Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Barbican's Library

This library was really fascinating because it was the first library we went to that circulated books. It’s also located in the Barbican Centre which is another fascinating place.

The Barbican Library opened in 1982 and is open for everyone. In the Centre itself, there are 9,000 residents and approximately 330,000 city workers. The library has 24,601 active members, of which 50% are city workers. Their collection is primarily fine arts centered, but contains popular reading as well and contains just over 186,000 books and other materials to lend. They also have a music collection and a lovely children’s collection. The music collection contains the largest collection of CDs for loan in the public library system in London and they also have music books and music scores as well. With the music collection, there are two electric pianos that I saw where, with headphones, people can try out the musical scores.

The children’s collection has over 23,000 items and has fiction categorized into several separate age levels; under 5, 5-10 year olds, 10-12 year olds and young teens.

My personal impression of the library was that of a pleasant facility. They offered numerous resources for researching fine arts while continuing to serve the public with a good range of fiction resources. The library also checks out DVDs as well as the sound recordings.

In 2004, the library, which had been 100% bypass (check out the books, have the patron walk through the gates then hand them the materials), jumped to RFID. This enabled them to put terminals out in the hall where they could check in the books before having the patron drop them in the drop box. Its only as I’m typing this up that I wonder if they have any problems about people checking in their books and not putting them in the drop box. Perhaps they don’t have a problem with this like I think my public library might.

Another interesting thing I noticed was their use of an information desk as people walked into the library. The information desk is for basic reference questions – where is the fiction section, where are your bathrooms as opposed to can you help me find books on the life of Mozart during his years of travel. The reference desk is further into the library. The information desk is also staffed by those who are not librarians.

They also don’t check out materials to children under 14 without a parent and 15-18 have a limited check out. I really like this policy as it ensures children have a parent with them and the child can’t check out something without the parent’s knowledge. The library also has recently returned shelves. Susan mentioned one of the libraries in Omaha has shelves for this and I really wish our branch at South did too. So many people just come behind the desk to check the cart of recently returned items that it is sort of my pet peeve now. Just one of many, I’m afraid.

That evening we went to see the musical Nevermore, rather obviously about Edgar Allen Poe. It’s been performed in Canada and now in the UK, but has yet to be seen in the United States. We saw it on opening night and it was quite a performance. The entire thing was done in verse, partially sung and the staging was quite good. Both the costuming and the scenery was very reminiscent of Tim Burton. Being a rather odd play, most of our group either really liked it or really hated it. Myself, well, I rather enjoyed it.

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