We started the day at the Barbican, a public library in the Barbican Centre in London. The Barbican librarians greeted us outside to give us a little background information about the library and what we would see today. The library began on Cannon Street and moved to its current location in 1982. The Barbican area was bombed flat during World War II and rebuilt afterwards. It was originally social housing (lower-income), but it is mostly higher-income housing how. The Barbican Center includes theaters, cinemas, culture and heritage centers, the library, concerts, etc. Nearby, there are churches (including St. Giles Church where Milton is buried and Shakespeare was a congregant), schools, and housing.
|View of St. Giles Church from the Barbican lobby|
The two main groups that make up the constituency of the Barbican Library are people who live in London and people who work in London. The residents generally come into the library on the weekend, while the workers generally come in between 12 and 2 during the week. Because the Barbican serves so many workers, the demographics of their average patron is not the same as most public libraries. Instead, they serve more men than women, and their average age range is between 25 and 45 instead of much older or much younger. Self-service opportunities are important for busy working adults, so they offer self-checkout, self-return, online access for renewal and for use of many of the resources, and they have strict guidelines about computer usage within the library. In fact, 14-15% of materials checked out are self-issues.
They use RFID technology to keep track of their books and other materials. Because they were an early-adopter of the technology, much of it is outdated now. However, it is useful and still in working order. Each item has a date label and a bar code. They have materials that date back to 1738 that can still be checked out to patrons. In addition to the two layers of rolling stacks (which is their method of storing their items that are not available for display, but are still usable), they offer online catalog resources such as ebooks, audio ebooks, Ancestry website access in the library, and music or art websites.
|Some of the rare books on display that are available for check-out.|
|Audio books on display that are available for check-out.|
The library has a specific Arts Library which includes DVDs and a small number of bluray discs. The feature films and television shows are available to rent, but the instructional DVDs are available to borrow for free.
|Music Library Shelves|
The Barbican's children's section is one of the largest children's libraries in the city. They have at least 24,000 items (including books, ebooks, audiobooks on CD, playaways, etc.) available to children from birth to age 14. Schools and nurseries use the library's services by either bringing students to the library or by bringing the librarians to the schools on a regular basis.
Displays in the children's section of the library:
Librarians also offer reading groups that are divided by age, Book Start programs (in which parents get a pack that includes a book), storytimes three times each week, Saturday events with crafts or guest visitors, and Summer Reading Challenge (a national program that challenges kids to read at least six books in order to receive a prize). They also participate in the Read to Succeed volunteer program, which partners kids with adults to help improve the reading skills of the child and allows the adult to help encourage the child to read more.
The Young Adult section is located just outside of the Children's Section and is quite small. This picture encompasses about a third of it:
From the Barbican Library, we headed to a visit with a former BSP student before we continued on to St. Paul's Cathedral to visit their library and collections. Unless you have been to a major cathedral before, you cannot fully grasp the feeling of walking into one. I went to St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City when I was 14, so I thought I was prepared for heading into St. Paul's Cathedral. I wasn't. The main area of the cathedral is amazing, breathtaking, stunning, and monumental. Yes. However, we were able to go into the gallery area and the library, and we saw things that most people don't even realize exist in that same building. THAT was amazing, breathtaking, stunning, and monumental! To begin this journey, we ascended 141 steps to the triforium level (this comes from the Latin for three arches). We exited the stairway through a door into the gallery area between the outer and inner walls. The dome space was just to the west of us, and we could see William Blake Richmond's tessurae mosaics on the ceiling. We quickly learned that renowned English architect Christopher Wren had designed the building, and that there had been four or five cathedrals on this same site over the centuries.
|Exterior of St. Paul's Cathedral (Photo Credit: http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/Explore-the-Cathedral/Exterior-and-Churchyard)|
As we made our way through the gallery space, we saw a Latin inscription above a door. "Faciendi plures libros nullus est finis." This translates to "Of making many books, there is no end." It is a quotation from Eccelesiastes 12:12 (which continues, "and much study wearies the body.") that had been added recently in the terms of the age of the cathedral.
Christopher Wren's design of the cathedral is similar to the design of Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello in Charlottesville, VA, and to the design of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. The model of the cathedral allows visitors to see the entire building at once and admire the architecture. Surrounding the model, the drawings of the various plans that Wren and the church leaders decided against show other design styles considered. The model looks small in this picture, but it is actually a 1:25 scale model of the actual proposed building. The model does not represent the final design of the cathedral, because Wren changed his mind after completing the model.
|Model of St. Paul's Cathedral (Photo Credit: http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/The-Collections)|
|The Library at St. Paul's Cathedral (Photo Credit: http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/The-Collections/The-Library)|
* * *
After our library visits had been completed for the day, a few of us decided to head to Kensington Gardens near Hyde Park to visit the Peter Pan statue that resides there. After a few wrong turns and a walk through very posh streets past the Embassies of Oman and Bulgaria (both are very fancy, by the way!), we found Kensington Gardens. However, we had inadvertently found the opposite side of the park, so we began our walk through the park to see what other things we could find. We passed a very ornate monument to King Albert, walked past the bench Johnny Depp sat on in the movie Finding Neverland, and passed the Italian Gardens.
|King Albert's statue|
|I believe in fairies!!|
On our walk back to the bus stop, we saw some wildlife and a few interesting sights:
|Swan by the water|
|Isis (sculpture by Simon Gudgeon)|
Once we made it back to our street, we got take-away fish and chips for dinner and returned to our rooms. I was a wimp and did not order my fish and chips with vinegar as is traditional here in the UK, but I enjoyed them, nonetheless.