Day 27: Barbican Centre and Dickensian tour

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

We visited the Barbican Centre in the City of London borough today where the Barbican public library is located.

The Barbican Centre (via K. Emmons)
The Barbican Centre (via K. Emmons)

The library is open Monday through Saturday and is the leading lending library in the City of London. It opened in 1982, though the space was not designed as a library. It was an art center surrounded by residences in a major financial district. There are many online resources and an online catalog, but you have to be a member to access those. Anybody can join to view the materials in the library, but can’t be a member unless you regularly visit the physical library. Financial reasons…

Library is located on the 2nd floor (via K. Emmons)
Library is located on the 2nd floor (via K. Emmons)

The library has done tons of outreach, but still remains hidden. The Barbican Centre is almost a city in itself, but not everyone realizes a library lurks on the 2nd floor.

Fiction section (via K. Emmons)
Fiction section (via K. Emmons)

Above you’ll see the fiction section. To the right is the London and classic crime collections. Down to the left of this photo you’d find the children’s library (which is booming, by the way!) Behind us is the art collection and movie area. Behind me and to the left you’d find the music library.

Music Library (via K. Emmons)
Music Library (via K. Emmons)

The music library at the Barbican is the second largest public music repository in London, behind Westminster, I believe. There are hundreds of scores, theory books, magazines, periodicals, reference works, CDs, and DVDs for people to check out. The CD selection is the largest in London at 16,000 materials. Two pianos are available to use for hour-long periods. There’s even an exhibition area out front (currently being used by BBC)!

Music Library Exhibit (via K. Emmons)
Music Library Exhibit (via K. Emmons)

The state of British librarian organizations was touched on too. CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) is the equivalent to the ALA (American Library Association).

The head of the Barbican Library also came to speak with us for a moment. The main takeaway is for libraries to “be relevant.” It’s just that simple. Libraries, especially public institutions, should be something for everybody. She mentioned the Sieghart Report on Public Libraries as an interesting and poignant read.

Later that afternoon I went on a Dickensian Walking tour with a few of the other library students! We met at the official Charles Dickens Museum to begin the tour.

Charles Dickens Museum (via K. Emmons)
Charles Dickens Museum (via K. Emmons)

Our guide was Richard Jones who is the author of the guide book Walking Dickensian London. He’s a qualified Blue Badge tourist Guide and certainly knows his stuff!

Richard Jones, our knowledgeable guide (via K. Emmons)
Richard Jones, our knowledgeable guide (via K. Emmons)

We walked and talked for about an hour and a half and visited many sites that influenced and inspired Dickens. He was able to quote from the books, give insights into Dickens’s personal life, and brought London to life through Dickens’s eyes.

Where Dickens worked as a boy (via K. Emmons)
Where Dickens worked as a boy (via K. Emmons)

The cool part for me was seeing some of the places mentioned in Bleak Housewhich I read in an undergrad class.

Inspiration for Bleak House (via K. Emmons)
Inspiration for Bleak House (via K. Emmons)
Inspiration for Bleak House - Lincoln's Inn Old Hall (via K. Emmons)
Inspiration for Bleak House – Lincoln’s Inn Old Hall (via K. Emmons)

Excuse me, while I quote from Bleak House:
LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth…
Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city…
The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.
Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds this day in the sight of heaven and earth.”

Absolutely stinging isn’t it?!

The ticket price was only £10 and well worth it for a little bit of nerding out! We walked quite a bit, but Richard took us to several spots off the busy streets where we could sit and rest for a while. I even got a teacup and saucer at the Museum! One of our group went early to have tea and cake at the Museum. You won’t be disappointed if you like Dickens and choose to visit!

On to Day 28!

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