Sunday, 21 July 2013

Class 2: The Barbican Public Lending Library (02/07/2013)

Trying to find a blend between traditional services and user friendly self services, the Barbican Public Lending Library ( is among the top revolutionaries in library services. Between their use of card catalogues, now used to store different types of information, exhibition space, which invites local artists to compete for a chance to show off their newest creations, and the availability of self return and OPAC systems after library operating hours, located outside of the locked doors to help patrons that cannot make it during the day, the Barbican is a library that prides itself on their combination of traditional and self services.
Example of the quick choice display.
Having moved to this new location in 1982 when the Barbican Center opened, the library is said to be of the Barbican but not the Barbican. Being part of a major tourist attractions center, the library is constantly improving self service and user efficiency. The Barbican is a high traffic, highly popular entity. When our group visited this library today, we learned all about the patrons that come in and out daily, as well as met some of them that waked in while our guide for the morning, Jonathan Gibbs, told us all about the library and the constituents that visit. In addition, we learned about the wide range of on-line services and that the Barbican has a home delivery service for those patrons that cannot physically make it into the library.  

Once inside the Barbican, one of the things that stood out the most was their quick choice display. Books were stored face on, displayed much like a bookshop, and offered current/relevant titles that may peak readers interests. Similar to a lot of other services offered, this display is meant to peak readers interests and allow them to find what they are looking for quicker. This was a creative way to ensure titles were being seen and to keep circulation up. 

Another display that really stood out was the display of crime novels from the 1920’s and 1930’s. Although we were told that the stories were virtually unreadable, the artwork on the cover was nothing short of entertaining. An octopus grabbing a woman in a red dress, it doesn’t get better than that? It has nothing to do with the library services, but it was a unique display that definitely catches the attention and draws you in. 

After looking at the books, Mr. Gibbs took us to see the Art section of the library which contained DVDs and a small collection of Blu-rays. Unlike the libraries back in the states, patrons are charged a small fee to loan these items out for a week.

Children's Room at the Barbican 
After looking at the arts section, my class was taken to see the music library, one of the two largest collections in London. Housing over 15,000 CDs, a number of journals dedicated to individual composers, used for reference only, thousands of pages of sheet music, all of which are sent out to be bound before being placed on the shelves, and two digital pianos, available for patrons to rent out and use to practice on, this music library was impressive. From the minute I walked in with my class and heard the one student practicing a tune on the piano, I knew this was a room unlike any other.

Lastly, our tour of the Barbican took us to the children’s section. With over 24,000 items in the room, this is one of the largest children’s collections, ranging from infancy to 14 years old. There is no youth programming available; there are reading schemes, 12 local schools use the resources of this library, three times a week a story time is offered and there is a book start program aimed to encourage parents to read and bring their families into the library. What was interesting to learn about was the Summer Reading Challenge. Like the summer reading programs back in the states, this is a national program aimed to get kids reading over the summer. Similar to our system, there is a set amount of books each child needs to read in order to be acknowledged. What makes this program a little different is the emphasis that’s placed on the summer program. At the end of the summer, each child is invited to a ceremony, held at an off site location, where they are presented with a certificate and a medal. It gives the kids a chance to feel like what they did is a huge accomplishment and inspires them to want to continue. Out of all the sections my class saw today, this children’s section, by far, was my favorite. The Barbican Public Lending Library is truly a great library. 

Entrance sign in front of the Children's Room.
Could not have asked for a better one. Personally I love L. Snicket.

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