Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Barbican Center Library

Barbican Center Library
When the Nazi’s bombed London during WWII, the easiest way for them to navigate the city was to look for certain landmarks.  The heart of London sits on a curve in the Thames, which is easily sited from the air.  Once they found the city, they would aim for notable landmarks, one of these happened to be St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Luckily, the Cathedral survived the bombings with only slight damage.  But, the neighborhood around the Cathedral was completely demolished.  The city of London had a difficult time deciding what to build on this site.  Eventually, they build the Barbican Center.  It is a complex of apartment buildings arranged around a large community center.  As a gift to the citizens, in 1964, the city of London gave the people the first full-service reference library open to the public. 
The library is one of only three lending public libraries in the City of London.  The local population it serves is quite small, but since the center is so centrally located, it is used by many people from all over the city.   
The Barbican Library is home to two very interesting collections.  The London Collection is made up of about 8,000 books; its oldest book is from 1742 and is still in circulation.  The Collection is made up of books whose central theme is London.  One of the largest music libraries in London is also housed in this same complex.  It is a separate institution, with its own staff and was not created until the 1980s.  According to the librarian, it has the largest collection of DVDs and CDs in the country.  They also have two keyboards that users can rent for one hour segments to play.   
I thought the Unsigned London section in the Music Library was very interesting.  Musicians that have not signed with major recording labels can give copies of their CDs to the library for the public to check-out.  The thing I found most interesting at this library though, was the RFID tags in use.  It is an electronic radio chip placed in all of the books, CDs, and DVDs in the libraries.  To check items out, users scan their library cards at a kiosk and then place their books on a shelf in the machine... no librarian needed.  We were informed that this is common practice in the UK. 

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