Wednesday, August 13, 2014

July 8th: Barbican Library

Tuesday morning we went to the Barbican Lending and Music libraries, both of which were wonderful. We 
were split into two groups, and mine was led by Jonathan. He was hands-down the coolest librarian I have ever met! His enthusiasm was palpable, and he was on fire with the jokes. I have always appreciated subtle wit, and Jonathan had that in spades. He showed all of us how to be a librarian, and you can really tell he loves his job. First, he led us to the children’s library, which was warm and welcoming, and I’m certain children enjoy going there. (Photo obtained from 

After that, Jonathan gave us a tour of the adult section of the library and explained how the library worked there. Due to Barbican’s being a building with many purposes, there is a great deal of noise coming from below. Personally, I found this endearing because it gave the library some character; it felt like a community center, and a welcoming one at that. The selection of books in the adult part of the library was strong, and I just had to check out their Stephen King selection, which was substantial. Much like my public library back home, they have a self-service check out area that scans the books as one puts them on the screen. One difference, though, is Barbican has stamps for the patrons to use in their books. Jonathan pointed out that people change the date—often making it incorrect! I chuckled thinking about how Americans must mess up the date by putting the month first!

After the tour of the adult books section, Jonathan took us to the staff room where he and the other staff had cookies (or “biscuits”) and lemonade ready for us. He had us all sit on the couches and told us stories about the library and some interesting patrons who have walked through the doors. The stories probably aren’t appropriate to be shared online, so I’ll suffice it to say they were amusing!

While we were snacking, the woman who runs the entire library came in, and we all ended up having a very serious—and depressing—discussion about the lack of funding and subsequent disappearance of libraries in the UK. The United States has the same problem, but Jonathan said he thought the difference was the ALA (American Library Association) has done a better job really fighting for libraries, whereas the British equivalent (CILIP) does not fight for libraries at all. The director said sadly that the library may have to close if funding continues to dissipate, which almost made me cry. I thought the Barbican was a lovely place and a real asset to London; should they lose that library, an integral part of the community’s information services and cultural preservation will be lost—a detrimental blow to London, indeed.

After the grim subject matter, Jonathan changed the subject and then took us to the music library. We got to meet the music librarian and see their collection, which is vast. Indeed, the Barbican Music Library is one of the biggest music collections internationally. They have movies and books related to music, concert DVDs, CDs, sheet music—all kinds of stuff. Indeed, the visit to the Barbican libraries was fun, and it truly seemed like a wonderful atmosphere in which to work and read. I had a wonderful time.

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