Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Barbican Library

This morning we were treated to the Barbican Library, part of the City of London Libraries and the Barbican Centre. John Lake, one of our librarian guides began our tour with the history of how this library was created. It took nearly 40 years from planning to completion of the Barbican Centre and Library after the bombings in London during the war. The two other librarians, the Adult Services Librarian, (I couldn't hear her name) and the I.T. and Operations Librarian, Jonathan Gibbs took us around the library. Because the library is housed within a complex that is musical and theatrical in nature, their collections on these subjects is much more expansive than an average public lending library. Also their adult collections tend to focus more on business because of their clientele. Even though the art collection books are extensive, they don't house the art archives nor do in depth reference services. Down in the music library, we were shown the private listen playable pianos. Most of the music collection is rebound, by an outside service, to keep the sheets of music from disappearing.

The Barbican Library uses the Dewey decimal system for cataloging just as the public libraries in the US. When users check out their books, there are now new self serve RFID stations. They are design to blend in with the decor. The library uses an OPAC system called Talis Prism- for patrons and Talis Atlus - for staff.  There is slower progress in terms of doing digitization projects as the recession has cut funding to current projects. Since Guildhall Library doesn't lend, there are digitization projects there.  London Metropolitan does as well but the databases are not complete bibliographical.  However, the Barbican Library tries to have a strong web presence. You can access their library catalog on the web and reserve books or renew them. Also, they are part of the international system for Ask-A-Librarian program to do chat reference interviews. So far, the majority of the questions that Jonathan Gibbs has received were homework questions.

I found that this library really encompasses and engages the community it serves.  There are readers' events, children's events and even local immunization events; not to mention the cultural, entertainment events. The Barbican Library is an extension of the Barbican Centre for the people living in the residences above them. It is truly a community center.

Photo above is courtesy of the Barbican Library Flickr page.

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