Barbican library

Entrance to the Barbican Library…or more aptly stated the “way in”.

The Barbican Library is part of a three branch system providing services to the whole of London. The building originally was not designed for a library’s needs but the space has been expertly utilized to showcase the services and collections for patron use.

On the lower floor patrons will find an extensive music library which boosts a large collection of literature, cd’s, and musical scores. Intermixed with the collection are study spaces, listening stations, and two practice piano’s. The exhibit space within this library is also a fantastic resource for the library’s and patrons alike. Librarians are currently working with outside partners to plan relevant exhibits. One successful partnership was with the BBC which garnered much attention that the library might not have had otherwise. This type of outreach is fantastic for drawing patrons into the library, giving library staff an opportunity to discover how the library can best serve them.

Having worked in a Media Center for the past several years I am always curious to see how other libraries handle their media collections and services. Although streaming services are on the rise I feel that physical resources as still very relevant. In the libraries where I have worked all library materials are available for check out free of charge, yet in the United Kingdom media materials are rented with a fee. While the funds help support library services I imagine that this leaves a portion of the patron population unable to afford using this collection.

This is one of my favorite sections- that is prominently located where all patrons are able to access these materials easily.

My research is focusing on the differences in services within a public library aimed towards accommodating patrons who benefit from the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

My Problem Statement is as follows:

An evaluative comparison of social justice services in three different public libraries (City of London – Barbican, Central Library in Edinburgh, and The Seattle Public Library) in the United Kingdom versus the United States focusing primarily on the disability services and technologies they provide for patrons. Disability covers impairments of either a physical or an mental nature.   

First, I am exploring the services that are available currently at each location.

Secondly, I am investigating the emerging concerns within the disability spectrum that libraries might be encountering. Often librarians are experiencing situations and accommodating patrons regularly and these impromptu services are not well documented or made into policy.

Lastly, I will investigate how librarians and library staff are doing to accommodate new found obstacles. I’m particularly interested in services for patrons who fall on the Autism Spectrum.

Finding information and library materials can be overwhelming for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and libraries and librarians should be well equipped to provide proper services. The Barbican library by means of it’s interesting set up and location can be quite loud if events are happening in other parts of the building.

This collection features a wide variety of materials for gaining skills to navigate life – there were even DVD or CD options for those unable to get the information they need in text form.

I was excited to see a section devoted to “Skills for Life” which includes a variety of materials to help support those with ASD. I have not seen other libraries in the United States highlight such materials in this fashion. This was one of the first displays you see when walking into the Barbican library, which makes it very accessible.

The awareness of dyslexia and other symptoms of ASD are well represented in this city public library.

Along with text materials, the collection also hosted a very large audiobook section. This is an ideal option for those site impaired or are unable/uncomfortable with reading.

Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant computer station.

Out of 26 public computer stations this station is designated as the DDA computer. With the current set up a patron might need help rearranging the equipment in order to use them.

DDA keyboard – assists with vision and ASD symptoms.
DDA compliant mouse for those with mobility and vision needs.

Jonathan Gibbs (IT and Operations Librarian) was kind enough to set aside time to speak with me concerning his experiences with patrons and their disability needs. The Barbican library is undergoing reconstruction in the future and hope to create a space that is more wheelchair accessible. He also reported experiences with patrons who might have been on the Autism Spectrum. Of course professionals should not diagnose their patrons but at the same time it is important to have the proper skill set to provide services tailored to the patrons needs. So while some patrons might be known or labeled as “difficult” maybe if the interactions had proceeded differently (more tailored towards their perspective) then the contention would dissipate. My goal is to see if proper training and awareness towards these issues would help create a stronger space for social services of this nature. I am working on obtaining current policies and procedures as well as first-hand accounts.


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