink).

In addition, it may be worthwhile nibbling at some of Glasgow and Scotland's more well-known or unusual foods, such as haggis, or the diet-threatening deep fried Mars bar. Of course, a trip to Glasgow is incomplete without sampling possibly Scotland's most famous export: Whisky.

Pat's Guide to Eating out in the West End and the Places to Eat section of Scotland the Best! will serve you well. Equally useful is the restaurant section of the List guide.

More information about Glasgow can be found at: http://www.seeglasgow.com

Getting around

As Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, so it forms the centre point of the public transport and road networks. Glasgow is therefore the ideal starting point for travelling to any part of Scotland.

Air - Glasgow International Airport lies 8 miles to the southwest of the city. It can be reached by car, or by a regular bus link (20 minutes from the city centre). Direct flights to all other airports in Scotland are available from Glasgow, as well as flights to and from all key United Kingdom and Irish airports, many European, and several American and more distant destinations.

Rail - From Glasgow, rail lines radiate in most directions. The West Highland lines provide direct access to various towns in the Highlands, and ferry ports with services to the Inner and Outer Hebrides (the Western Isles). Trains also connect Glasgow to England via the West Coast and East Coast lines.

Within the Strathclyde region (which incorporates Glasgow), a system of surface level and low level trains provide fast and frequent access to most districts, outlying towns, and a number of ferry ports.

Underground - Glasgow possesses Scotland's only underground system, and one of only three in the United Kingdom (along with Newcastle and London). The underground is very cheap to use (a single ticket costing 80 pence), frequent, and outside the rush hour it is uncrowded, enabling quick journeys (from 5 to 10 minutes) from the city centre to the West End and other parts of Glasgow.

Bus and Coach - Regular coach links connect all major towns and cities in Scotland with Glasgow; long distance coaches connect Glasgow with all major English and Welsh towns and cities.

Ferry - Ferries connect most of the inhabited islands of Scotland with the mainland. The main ferry company (CalMac) provides a range of packages and tickets, thus enabling people either to focus on one area of exploration, or just island-hop. In addition, ferries often connect towns on opposite banks of major estuaries or lochs.



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