Friday, 16 July 2010

John Harvard Library, Southwark

Public Library
Burough High Street (London Bridge tube station)

This library is a popular public library with many innovative features.  There is a local exhibit and Local Record Office, cafe area with a flat screen TV, large reading room and social area and over 25 public computers.  Items are divided by topic and arranged for browsing.  It is very easy to navigate the library, and staff is very accommodating.  In general this seems very similar to public libraries in NY, maybe more multi-cultural because of the city environment.  There is a huge section of Bollywood DVDs, which I am now a new fan of!  

In order to meet current demands, every Southwark library offers the top 20 fiction and non-fiction books in addition to PS3 games.  I have noticed that libraries in the UK do not offer Wii games and/or events like in the states.  The library charges £2 per inter library loan and for scores.  

The Local History Library Collection includes books, photographs, maps, newspapers, videos, tapes and archives. A selection of photographs can be viewed at The site is a work in progress, for example the exhibits page is not yet available.  The entire collection is not online yet, however it claims to be updated daily.  The e-museum is pretty interesting and combines the highlights from three different collections.

This is in between the social area and the children's section.  I've noticed parents give their children more independence in the UK, and this is one example.  Parents have tea in the cafe, read or watch TV while the kids do their own thing.  This is a great introduction to the library environment for children.  They can develop a love for books on their own accord, and use their independence to gain confidence in themselves and in learning.  I love this reading area, I wanted to curl up in there with a book!  Reminds me of this big boat that I had in my school library growing up.  I really appreciate anything funky that can encourage reading in children. 

An array of services are available electronically.  Reserve a computer, pick up and pay for printed items, and check out books at self-service kiosks like this one.  Either type in the library card number or simply place your card inside the machine, and it will scan your entire account.  The library is equipped with RFID (radio frequency identification) allowing patrons to check out their items just by placing them on the counter, one on top of the other.  I have found that more libraries in the U.K. are adopting this method rather than those I use in NY.  This frees up staff to be able to rove and be more active with patrons on the floor. Plus I have to believe patrons enjoy scanning their own books, or is that just the librarian in me?!

This is the book drop outside of the library.  It caught my attention and I think it's a great way to attract patrons.  This is the only book drop I have seen that doubles as a small exhibit space.  It also advertises the library coffee mugs for sale!!  Great usage of space and a fun way to draw some attention.   In general, the library aims to provide a high level of information services while maintaining an innovative, modern edge. 

 John Harvard Library reopened in November 2009 after being closed for renovations for 13 months.  The Lottery-funded award of £1.4 allowed the library to completely revamp and offer the most modern resources.  According to an article from February 6, 2010 on a local Web Site for London SE1, "figures released last week show that 11,276 items (books, DVDs etc) were issued to borrowers in December 2009 compared to 7,115 in December 2007.  The comparative data shows that item issues have increased 58 per cent; visitors to the library have increased by 11 per cent and new borrowers are up by a tremendous 223 per cent".  (  The article was really about a break in, where over 300 DVDs and games were stolen. 

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