Thursday, July 29, 2010

Barbican Library

The word "Barbican" is defined as "An outer fortification or defense to a city or castle" by the Oxford English dictionary, and indeed, few better words are more appropriate when confronting this edifice. If essence, the Barbican is a "city within a city," which houses approximately 9,000 full-time residents and provides workspace for approximately 350,000 employees of various businesses each day. The origins of the Barbican Library itself go back to the 15th century, when it was originally intended as a public library to be solely used by the educated. The Barbican Library as it stands today was imagined in the 1950's, planned in the 60's and built during the 70's and 80's, and provides pleasure and professional materials for employees and residents alike. With the advent of digital technology, there is currently a massive effort underway to create a collection of digitized materials for use by patrons, due to increasing interest in digital formats.

When meeting John Lake, one of the senior librarians at the Barbican he told the story of Dick Wittington, and seemed shocked that I, as an American student, was familiar with the tale. Using this revelation as a preface, Mr. Lake explained that Dick Wittington, former mayor of London, had been one of the libraries major contributors back in the days of yore.

Moving into the library proper, we learned that their main reference desk provides a wide variety of information, and not just for library matters. For example, the Barbican Library provides artist galleries at no cost, which can be booked by the month, and in exchange the library takes a percentage of the sales fee, which generates 3,000-5,000 pounds of revenue a year. Furthermore, they also have a "magazine swap" program, which allows patrons to bring, borrow and leave magazines from shared use and circulation. They have also recently added Smart-SM, which is software that analyzes the Barbican Libraries usage statistics and provides advice on how to improve them. There has also been a recent effort to digitize due to patron interest in multiple information formats, accompanying library promotions via display choices and lay out, as well as the recent creation of seven reading groups (Four for adults, Three for children), as well as the addition of graphic novels for young adults. One of the reasons the Barbican offers such services is that there are 34 local authorities who offer services, but there is little intra-organizational collaboration.

The Barbican's Music Library, which opened after the general collection, is primarily used by students. local schools and orchestras, and is organized by the Mcudden and Reed classification system. In addition, they also supply scores musicians and choral groups, and provide listening booths in the Audio/Visual Section. They are also legally required to hold new CDs for three months. This institution and the Westminster Library share the position as the flagship music libraries of the United Kingdom.

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