The Barbican Library
Are You Contented?
I haven’t really looked at the books.
Ron Roeder, using the library since 2000 and partially blind


We had a book written by ‘Alistair Crowley’ who wrote satanic works, and is widely published. One of our customers complained about the fact that we had stocked ‘666 The Number of the Beast’. He referred it to the police asking for it to be censored, and asked requesting me to withdraw it from the shelves. We declined that and the Crown Prosecution Service upheld that decision in a pre court assessment.
John Lake, Head of the Library, 2007


I’m always reading trashy paper backs on the train, and in the past when I used to make flights all over Europe I’d go to the library to get talking books. They’d give us these trips to make at very short notice so I’d nip over to the library and find a recording which lasted for as long as my trip. I have been seen sat in my car at midnight in a hotel car park, listening to the last ten minutes of a talking book.
Jet Setting Car Park Dweller


A woman pops in and pops out. On her way out she quickly tells me that she comes to the library for the linguaphone courses. She’s already learned Italian she told me and now she is learning French.
Polyglot on her way to master.


A timid young City worker comes out of the library. He explains to me that he comes to the library for the arts book. I ask him whether he reads for interest or whether he gets the books out because he’s doing art himself. Well, he says, and he bends down and gets something out of his bag, a notepad, and he shows me the sketches he’s been doing. Not bad, I thought, but room for improvement too.
City worker wants to be an artist.
As you pass through the bottleneck of the foyer and main counter area, you find the library opens up into a sprawling lake of books to the right, and a slim corridor of periodicals and newspapers to the left. In the book area the lights are dim, which means my eyes don’t want to spend too much time browsing. The atmosphere is stuffy and a long row of tables, with old videos and books for sale on it, gives the impression that the library is one big jumble sale.



A library is full of ideas, ways of defining reality, ordering the world, valuing things and people, and of classifying. To be able to control a library’s content is to control people’s minds.



What of the politics, the disputes, the personalities, the domination and subordination in the battle to define the library’s content? Who plays God to the library using public?

A populist multi-cultural approach to new acquisitions means that there are no uncomfortable flair ups, bad tempered disputes, and uncomfortable compromises. The library has its own specialists, each one ruling over his or her dominion. They purchase new acquisitions taking into account the latest reviews, what seems popular and what the public make requests for.


www.fivelondonlibraries.net
Barbican Library Videos Barbican Library Links Other Library Links


Brutally Cemented Into The Future

Hiding From the Bibliotheque Hunters

The Guts of the Library

Are You Contented?

Plugged Into The Matrix

The Corridor of Light

Thank-You For The Music

International Arts Centre v Community Library

Peter Boxer: Library Reading Groupie

Barry Cropper: Head of Library 1981 to 1995

John Lake: Head of Library 1995 to Present Day

White Hairs' Wonderland