Thursday, 14 July 2016

Barbican Library

Part of the Estate
I don’t think I’ve made it a secret how much I love the Barbican Centre and Barbican Estate. There are just as many people who hate the complex of buildings as there are people like me, though. It was opened in the 1980s, but construction on it started much earlier, not long after the area was devastated after World War Two. It’s built in the brutalist style (hence the divide in opinions – a lot of people don’t like that style of architecture, I personally like some buildings and not others), and is honestly a tad bit confusing when you’re inside! There are several entrances and most of the floors of the Barbican Centre are open to the floors above and below in some areas. I had a little trouble finding my way back to a tube station when I was leaving, but that was due to me leaving from a different entrance and there being a large amount of construction in the area. Funnily enough, I found out a couple of weeks later, I could have just walked back to my dorm! The towers of the estate are visible from the tube station that was down the street from the dorm.

On to the library: again, we were split into two groups. In most of the areas we went there was enough room for our whole class, but it’s a working library, so it was easier to be quiet with a smaller group. This library is one of two public libraries in the City of London, the other being at Guildhall. This library is somewhat unusual due to the fact that it’s in the square mile: Only 9,000 people live in the City, while 300,000 work and study there. Because of this, you don’t have to actually live in the City to have a library card there. It also has more men and 25-45 year olds, likely because of the businessmen and women who visit.

Part of the music library
The Barbican Centre is very arts-focused, it’s actually the largest arts centre under one roof in the world, so they have a large arts and music library. The arts section of the library is sorted by type of art – quilting, woodworking, etc. The music library is split between a room with all of the printed materials (books, periodicals (some of which are fairly rare), and scores), and CDs and DVDs in the main library area. Interestingly, BluRay discs aren’t as popular as DVDs. That kinda surprised me, as I’m a big fan of BluRays (and the special features on them!).

The main part of the library (adult, non-fiction, and YA) seems pretty similar to what I have at home book-wise. The YA section isn’t that large, but that’s a space issue, not a choice. One part that was quite a bit bigger than at home was the travel section – I would have loved to see that at home before I left for London! There’s a permanent book sale area, which both libraries I go to have.

There’s also a huge focus on accessibility and helping people out in this library, but I’ve noticed these both are important in the UK. Even though the library is located on different levels, it’s still possible for wheelchair users to get to different areas. There’s also assistance to those learning new skills and languages, as well as services for the elderly and homebound.

The children’s library was the last area my group went into. It was small, but like the YA section, not really by choice. It did have its own room, which allowed kids to be a little nosier than they would be able to in the rest of the library. There are a lot of different programs focused on engaging kids and families, and lots of new clubs as well. The summer reading challenge was just about to start when we visited, which seemed like it acted pretty similarly to the summer reading programs at home. This one just had the perk of a party at Guildhall if you read all the books!

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