The Barbican Library
Thank-You For The Music
A Jeremy Clarkson look-alike, actually a bit smaller, more sheepish, with skin blemishes, and eager to get off home to his Stoke Newington retreat, tells me about how he has been coming to the library for the past 18 years, once a week, to listen to some classical music in the listening booths. He works in Victoria from where he gets his train home, and on a Thursday evening after work, he gets off in the City to visit the library. Usually he’ll take a book, any book and read random pages whilst listening.
Classical music fan from 'Stokey'


A slightly built bespectacled guy from the north-east of England, possibly a Geordie, with a scruffy looking jumper on, peers through his glasses at me as I ask him if he’s got a minute to talk. As he tells me that he’s been living near the Barbican for the last four years, I sense the smell of alcohol on his breath. He visits the Barbican from time to time to get a few rock CDs out, mainly rock from the 1970s. He tells me he was gutted because recently there was a presentation in the library on Syd Barrett, ex-member of Pink Floyd, who died last year. ‘I wouldn’t have minded missing it’ he tells me ‘but I heard that Pink Floyd actually turned up’.
Rock music lover
As you come down the stairs from level two, you look onto the issuing desk, which is encompassed by an open space feeding into the reference library on the left and the CD library on the right. As you walk by the issuing desk to the left there is a display commemorating punk rock music.

As you enter the reference library the first thing you feel is its alpine climate and the ceaseless whirring of the air conditioning, this monotonous noise, a guaranteed sedative to anyone wondering whether a little five minute nap might be in order.

Just next to the entrance to the reference library, there’s a practice piano. I saw two elderly gentlemen playing it during the time that I walked around. I stood and watched one of the men play, taking in his passion and emotion as his arms rose up from the keyboard, and his torso arched over the keyboard, like a tree bowing in a strong wind. As he played, the only sound I could hear was the creaking of his chair.

The reference library is full of scores. There’s a periodical shelf with obscure publications such as The Schubertian, The Organ and no doubt The Organ’s bitter rival, The Organist’s Review.

Right at the back there’s a series of listening booths and study areas. Its very quiet, the slightest noise startles you. Sitting in a booth I can see the back legs of the chair in the neighboring booth rock back and forth. It’s a sight punctuated by the occasional murmur of delight.



Of course, when all is said and done it’s the Barbican’s music collection which is the jewel in its nineteen sixties bowler hat.

People, mostly suited men, and dainty white haired women, have been known to froth at the mouth and convulse at the sheer variety of classical music on offer.

The internet was designed and dominated by contemporary music lovers, so burning copies of the library’s music is still the best way for reduced income pensioners to augment and put the final touches to their already burgeoning classical music collections.




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Barbican Library Videos Barbican Library Links Other Library Links


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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