02 July 2013

Day 13 - London: Barbican Library and St Paul's Cathedral Library

Today was a very busy day full of three library visits! Unfortunately, I can only share pictures of the first library, and I cannot even discuss the second library, only to say that it was a corporate library and the only corporate library we will be visiting during the class.

The first stop of the day was the Barbican Library (visit their website to learn more: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/libraries-and-archives/lending-libraries/find-a-library/barbican-library/Pages/default.aspx), a public library of the City of London, located in the Barbican Centre. This was an area almost completely destroyed by bombs during World War II, save for a nearby church. Post-war, the area slowly was developed into a residential arts area. 
The library moved into its current location in 1982. The majority of the customers are people who work in the City and they are very busy on the lunch hour. The library tries to offer 24/7 self-service as much as possible, and is able to accomplish this through RFID technology in the books. When they first began using RFID, it was a new technology but now it is a bit dated. But I still thought it was amazing to see the demonstrations, because I have never been to a library using RFID. Outside the library is a self-serve book return, where you just scan your library card, stack up your books on the reader, and then feed them into the opening. 

Because their demographic is largely business people, it is different from the typical library demographic in that there are more men than women, and the age range is 25-45 years old. Due to this demographic, they have more non-fiction than fiction. And it is organized according to the DDC. 

Within the library itself are a children's library, an Arts library, and a Music library. With the library being located inside the Barbican Centre, which hosts many performances and exhibitions, they want a strong collection of arts and music items. The music library is one of the two largest collections, with the other being at Westminster. And the children's library is also one of the largest in London, with approximately 24,000 items in the collection. I think my favorite part was knowing that you can check out books as old as ones from 1738 - these are duplicates of others which are in reserve at the Guildhall Library. 

One interesting difference, which I have not heard of happening in the US, is that they have an income target for the library - meaning they have to bring in a certain amount of money via fines. The money does go into a general fund, but if they do not meet their target, it is subtracted out of their budget. It is an interesting contrast to the libraries in the US which are moving away from even having fines. 

I love seeing libraries as community centers, and the Barbican Library truly does seem to be a place where the community can come together, either through its many book groups, adult education programs, children's programs, or even just playing one of the two digital pianos located in the Music Library. 

And I cannot forget to mention how very kind and informative the librarians were who showed us around. They even had tea, coffee, lemonade, tarts, and biscuits waiting for us to enjoy halfway through the tour!
Our last visit of the day has been my favorite visit so far - St Paul's Cathedral Library, learn more at http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/The-Collections/The-Library
The Library at St Paul's Cathedral 
Photo credit: http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/The-Collections/The-Library
The librarian, Joseph Wisdom, met us in the main part of the cathedral and then brought us up behind the scenes where the tourists do not get to go. And anyone who knows me knows how much I love to get behind closed doors, so that in itself was wonderful. He brought us around, talking nearly as much about the building, the architecture, and the cathedral as about the library. He explained that it is important to not forget that texts show up in many formats, not just books or online, but texts can be buildings and churches as well since you can read into them just as much as you can read words on a page. 

On the triforium level, a sort of museum-space had been created. There were stones from the previous church which had burned during the Great Fire of 1666, after which Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to build the cathedral. Along with old pulpits, there was the lid to the baptismal font and even a Victorian cast of a ringerikae, a Viking stone. Mr Wisdom reminded us that the cathedral was not solely a static monument to Wren, but a changing, evolving church that has seen a number of editions, just as all good texts do. 

When we finally reached the library, everyone walking in breathed deep and exclaimed at the smell of the books. Which as Mr Wisdom so eloquently put it, is actually rotting leather. So maybe we shouldn't be loving the smell of the books because they are breaking down! He pulled out a text of 1515 to look at the binding and discuss briefly conservation. 

In the 18th century it was a working library of theology, first just for the clergy and then opened to lay person use in the 19th century. Today, it is open to all who can make good use of it - mainly for research, to make use of the unique books available only there. The contents of the library range from nine books dated pre-1501, to the bulk being from the 17th century. I asked if they still had their original shelf arrangement, and Mr Wisdom said that some do, and you could construct the original  arrangement from the author and shelf lists which were kept. It was really neat to see the case labels and shelf labels still somewhat in use, which I had researched for an Intro to Organization presentation. 

Tonight I'm heading off to the theatre - seeing Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan. Oh and I can't forget to mention that we were lucky enough to see the staircase used in Harry Potter inside St Paul's (it was the one going up to divination!) Tomorrow will be a very early day as we are off to Oxford and the Bodleian Library, so I'm posting this blog earlier than normal so I can get to bed at a decent time and rest up!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting about the two libraries. Reading your comments about how old some of the books are, it makes us realize how young America really is! I wonder if the English appreciate the history that is all around them. The librarians/archivists surely do! Love you, Mom and Dad :)