The Barbican Library
White Hairs Wonderland: is the Barbican Library only for old people?
The City workers may dominate the library during the day, and you may get a real mix in the library at other times, but did you know about the silver haired underground, the secret government running the Barbican Library?

I talk to Ron Roeder, who has been involved with the ĎBarbican Library Usersí [BLU] for a number of years, and is interested in setting up a new group called ĎFriends of Barbican Libraryí. He tells me BLU was originally run by two older ladies living on the Barbican estate, and had 250 members most of whom shared the same kind of demographic as those who ran it. According to Ron BLU used to put on a variety of talks on music and London history, most of which were preceded by a wine reception.

Each member of BLU had to contribute five pounds a year, but as far as Ron remembers, no committee meeting was held in the last two years of the group. Sounds like an underhand Stalinist plot to wrestle power from the people.

Thereís intrigue. Ron tells me that a number of the leading members of BLU didnít want to have any contact with the Head of the Library, and felt that he was opposed to their ideas. Ron canít really elaborate on what the issues were. I feel like Iím being drawn into the beginnings of a drama. Who knows what I might unearth?

I look at one piece of information about BLU on the internet, and I see that it says BLU was designed to represent the views of library users. However, based on Ronís description it seems more a plaything of older people, who have time on their hands, and need to fill the existentialist void that comes about with retirement and widowhood. Even Ron himself, a retired atomic physicist, with a history of volunteering and charitable involvement, says he wants to get ĎFriends of Barbican Libraryí off the ground because he needs something to do.

Itís seven oíclock and Iím walking down to the library to catch Norman Lebrecht, assistant editor of the Evening Standard, talk about the life and death of the classical music record. I was anticipating a medium sized crowd of people, maybe thirty to forty, middle aged, but from all walks of life reflecting Londonís diverse ethnic mix. I donít know why, but I had this idea that there was going to be this Indian guy there, about fifty-seven, in a blue mac, who at the end of the talk would fire some comments Lebrecthís way, showing off both his intimate knowledge of classical music, and his inability to master the English despite having lived here for some twenty years.

However, when I enter the library, I find there's a smattering of people, mostly white, either in formal wear or casuals, quaffing on wine. I turn my ear to the air, itís awash with confidently stated opinions and assertions. Two old ladies are sat at the front, theyíve both dressed up for this one, make-up as well. They both look quite excited, giddy even, tonight one will go home with Norman and the other disappointed.


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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