Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Barbican Centre Library

Our second visit was to the Barbican Centre  in the heart of the City of London. Upon arrival, one may think that the Barbican Centre is akin to a prison because of the concrete surface that covers every inch. Yet, inside the bare concrete walls is an interesting, modern decor that supplements the many  film  and live theaters, art galleries, restaurants, shops, and even apartment complexes that make up the city within a city. The history of the Barbican goes back to World War II, or the Second World War as it's called here in Britain. After the major bombings in London, the land on which the Barbican now sits was entirely flattened by the bombs that crashed around the city.

Photo by Martin Beddall Photography

 As a result of deciding what to do with the desolate area, the complex was designed and built back in the 1960s. Today, the Barbican Centre holds the focus of our visit, the Library.
The Barbican Public Library is funded by the local authority and serves 11, 700 residents within the city of London specifically. The library focuses on a mix of self-service check-in and check outs, while also maintaining the personal desk services common in libraries. The average users are males from the ages of 25-45, however, surveys done every two years help to identify other demographics making use of the library.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect was the RFID ( Radio Frequency Identification) self  service kiosks. Books within the library have RFID chips inside that are activated when placed on the pad of the kiosk. Users scan their library cards, then simply stack the books on the pad and they are marked as check out instantly. Having not yet seen this technology, I was fascinated with the level of technology present in the library!
Along with a general collection, the library is home to a Children's Library that  works to promote literacy and reading of children through a variety of programs, including Summer Reading Programs and Reading Is Fundamental (RIF). The library also houses one of the largest music libraries  in London, where users can practice on two pianos, look at sheet music, reading periodicals, and listen to a variety of music CDs and listening booths. The CD collection in the library is listed at around 15, 000- 16,000, including local unsigned London artists.

I felt that Barbican Library was a wonderful library; I found myself wishing I was living here so that I might be able to use the materials and access the collection often. I am hoping to see more of the RFID tags in libraries, especially in the South. This technology is great and should be acted upon soon! Also, our tour guides were fantastic and made us feel right at home at the Barbican!

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