Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Barbican Library

Today we visited the Barbican Library. John Lake was so gracious to show us around, even though more than half of the group showed up late due to Tube issues. I am really loving the Tube though. It puts the T in Boston to shame. Not that I don't love you, T, you're just not as shiny and you don't have signs that tell me when the next train is going to be there. Anyway, I am now closer to my goal of riding every line of the Tube. 6 left!

I really enjoyed the visit to the Barbican. The architecture reminded me so much of the elementary school I went to, which was also designed and built in the 60s and 70s. The Barbican was built in the 1970s because the site had been bombed during WWII. Only 9000 people live within the original Roman walls of London but 350,000 work there. This means that the user population of the Barbican Library is largely a commuting one. Mr. Lake told us about the history of libraries in London, starting with the first, Guildhall (1523), which is nearby the Barbican. In 1964 there was a Public Libraries Act which built up the London library system.

The Barbican prides itself on the strong art library and the even stronger music library. We first took a tour of the art and adult libraries, which seem to be heavily used. I liked the layout of the library, as it seems to have a flow that brings users to what they need in a natural way. Mr. Lake also told us that the literacy rate in the UK is actually dropping, which surprised me. 15% of people in the UK cannot read, which is astounding. Despite this, the use of the library is increasing, possibly due to the recession and also reading campaigns nationwide.

I found the music library very interesting. The assistant librarian, Richard Jones, gave us a tour there. The classification system is different from the rest of the library and they have 16,000 cds for loaning! I also didn't know that in the UK libraries charge for hire of CDs and DVDs as a way to earn revenue. They are not allowed to lend new CDs until they are 3 months old. I was sad to learn that there is no vinyl collection! I love vinyl records.

Finally, we stopped in the children's library. There we learned about the types of programs and services for kids. I like the Bookstart program a lot. That is the nationwide initiative to give children free books at birth, when they are 18 months old, and again when they are 3. It is a good way to get kids reading early on so it is natural for them later in life. I found it hilarious that they have a Warhammer group because a lot of my friends from home are very into it. Tiny men!

After the tour and the requisite group picture, Anne, Matt, and I set off to explore the area some more. We went to St. Giles Cathedral, technically inside the Barbican. John Milton is buried there! We did more walking around until we happened upon the London Bridge, and Tower Bridge in the distance. Naturally, we were attracted toward it. I can't wait to go back to the Tower of London and go inside and to walk across the Tower Bridge itself. We then took the Tube back here and finally, I hit the wall.

We've been going nonstop since Thursday morning and its finally caught up to me. My feet hurt; I'm tired; my brain is hazy. I decided to stay in instead of going to the play this evening so I could rest up for the British Museum Archive tomorrow, about which I am incredibly excited. I think I'll go to bed early tonight and get up tomorrow hopefully feeling refreshed.

I took the image at the top inside the Barbican Library. The second pictures is of Tower Bridge, also taken by me.

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