The Barbican Library is part of the Barbican Centre, which resides in the City of London. The Centre provides spaces for theatres, films, exhibition halls, private functions, and a restaurant and bistro. The idea of the Barbican came as a result after the London bombing of World War II. The Barbican was to inspire and motivate people with art, music, and books. Today, the Barbican Centre is the the largest multi-arts centre in Europe. The Barbican Library was opened in 1964, but the building the library currently is in now was not opened until the 1980's.
The Barbican Library is a public library, not open just to the people of the City of London, but to everybody. The library has a large selection of fiction, non-fiction, talking books, art books, reference books, children's books, and DVD collection. There is a very small section of tween books, but the Barbican has one of the largest music libraries in the UK. The library also offers several reading groups, literacy classes, career advice days, health checks, and provides space for knitting groups. There are twenty-five work stations where from people can access the internet. The library also makes it easy for people to pick up their reserve book and check it out, and the library will deliver home bound people books every three weeks.
The library also has a few features that I loved. Their self-checkout book machines are awesome! In the US, a person has to individually scan each book into the machine, but the Barbican Library machine is different. A person just needs to scan in their book card and lay down the books on the pad. If you lay down seven books, it knows what book you are laying down. It was so neat to see the librarian, Jonathan, lay down a book one at a time and the machine knew what book it was. It was very simple, but so cool! The library also offers two free keyboards that people can sign up to play. The patrons receive headphones, and they can hear only themselves play. Also in the music room is listening booths so the patrons can listen to music. In the children's library, there are about fifty books on MP3 players that the kids can check out. What's nice is that the MP3 players look cool and are very easy for the children to work by themselves.
The only down side about the Barbican Library is that it is not set-up for laptops. They have electrical wiring that is from the '80s and only have so many outlets. The wiring needs to be updated to support the use of several laptops. Also, there is wireless, but it doesn't work that well. The Barbican has thick cement walls that the wireless signal can't go through. There is one spot near the edge of the second floor where is works, and that's about it.
I enjoyed the Barbican Library. It's a library that is set up to handle different people's taste and liking from music, art, fiction, and children. If I lived in London, that would be the public library I would go to everytime. Also, the staff is super friendly and would be willing to help you with any question you would have.
To learn more about the Barbican Library, please visit www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/library
Photograph courtesy of Flicker.com-American Jon