Sunday, July 18, 2010

Merci Paris and the American Library in Paris - July 9-11

I opted to go on the trip to Paris from July 9-11. The city was everything I thought it would be and more. The residents were unbelievably hospitable, the food was phenomenal, and the Eiffel Tower is completely awe-inspiring. Seriously, I have about 20 pictures and videos of just the Tower!

We had the option to register for 2 tours while we were in Paris and being the true library nerd that I am, I signed up for the library tour with Prof. Welsh on the first day. On the agenda were the Bibliothèque Nationale de France: Richelieu, the American Library in Paris, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France: François-Mitterrand.

The Richelieu Library is the site of the old national library and is in the center of the city, near the Louvre Museum. Unfortunately, we were unable to tour the full library. However, there were a number of public rooms open to us, including the lobby with a grand staircase.

After a brief lunch, we headed across town to the American Library in Paris. Kim Lê Minh, the Reference Librarian, was kind enough to give us some information and history about the Library. It is a private service library and was founded in 1920 when the ALA collected the books that had been sent overseas for American soldiers fighting in WWI.

Today the Library serves the expat and English-speaking population in France. A number of French citizens have also joined the library to broaden their knowledge of English with the approximately 13,000 materials in the collection. The library currently has 2,200 members.

It is a very welcoming space and has the feel of a local public library. This is important because there is currently no community center in Paris, so the Library tries to fill this role.

We next headed back across Paris to see an exhibit of globes at the Francois-Mitterrand Library, however, we did not arrive in time. This new Library provided an opportunity to compare the old to the new. While the Richelieu Library is in the historic part of the city, the Francois-Mitterrand Library is in a newer section of the city. The Library is part of a massive complex of 4 buildings each designed to resemble the spine of a book.

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