The Barbican Library is the first public library that we have gotten to see and this was a great one. The library was built in 1982 on an area that got completely flattened in World War II. The library was purposely built as a library but the building itself also holds a concert hall. The whole building is concrete and is considered the ugliest building in the city. Despite this, as a city library the Barbican does a great business and has a lot of services and resources to offer their patrons. The library has four different sections the Main Library, the Children’s Library, the Music Library, and the Arts Library.
We began our tour in the Children’s Library; it is comprised of a small room that can be completely closed off from the rest of the library. This way if it ever gets too noisy in either on the doors can be closed. The Children’s Library caters to kids from babies through to fourteen. The kids can take out a maximum of twelve items and there are no late fees or fines when things are returned late. The library closes at two on Fridays. Strange to me when the library is kind of a big stop for families on Friday evening for books and movies for the weekend, but then the librarian explained that there are actually very few primary schools in the city and over the weekend there are not actually very many kids around that would come to the library so the hours are shortened to accommodate and deal with the traffic or lack thereof.
The Main Library apparently decided that the Dewey decimal system was too easy to follow and took sections out of order and moved them to other areas. It’s quite comical. They also store about 50,000 books under the library because there just isn’t enough space in the main levels of the library. A really cool feature that they have is an automatic self check out, where the patrons can scan their cards and then set the books or items within the scanning area and the machine just knows what items are there and will print out a receipt of the items and their due dates. The Music Library is huge and contains so many different kinds of sheet music and musical scores, they also have two electric pianos that patrons can rent for a time there and plug headphones in and play right there in the library. You can watch someone playing the piano, hands going and going and have no idea what they are playing.
Of all the things that stood out at the Barbican there are three that stood out the most. One is how small the Children’s Library ended up being, as a public library I always end up thinking that there are going to be tons of children running around and the Barbican made me realize that in the city this is not always the case. The second thing that stood out was a particular dictionary our guide talked about in the Music Library, a musical dictionary that you can use when you know the notes for a song but not the name. It is completely baffling to me as to how that works and something I have never heard of before. The third thing that stood out was actually a quote from our guide, “Libraries attract lunatics, and they’re not all the staff.” I know I’m not the only one from our group that thoroughly enjoyed that.