Barbican Library plans innovative community information hub

New plans for a community hub in the Barbican Library include ways for residents to share information more effectively, engage with the Corporation’s Destination City programme, and try out enhanced digital technologies. The hub is part of a general Refresh for the library.

The hub ideas go back to some work I did last year when the plan was to use a space on the ground floor of the Barbican Centre. This time the hub would be in the library and also the entrance foyer.

The community hub would spill into the foyer

A report to this week’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries committee says:

“In 2022, the Communities Team for the Barbican Centre began working in collaboration with local community members to scope the potential for a Community Hub within the Centre. Changes to that team meant the project was put on hold, but discussions continued between Barbican & Community Libraries and some of the community members. It outlined a clear need for community information within the area, which could be interactive and engage local residents with Destination City and other local offers. This is also complimented by the Bumping Spaces project carried out by the library service in 2021, which created playful ways for the local community to interact with each other and resulted in a greater understanding of the library as a place to bring the community together as well as share information”.

Since then the Library has gained approval to convert some space into a community room at a cost of £449,550. The new proposals involve a further bid to the Community Infrastructure Levy fund for £845,800. This covers substantial work throughout the library, as well as the community hub.

The new plans include a sketch showing how the hub will be located both at the current entrance to the library, and the foyer area, which has had some old Libraries Online computer screens.

Indicative illustration in the committee report

The committee report says:

“There is very limited space within the library for any digital exhibition features or anywhere to showcase technological advances, such as virtual or augmented reality.

“There are 4 community information notice boards and several other boards that promote library events and activities. All of these are paper-based noticeboards. There is no digital display to promote library events or community information, nor any interactive, searchable, digital offer for residents and visitors to explore the local area”.

The ideas that I developed with the Communities Team last year included ways to combine both printed informations cards and online content. Slides here.

The current proposals include:

“The redesign of the IT suite and other suitable areas of the library to better incorporate the needs of people bringing their own devices to study or work. This will include the opportunity for people without their own devices to use library provided laptops or tablets through an in-library loaning scheme.

The IT suite

“The incorporation of interactive digital display screens into the IT suite, the old ‘Libraries Online’ area of the foyer external to the library and the Children’s Library. These will be for community and local information sharing, digital exhibitions and the showcasing of enhanced digital technologies”.

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