The Barbican Library resides in the City of London. This is not precisely like the other boroughs of London, though it helped me to think of it that way for clarity while there. The City of London is far more complicated, because Romans happened.
So within that roughly one square mile of territory that is no longer completely enclosed by an ancient wall, there are three lending libraries, of which the Barbican is the largest. By my perspective, it’s huge. When there are 10+ people on the acquisition team, your library is huge. Despite the size, it still surprises me how similar public libraries are across the board- there’s never enough funding to do everything, but we try anyway- the phrase one of the staff (I didn’t write down which person) used was “there is something for everyone, from cradle to grave.” There are always issues with people not returning their items, and when the oldest lendable item on the shelf is from 1793, this can get nerve wracking. Oversized items never fit where they’re supposed to and have to be put where there’s room, which confuses both patrons and staff. Publishers tend to be obnoxious about libraries providing things for free, and will demand of the music library that CDs not be loaned during their first three months of release. Some books are horribly written, such as a chunk of the Barbican’s London collection which is pulp crime novels that are truly horrible by today’s standards for writing quality. Collaborating with local institutions is a great idea; they partner with the local music conservatory to give piano lessons to retirees, giving the students teaching experience and the retirees a new skill.
We were also shown the self-check machine, which our guide Johnathan likened to a sexy Darth Vader-like wildebeest. It did not work properly when they tried to demonstrate it for us, which is yet another way in which public libraries are alike… the technology only works when it feels like working.