The Barbican Library
International Arts Centre v Community Library
What happened to our wonderful Barbican Library in the glossy booklet celebrating 25 years of the Barbican Centre?
Barbican User on www.barbicantalk.com, March 2007


Twenty-five today! The Barbican Centre celebrates its twenty-fifth birthday, marking the occasion with what it calls twenty-five landmark events. However there’s little to be seen of the Barbican Library amongst the planned celebrations. Why is this?

The Barbican Library is like an orphaned child the Arts Centre would rather not have. Idle chat on internet pages suggests the Barbican Centre once tried to move the library out to a nearby exhibition Centre, preferring to use the library’s current premises to generate income from corporate City clients.

You can’t help but smile wryly when hearing that the Centre’s architects had initially envisaged that those using the centre would visit the library and vice versa. Hatred flows from users of the library towards users of the Arts Centre in direct proportion to the amount of noise flowing in the opposite direction.

I was told of one occasion when the commotion from students celebrating their graduation on the Podium Floor of the Arts Centre was so loud the librarians working in the music library packed up their stuff and did renewals upstairs. But what can a small community library do when faced with an international arts centre?

You’d think the Head of the Barbican Library would be like a belligerent granny resisting her children’s attempts to have her moved into a residential home and complaining about all the noise from her neighbours.

Nothing of the sort. John Lake, current Head of Library, smiles and gets on with it. According to John ‘wherever possible’ the Centre ‘tries’ to program events outside of library opening house. When big powers are asked by little ones to do certain things they often say ‘we’ll try’.


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International Arts Centre v Community Library

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