Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Barbican Library - July 6

The Barbican Library is a public library in the Barbican Centre, a multi-arts complex in the city of London. Due to the size of our group, we were split into 2 groups. I had the pleasure to be with John Lake, a Librarian in the adult department.

The Barbican Centre is a group of modern structures and was a gift from the city to the residents of London. The neighborhood was the site of heavy bombing during WWII and all of the historical buildings had been destroyed. The idea for an international arts center was conceived in the 1950's, planned in the 1960's, built in the 1970's, and finally opened in 1982. This square-mile is run by the City of London and includes theatres, art galleries, meeting facilities, as well as residential buildings. Approximately 9,000 people live in the Barbican and 75% are members to the library. Since any one can become a member, the library serves a large population of commuters who are unable to visit their local libraries after work.

Because membership to the library is so vast, a number of self-service tools have been implemented. The above picture shows the self-service desk that is just outside the library's doors. This station is available until 11pm and allows patrons to drop off books, check their account online, and access the catalog.

One of the most popular sections is the adult department. The collection is held on short "propeller" cases that allow users to clearly see the whole department.

In keeping with the arts focus of the Centre, the Barbican Library houses one of the most extensive music collections in London. Richard Jones, the Assistant Music Librarian guided this portion of the tour.

Students and researchers are a large percentage of the Music Library's patronage. The collection is comprised of sheet music (covering approximately 62,000 titles); 16,000 CDs; DVDs related to music; books and periodicals. The above picture is just a small sampling of the sheet music collection. Another service the Music Library offers is loans of multiple copies of music scores to orchestras.

The final stop on our tour was the Children's Library which serves families from birth to the age of 14. The department also serves the London public school system by sending out non-fiction materials that complement the curricula. 30-minute class visits are another service the Library offers to the surrounding school system. Monthly events on Saturdays, such as ballet, crafts, and summer reading round out the offerings.

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