The Barbican Library was another great library we visited that stands within the City of London's square mile. The Barbican Library has a long historical context.
In 1423 the Barbican housed a reference collection for those who could read-- lawyers, doctors, professionals, etc. That libray was split up when a royal figure decided to keep part of the collection (See previous post- Duke of Somerset).
The Barbican is a Lending Library, one of 3 lending libraries within the City of London. The lending policy was established after the 1964 Public Library and Museum Act. Prior to that time it existed as reference-only. They circulate roughly 500K items per year and are open 6 days per week. They service about 1200 people per day, and many of these patrons are individuals who work within the City of London. (The City doesn't actually have many residents, mostly businesses/companies, etc.) Much of the business that comes into the library occurs through the lunch hour while people are on breaks from their jobs.
After the WWII bombings, a new site was designed in the 1960s and erected in the 1970s. It was designed to be a unique international Art Centre. There were always plans for a library to be attached to the Barbican Centre, in order to serve student, business, and residential patrons.
The Barbican Music Library is one of the two largest collections of music in London. They have a very extensive arts collection and aim to cover all types of music. They cater to a wide range (diverse) patron population (including amateur and seasoned musicians). The CD collection is probably the largest in London that is housed in one area. They own 17,000 CDs that are all available for perusal by the public. Our guide mentioned that they have seen about a 10% drop in CD circulation in the last year due to downloading MP3s. I think this is a bigger deal in the UK because most libraries (if not all) charge patrons to borrow any items that are not books (DVDs, CDs, CD-roms, etc.). Currently the Barbican Music Library charges only 30p per week for CDs, which is a competitive (cheap!) rate compared to other libraries. New CDs are not available to loan until they've been on store shelves for 3 months. I couldn't believe this!!
**The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act does not cover CD's and DVD's in the verbage. The only items the act spells out as being freely available by public libraries are books, though the libraries don't charge for Audiobooks.**
CD Classification is split up into five sections: Classical, Anthology, Pop Groups, Pop Female and Pop Male. Most items have RFID tags, and all CDs have security cases as well.
The Music library also has a wide variety of Music Electronic Resources, which is also available at home. (This includes the Grover Dictionary of Music and International Index to Music Periodicals.)
One of the neatest things in the Music library is an upright piano that sits near the Enquiry Desk. It has headphones attached to it so patrons can "try-out" scores they are looking to lend before they take them home.
The books in the Music Library are classified by Dewey, the Scores are classified by Macolving and Reeves Scheme. Journals are bound each year so back issues are available in hard-copies within the library.
There are 8 separate listening booths for patrons to listen to music on CD. There are no restrictions on time limits to use these booths. There are also 2 booths that house a special collection of Live Music called Music Preserved. This collection is not owned by the Barbican, but patrons do have access to listen to it if they wish- at the two special listening booths created for this purpose.
The Barbican Library strives to support financiers in the city. Their collection includes many different items, though they mentioned that they have a very male-oriented patron population due to their location.
They do have outreach services to homebound individuals, education area called "Basic Skills for Life", conversation ESL programs, 1-to-1 Internet Tutor Sessions, etc. This library was most like a library in the US.
The Barbican was one of the first libraries in the country to gain RFID technology, which they admittedly say has its advantages AND disadvantages.
There are 2 exhibition areas, and there is a stringent application/interview process to have artwork displayed in these areas.
The library also houses an Arts Reading Room which is often used for group meetings and writing workshops, as well as a Children's library.
The Children's Library at Barbican is one of the largest children's libraries in London. They have about 25K loan-able items in the collection, and cater to a patron population from newborn to age 14. Every fortnight Birmingham sends them CARTONS of books (100-300 books) and they must go through and decide what they want to buy. There is only one state school within the square mile of London, though the librarians have developed links and relationships with private schools in the area as well as neighboring boroughs. All computers in the children's area are equipped with internet filters, and they librarian also made some interesting comments about access. Apparently if a librarian believes the content or book a 12 year old is attempting to check-out, they will reserve the right to NOT lend it to that patron. I thought this was astounding- and so completely different from what our access policies are in the states.
The Children's library holds storytimes 3 times per week. They celebrate National Book Week in October and have schools come into the library to meet authors, illustrators, etc.
The National Book Trust has a program that provides families with bags of reading/literacy materials at birth, 18 months and at age three. They are given to every child by the Health Visitor who comes to the home of the child. The birth-bag of goodies includes board books, the older packages come with picture books.
I particularly enjoyed this visit because once again I felt that we were given the behind-the-scenes look at how a lending library operates and how library services differ between the UK and the US. I think taking a closer look at the access policies for minors in either country would be a really interesting study.