Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Barbican Library

Barbican Library is one of five city of London libraries. It was opened in 1964 as a full lending service library. Currently, it serves 11,000 residents at Barbican Center and has an overall population of 350,000 people being served. It is busiest at lunch and is opened every day except Sunday. They maintain a 24 hour, seven days a week online presence for the at home users. The majority of users are from twelve to forty-five years old and mostly males. Nearby there is a girls’ school, and a music school.

Outside of the library’s entrance there is an automated check-in kiosk. All library materials have RFID (Radio frequency-identification) stickers so that they can be checked out or checked in by the users. Also, there is an automated check out system used for DVDs and CDs as well. Inside the library near the “Enquiries” desk is another automated self-serve check-out table. It’s quite interesting in how it works. The user places a stack of books on a designated area, and a list of those books appears on the screen directly above. After pressing a series of buttons, the user walks out of the library with his or her bounty in tow.

Next to the self-service desk is a printer platform. A user can send pages to be printed to the printer and pay for the copies from a pre-loaded library card. Nearby it a shelf containing requested books, RFID labeled and ready for pick up. To the left is the DVD collection that includes movies, T.V. shows, and recently added Blue Ray. There is a flat rate rental fee of 2.75 pounds per week. The items can be renewed and paid for again.

Audio-books and MP3 players can be rented free of charge. There are also e-audio in downloadable form for users at home. So far there are no Kindle services.

The “Libraries Online” service provides Internet access to users with the limit of two-hour blocks. The computers are loaded with Microsoft Office software and a webcam. In the same space is you’ll find the “London Collection” older books that have been RFID tagged and can be checked out. The oldest one in the collection is from 1742. Outrageous, can you imagine this being an option at a library in the states?

Most surprising to me was the music section of the library. This might be due to the fact that London has a large population of musicians and many more music enthusiasts. The music library began in 1983 and is financially supported by the outside community. The other large music library is at Westminster Library. Entering this section of the library you’ll find an exhibition area. The theme changes but this time it is of pop record covers e.g. Missing Persons from the 1980s.

There are two keyboards that users could use to learn to play or try out sheet music before checking it out, earphones provided of course. Available for check out is Newsletters/Journals, sheet music, music periodicals, and musician biographies/autobiographies. Reference books are available such as the Dictionary of music by notes, British Hit Singles & Albums, and the Rare Record Price Guide 2010. The book collection covers 9,000 books. Vendors provide binding for sheet music books to promote their longevity.

There is an extensive CD collection. It does cost 3 pounds to rent CDs however it is not based on the amount of items checked out. The library loans out boxed sets e.g. the Grateful Dead Trilogy. Located here is also a self-service desk as every items has RFID. Another intriguing project is the “unsigned London” project. This is where unsigned, or bands without a contract, donate a couple copies of their CDs to the library to be checked out by users. What great publicity!

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