- Barbican Public Library
- A wonderful, colorful children's library
- Sharing stories of interesting things that happen when working at a public library
- ZTA Trivia night
All the Details:
Monday was the beginning of another week of library visits. We started with the amazing Barbican Public Library, which is one of only three public libraries within the original London city limits. We were given the grand tour by Jonathan Gibbs, who is the IT and Operations Librarian. The library is located within a group of buildings that make up the Barbican Centre. The large centre caters to theatre, art, dance, film, learning and music. It took our group some time to figure out exactly where the library entrance was within the mass of buildings, but once we found it we met up with our librarian/tour guides and were ready to go. We started with a quick look at the reference and information desk and the self-service check-out kiosks. The entrance space also includes an exhibition space for local artists to display their work. I thought that this was an excellent way to engage the public in the library space. We were led through the shelves containing non-fiction, fiction, periodicals, newspapers, audiobooks, and DVDs. One interesting feature of this library’s organization is that their original shelving is not adjustable, so the Dewey Decimal order must sometimes be interrupted so that large books can be placed on other shelving. The library has done an excellent job of labeling this shelving so that patrons can still locate the materials they need. Along with large books, some other sections have been pulled from their usual Dewey placements to make them easier to find. The travel section in the library was very impressive, containing a number of guide books and maps for places around the world. There is also a young adult section catering to teenagers, a display of materials for adults learning on their own called “Skills for Life”, a Crime Collection of vintage books, and the London Collection of books relating to London topics from 1939 to the present. Mixed in with the book shelves, there are also a number of study stations and computer areas.
After showing us around the main library, Mr. Gibbs spoke with us about the environment of the space. Due to the multi-level design and open ceiling and staircases, the Barbican Centre is maybe not always the quietest space. Mr. Gibbs talked about how events in other parts of the centre can disrupt the library at times, but usually it is not a problem. There are a number of people that use the library for a study space, borrowing material, internet access, book clubs, and courses offered by the library. The library was kind enough to have tea and biscuits for our group in their staff room, which gave us an opportunity to talk more with Mr. Gibbs. One of the questions we asked was about the weeding process used in the library. The weeding is carried out by stock librarians so that the library can accommodate as much material as possible. We also shared personal stories of the daily events of working with the public including people leaving strange things inside books and trying to sleep in the library.
We were also able to see both the Music Library and Children’s Library. Both are lucky to have spaces that are within the library, but separated from the main library area. The children’s library offers excellent events for the public including rhyme time, various clubs, and support for local schools. There is a summer reading program, film club, comic club, book clubs grouped by age, and programs that help struggling readers. One of the programs that was particularly interesting was a nation-wide program called Book Start. It provides small pouches of books for every single child in the UK. The libraries receive the books and then send them out to the children in their area. It is a wonderful way to encourage reading from a young age. The music library also does an excellent job reaching the public. There are places for musicians to advertise, practice, study, and interact. They even have a song index that makes it easier for patrons to find the music they are looking for.
The excellent tour allowed us to see the entire library and answered all of our questions. In particular, I loved the Children’s Library and hope that I can go back for another visit. This library has been one of my favorites so far because it is a place where I could see myself working.
Zeta Tau Alpha Dinner
After our tour of the Barbican, I raced off to meet with the London Zetas Abroad Alumnae group. I was lucky that I would be able to join them for dinner and trivia while I was in town. It was great to be able to talk with them about Zeta and living in London. I was reminded of the great bond between sisters across the U.S. and the world. Being a part of Zeta during my time at college was wonderful, but I also have an immediate connection with sisters wherever I travel. Although we were pretty terrible at trivia, it was a fun night of meeting new people.