Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fortress & Worship

Track 7/02: Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry: "I was glad" (<-- I was up where those cameras were filming from!)

Boy was this a busy day! Our first appointment today was at the Barbican Library, a public lending library in the City of London - one of only three! While public libraries in London date back to 1425, these were reference only, and it was not until the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 requiring "comprehensive and efficient" library service that lending caught up. In the states, we take for granted that libraries lend materials, and even academic libraries lend out to students/faculty and often alumni, but elsewhere lending is not a common service.

Catalog + ue! I'm in England!
The area of the Barbican was heavily bombed during WWII and nearly everything was destroyed. The Barbican complex is a massive concrete structure that began to be erected post-war in the 1950's and 60's, but the library did not move in until 1982. In addition to the library, it also includes the Guildhall School of Music, an arts centre (a concert hall and cinema!), and a series of residences. While the library is in the building, it is still only considered 'of the Barbican' and not 'part of it.' Instead, they are actually departmentally related to Tower Bridge and the London Visitor Centre. They have two main sets of constituents here: those that reside in the city (only about 9-11,000), and those that work in the city (about 300,000) (you may recall from a previous post, although we think of London as the larger metropolitan area, the city is actually only a square mile within that area). Because the library is housed within the greater Barbican center, the outer foyer is indoors and rather secure, so even when the library is closed there is a computerized return and renewal system available utilizing RFID technology in the book labels. Computers at this area outside of the library not only offer the public access catalog but also filtered internet available 24/7.

Inside, there is a mix of traditional counters and self service. They find that about 14-15% of materials are checked out via self service. They have an extensive DVD collection from which discs can be checked out for a small fee ( 1-2 disc features for £1.50, new releases for £2.75, and 3+ disc sets for £3.50, the late fees from which- higher than normal late fines- comprise a healthy portion of their income targets which are crucial to remaining open) which cannot be checked out by self service. (They had every television show on DVD you could dream of and quite a large selection of movies!) More patrons might use the self service check out if its components did not have to be hidden from view, but the Barbican is a listed building, and anything that is changed, the furniture, etc. must be approved. Thus, the self service terminal is in plain view but so discreet it must often be overlooked.

The space was not initially designed for a library, so the set-up is at the mercy of the architecture, which includes inconvenient pillars due to supports for lift machinery servicing the theater below. There are some ordinary features of the library, such as a children's collection (though it is one of the largest at 24,000 loanable items), the use of Dewey Decimal Classification, and regular reading groups, but then there are unique aspects to this library as well. Most appropriate for a city with such a rich history, the Barbican Library as many early books - but ones that can be borrowed! The earliest of the collection is from 1738, and while it is displayed in a glass cabinet, it has a barcode like every other book in their collection and is circulated. Chief among the Barbican's unique features is my favorite: their Music Library.
Because they are located within an arts center and the community served includes the Guildhall School of Music,a collecting priority is books on music, printed music, and CDs. They are stored in a separately defined area from the rest of the collection, and you'll know you are headed in the right direction when you hear the rhythmic thump of keys struck on a silent digital piano, as they have 2 here for anyone wishing to practice!
They have one of the largest public library CD collections at around 15,000 in a wide spectrum from pop-film-world-opera-jazz-classical. They also have a variety of music periodicals including an excellent selection of individual composer journals that are difficult to find anywhere else. In my extremely biased opinion, the best thing about the Barbican is the sheet music collection. It's a public library with stacks full of circulating parts and scores, how neat!!! They do not have orchestral scores and also tend to boast more about their collection of pop/rock sheet music, as well as musicals, but there is plenty of classical music as well. Additionally, their catalog has an index to contents so you can search a song and find any multi-work collections held that contain that title.

Following the Barbican, we visited Linklaters and listened to a lecture about corporate librarianship from the librarians there, but we are not allowed to blog about this for security purposes...

St. Paul's Cathedral
(Taken lying down on the sidewalk out front to squeeze in the whole building!)

Next, we scrambled over to St. Paul's Cathedral for a private tour of the triforium level, where visitors usually don't get to go! This was a fantastic tour and we saw some neat things including Wren's Great Model (Photo credit: http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/The-Collections) and several pulpits that were formerly used in the cathedral -who knew: pulpits go out of fashion! While we were allowed to snap pictures to our heart's content inside, we are not allowed to share them online. (Lots of blogging restrictions today!) I do have some cool pictures though, so I can personally show them to whomever wishes to see them. We actually learned quite a bit about architecture and style on this tour and spoke about cathedrals as sciences since historically in terms of scale, gravity, movement, and for an observatory purpose this is what people would have had access to. OF COURSE we spoke about England's beloved architect, Christopher Wren, who built it in the late17th century following the destruction of the previous St. Paul's in the Great Fire.

The Library at St Paul's Cathedral
The highlight of the tour was, certainly, the library. (Photo credit: http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/The-Collections/The-Library) The delicious smell of decaying leather pervades the room, and there is no sweeter perfume! The library is open for 'good use' so those requiring its volumes for research purposes are allowed access. Due to the fact that all materials but 3 manuscripts were destroyed in 1666 in the Great Fire, the collection was rebuilt mostly by donation during the reconstruction of the cathedral, and as a result the library contains mostly 17th and some 16th century volumes as well as 9 incunables that originated from other collections. One of the works we got to see was a psalter from the late 12th/early 13th century thought to be one of the 3 surviving manuscripts that was in use in the prereformation cathedral. Experiencing this library really was a ...religious experience... (heh, heh).

A trip to Ye Old Cock for dinner rounded out this hectic day, and then sleep was immediately in order!

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