Tuesday at the Barbican Library

The Barbican Centre

The Barbican Centre

Fifth Class Blog Post:

We got up fairly early to head over to the Barbican Library, which is a public library within the City of London.  I was quite confused about the whole City of London vs London concept, but as far as I understand (or quickly Googled), the City of London is basically a city within London.

I was very thrown off when our librarian tour guide informed us that only 50 babies are born each year in the City of London.  That definitely made me pause and think about that.  The City of London has a different government structure, known as the City of London Corporation.  The area is filled with businesses and the financial district, so that might explain why only 50 babies are born within the City of London each year.

Within the Barbican Library, there is the Children’s Library, the Music Library, and the General Library.  I can see the advantages of having a space completely devoted to kids because they have the opportunities to host programming events in the same space, close the door, and play music/games without disturbing the rest of the patrons.  I also noticed that different libraries call their patrons/users different names as we do back home.  At the Bodleian and the British library, they are readers and at the Barbican, I recall the Children’s Librarian referring to them as customers.  Perhaps, they are customers because they are in the financial district and have a very commercial-oriented mindset.  I would not be surprised.  Every institution must cater to different clientele.

I do not know a great deal about children/youth services, but I did notice that they do a lot of the same programming such as reading mentorship, reading challenges, and story/play time as back home.  One of the very novel ideas we learned about was about the project loan service, which the Barbican does for the schools around the area.  If I recollect properly, schools have to pay for project loan services to supplement their teaching (i.e. they might order 60 copies of a book on the human body).  I found some useful information on the City of Westminster School Library Service’s website, in case anyone is interested in learning more.

We went to the Music Library next.  I have never seen a dedicated music library in a public library before, so it was great to see the set up.  One of the most important things the music librarian mentioned was that they need a dedicated staff because their material is so specific.  They had everything from CDs to music reference books to scores, with areas to listen to sound recordings and two keyboards for people to use for practice.  The keyboards have headphones, so as not to disturb the rest of the library.  The music library is great in its ability to provide services I don’t normally associate with libraries: somewhere to listen to music and work, practice on the keyboard, and borrow sheet music.

We did discuss some interesting aspects of librarianship during various points of the tour.  I asked about digital licensing of ebooks  and I learned that the Barbican seems to have more flexible arrangements than we do in the US.  They actually buy the electronic copy of the ebook instead of licensing packages, which expire and/or have limitations.

In terms of patron privacy in regards to check out records and hold shelf names, the UK has the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act to ensure that sensitive patron information does not make it to the public.  I wonder if we are more weary of protecting (i.e. shredding/deleting) patron records in the US because of the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act and how it allows the government to obtain sensitive patron records.

I also learned that the UK does not implement a bright line percentage in terms of copyright, but they do use 5% as a guideline (I believe we use 10% in the US, though it is not a set bright line either).  The librarian at the British Library did inform us that the copyright laws are more relaxed in the UK than the US.  I am definitely interested in copyright issues, especially in regards to access and digitization, but reading about copyright law can definitely be tiresome.