Date visited: July 8, 2014
The Barbican is a public library located in the City of London. The City of London is a small one square mile city within greater London. The city functions independently of greater London, as its own city. The Barbican library is located within this square mile. Their patrons primarily include the small population that live in the City of London and the much larger population that work there or near there.
The Barbican is one of the most widely visited libraries in greater London. It contains a wide variety of collection materials including talking books, audio visual material and a growing number of e-books. The library also has a keyboard that patrons can use–with headphones–for one hour per day. The library allows people to borrow just about everything in their collection. The oldest item currently in circulation is a book from 1738. What stood out to me the most about this library is how friendly everyone is. They all seem to genuinely want to do anything they can to help their patrons.
The music library, located on the lower level of the library, opened in 1983. It is one of the best music libraries in greater London. Their patrons include researchers, students, and professional musicians. The music library offers a large variety of academic journals for aspiring musicians and music scholars. It also includes 16,000 pieces of sheet music. I really liked how they promote local musicians and allow patrons to check out their CD’s for free.
I was really surprised to find out that the library charges to lend certain materials. They charge 55 pence to check out a CD and £1.50 for DVDs. This is a little shocking to me because the American Library Association is strongly against charging their patrons anything (except fines). There is such a fine line once a library begins charging for access to their materials. It can be tempting to begin charging for certain library services and materials. The librarians at the Barbican expressed how librarians in London are experiencing similar problems that libraries are in the United States. Libraries are experiencing massive budget cuts and sudden stress of proving their worth to a community. Despite this, I still cannot say that I agree with the Barbican’s policy to charge for certain materials. Even the smallest amounts can keep certain patrons from accessing information.
Seeing the Barbican Library was a great experience. I loved seeing how the public libraries in London function and it was bittersweet to learn that libraries in the UK are having the same problems as libraries in the US. The library staff were really great, and it seemed like a really enjoyable place to work.