Photo by Archie Macias
Barcelona libraries home
For many, libraries are a relic of the past, evoking memories of late fines, microfiches, and the Dewey decimal system. Yet the modern library is much changed. Books and technology have converged, offering members far more than the traditional book lending facilities of years gone by.
No fewer than 38 public neighbourhood libraries are dotted around Barcelona’s cityscape, with a wide range of services and activities including a surprising amount of material in English. What’s more, in a city where a registration or membership can often require applicants to produce seven photocopies of six documents and wait three days in line, joining a local library is refreshingly simple. All that is required is a valid form of identification (a passport or NIE will do) and a contact phone.
The issued blue plastic card entitles members access to the network of libraries throughout the city, and the ability to borrow up to three books for three weeks, and four DVDs and CDs for one week apiece. For those discouraged by local retailers’ high prices and limited selections, the majority of libraries offer an excellent range of novels and non-fiction works in English, as well as other selected languages such as German and French. Excellent self-study language resources in Castilian and Catalan are available for those keen to brush up on their pluscuamperfecto.
The libraries also boast a large range of DVDs with many new and classic titles, the majority of which may be watched in either versió original or with English subtitles. When a title is not available, the library will reserve it and contact you once it has been retrieved from within the library network.
Similarly, the music selection offered by the city’s libraries is extensive, stretching from classical to contemporary music. “It’s surprising what you can find amongst the music titles,” said Ricardo Rodríguez, who is a regular patron at the Biblioteca Xavier Benguerel in Villa Olimpica. “I often stumble across rare bands which I wouldn’t imagine you would find in the archives of a public library.”
All libraries offer free internet access for up to two hours per week and WiFi capability is available in selected libraries. For those who feel the technological revolution is charging ahead of them, computer-based workshops are provided free of charge in Catalan. Children are also well-catered to in libraries, which offer a separate section for the under-14s, with a reasonable selection in English.
Another recent addition to Barcelona’s literary resources in English is the library of the International Women’s Club of Barcelona. Previously reserved for members of the club, it is now open to the public. For a fee of €20 per year, library members can access the collection of more than 500 titles (and growing) in English. The library is open on Thursday afternoons from 5-6.30pm and Friday mornings from 11.30am-1pm, and there are plans to extend the opening hours in the future.
“There are comfortable armchairs for you to sit back in and browse through the books at your leisure and enjoy a quiet moment with us,” said club member Marion Dodds. “Membership entitles borrowers to take up to six books at a time and we welcome donations of any used and unwanted English books.”
For further information on Barcelona’s library network visit: www.bcn.es/biblioteques
The International Women’s Club of Barcelona’s library is at Casa Orlandai, Jaume Piquet 23, tel. 93 252 4262 (leave a message); e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (NB. this information was updated on September 28th, 2009).
The IWC website is: www.iwcbarcelona.com
First published: December 1st 2007.