Today we toured the Barbican Library, which is the largest of 3 lending libraries in the City of London (which, confusingly, is the name of a borough located within the city of London). The Barbican is a public library located on the second floor of the Barbican Arts Centre. Indeed, this is the arts centre which also houses the Barbican Theatre, a.k.a. the place where Benedict Cumberbatch will be playing Hamlet this August and September. This news was met with much excitement but most of us in the group. Sadly, Benedict did not appear at any point during our tour. But our visit to the Library more than made up for it!
What made the visit to this library memorable was the enthusiasm of the staff (especially our hosts Geraldine, Jonathan and Richard), as well as the creative and innovative programming and collections on offer. The children’s programming in particular sounded fantastic, including the Monster Club, the Summer STEM Club, and the Summer Reading Challenge. Library collections of particular note include skills for life materials, travel books and laminated maps, and the extensive music collection in the renowned Music Library.
The library aims to serve the learning and cultural engagement needs and wants of residents of the borough of the City of London, as well as those who work in the City every day (and clearly, reaching City workers is working, as the library reported heavy use during lunch hours especially). The Library is also well-situated within the popular Arts Centre, and is nestled amongst several large apartment buildings. But, like many libraries, the Barbican finds it difficult to make it known that they are here, and to make people aware of all of the services and resources they can offer.
I’ve been trying to decide what type of library I would like to work in, and in this visit I was reminded of how the diversity of needs and wants within communities serviced by public libraries really appeals to me. It is amazing what public libraries can offer to enhance the cultural life of their communities!