Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Barbican Library: Make a Noise in Libraries

The Barbican Library is a part of the Barbican
Centre, which has existed as an entity since the 16th century. The current building, however, was just rebuilt in 1982 after being bombed during World War II. It is "Europe's largest multi-arts and conference venue," and is funded by the City of London Corporation. The library opened along with the Centre in 1982, and is one of London's busiest lending libraries (and is quite possibly the largest).

We did not receive a formal tour, so we were free to roam about the library. The first thing I noticed about the Barbican library was the advertisement for their "Spoken Word Collection." They were emphasizing checking out audio books, based on Royal National Institute of Blind people's Make a Noise in Libraries campaign, but also simply for anyone who might enjoying reading a book in another format. I thought this was great, as people read and listen to books in a variety of ways. I appreciate the promotion of literacy in any form. I also noticed the library's emphasis on service to the community, which is usually a staple of most public libraries, but this one seemed to have something for everyone - in addition to the flyer for the Spoken Word Collection, I noted an Arthritis Care information session, which is not something I've ever seen in a public library in America. There were also notices for reading groups and basic skill sessions.

The library uses a classification system based on Dewey. It seemed easy enough to find what I was looking for. I enjoyed perusing the sections - there were several shelves of fiction in many genres, and a large non-fiction section containing categories as such as American Lit., English Lit., Poetry, and London History (there were many more, but those were the ones that caught my eye). The library felt comfortable and inviting, so I grabbed an interesting-looking book from the Myth and Folklore section to skim in one of the many inviting, comfortable chairs scattered around the main collection. I did not have the proper ID with me to obtain a library card, but I hoped to get one the next day after the Museum of London tour. Much like any public library, a card is free with proof of ID and address, and a cardholders have free internet access in the library.

I noted a few shelves of a Young Adult section in between Adult Fiction and the Children's Library, containing books like Acne For Dummies and flyers for general help needs, including one for stammering.

The Children's Library is housed in a small space, but they certainly make the most of it. While I am not considering children's librarianship, I greatly admire those who do it. They make huge contributions to literacy by surrounding children (even those who can't yet read) with creative outlets and activites, support, and resources. The Children's Library at Barbican hosts weekly storytelling for 0-18 months, 18-36 months, and 3-5 years, which is wonderful. There are free reading groups in which children talk about books they've read, photography competitions, craft sessions, and music sessions. I love the emphasis on the arts. I also noticed there were pamphlets for all kinds of parents, such as single dads who need help. One of them said, "Children are never too young to start loving books," and I wholeheartedly agree.

The Music Library was also fascinating, and is obviously a wonderful resource. The first display had "special edition box sets for hire," with the rental fee as cheap as 40 p for one week. They were for classic musicians like the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and Judas Priest. I saw they also had music-related DVD sets for lending at a fee of 2.75 pounds a week.

I noticed someone playing piano in the corner, but no one could hear the music but the player wearing headphones. I thought that that was a great resource for musicians, or even just beginner players, to come practice. If I didn't have access to a piano, I would be overjoyed to come to the music library. I noted books full of sheet music, from contemporary or classical music, to hymns and operettas or songs from films. There were also composer biographies and general music reference books. I've never been in a music library before, and never even dreamed of what resources such a place could offer. I am very glad that I got to visit and learn about a public lending library with incredible resources.For more information about the Barbican Library, visit the library's website.
For more Barbican Library facts and figures, such as circulation info, go here.

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