Tuesday, 3 July 2012

We Built This City on...Plague Pits

Today we traversed across town to visit the Barbican Library situated in the Barbican Centre in the heart of the City of London. Fast fact: the actual City of London is only 1 square mile! Our tour was led by two of the Barbican's librarians, Jonathan and Geraldine, who so apparently enjoy their work, it was practically infectious. But anyway. Jonathan and Geraldine gave us the lowdown about the workings of the public libraries in England, known more commonly as lending libraries. Because of the library's proximity to a rather artsy community (there's a theatre within the Barbican Centre that hosts a variety of artistic performances), there are music and art libraries located within. In addition, the Barbican library houses a general library (fiction, non-fiction, etc), as well as a children's library, all of which house around 200,000 items.

It is time, once again, for some interesting facts:
  • Lending libraries developed in the 1960s in Britain
  • The Barbican is situated in an area that was bombed in WWII. One of the few things that had been left standing after the bombing was a church that is still located across the street which Shakespeare had attended in his time and is also the burial place for Milton.
  • Besides practically being an impenatrable fortress that is a maze to navigate, the Barbican is situated atop plague pits- ew!
  • Although basic public lending is free, there is a charge to check out specialty items like DVDs and CDs, with DVDs costing £1.50-£2.75/ per week and CDs costing 90p.
  • The oldest book that can be checked out is from the 1730s and is a part of the library's London Collection, which contains a variety of historical texts related to London
  • The music library, which recently won an Excellence award, has two pianos that allow patrons to pratice, with headphones, in the library for up to an hour a day!
  • At birth and three years, every child is issued a bag that contains a book and other materials in an effort to promote early literacy- a program that children in the US could definitely benefit from.
  • No fines on a child's library card!

Sidenote- The Barbican is hosting a James Bond exhibit. Check it out! http://www.barbican.org.uk/bond/


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