July 22nd- Barbican Library

After an amazing time in Scotland and the North of England, I arrived back in London. Two days later, our class visited the Barbican Library. The library is a public city of London library located in the organized Barbican estate. There are a total of three lending libraries and the Barbican is the largest. The Barbican opened in 1982 to service the surrounding community of the Barbican estate and others in the city of London. The library is placed in the estate’s arts center but the area was not originally designed to house a library.

Entrance to the library in the Barbican Arts center.

Entrance to the library in the Barbican Arts center.

To start our tour, we split into two groups led by library staff. The return system used to be cutting edge but now other libraries and systems have started to catch up. One of the largest and best-collected areas of the library is the Music Library. The library is award winning with the largest CD collection in the United Kingdom, and considered a national resource. There are also exhibit cases in the entrance to the music library showcasing different musical themes. The music library consists of reference materials, periodicals, listening stations, dvds, cds, sheets of music, popular music scores, and contemporary scores.

Exhibit case at music library.

Exhibit case at music library.

Following our tour of the library, we moved to tea and cookies to discuss other aspects of the library. First, we learned about their children’s library. The library contains a total of 23,000 items with 15,000 in the library and 8,000 in the back stacks. The library tries to bring in local schools so that the children can have the opportunity to check out material. There is also story time three times a week for three different age groups. The children’s library also provides reading groups and after school clubs. The library does a great job at trying to provide opportunities for children to receive books in hand. They also have a literacy program and a summer reading challenge program. The program encourages students to carry on reading during the summer, and each summer has a theme with the books and events.

The rest of the tour and discussion centered on other details of the institution. The library contains items on arts, finance, books on London, fiction and non-fiction. There are roughly 200,000 items and the oldest book that can be loaned from the library is from 1739. The book is about life in London and a social survey of the city. Additionally, the library has a large DVD collection, yet the blue rays have not been doing well so the library has stopped purchasing that media. Overall, the Barbican library does a great job servicing their community with a wide variety of materials, subjects and programs.


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