The Barbican Center is quite a surreal place to take a stroll. The area had been bombed out during the Second World War save for a church that now sits in the middle of the complex. I found it strange walking on the elevated walkway around the new urban complex that an old church was sitting in the middle of the giant courtyard before I was told of the rebuilding. The complex looks a bit like something out of any of the UMASS campuses (sorry anyone not familiar with massachusetts) so I felt a bit at home. The story goes that the whole complex was designed in the 50s, built in the 60s, opened in the 70s, and moved into in the 80s...more or less. At the complex are apartments, an arts center, cinemas, and a library...
The library is one of the main public libraries in the "corporation of london" and no its not a subsidiary of Burger King. They do not have a 'pin drop' approach to noise control which was nice to see and they had a fancy self checkout that allowed a user to place all of the books being checked out at once and a scanner read them automatically like an oyster card. The older cement construction has led to some difficulties with the wifi services as the wifi simply won't go through thick cement walls.
As I said earlier we went to the music library and saw their large collection of CDs and musical scores. In the UK libraries have to wait three months after the release of an album before patrons can check the item out, while they are still free to listen to a copy at the library.
Going to the library and my stay thus far in England has brought the old luddite in me that hopes there is still a place for music libraries where people can congregate and appreciate music together, and not just in their own homes. While the computer has been very useful for the strengthening of music appreciation there are drawbacks. I always find that computer searching allows for 'direct searching' like if I wanted to find 'In your eyes' by peter gabriel it would be quite easy on itunes. Yet a library allows for the randomization of searching, so that while looking for peter gabriel I happen to find a CD or book on world music, taking me in whole new directions.
THe Barbican Center will play a part in my Research Paper on the Antarctic expeditions. I want to focus on the different aspects of research that students can accomplish at British Libraries and in many ways a public library is a students first line for research. I also want to compare what type of books and materials are available to a student in a typical public library in the United States with those in Britain, so I will probably compare one of the libraries that I use with the Barbican library.