Friday, July 16, 2010

The American Library in Paris--July 9, 2010

Just up the street from the Eiffel Tower is one of the nicest small libraries I've ever seen.

The American Library in Paris is a private membership library that was founded by the American Library Association following World War II. It primarily functions like a public library, but also serves select research library functions. The library has about 2,200 members and serves as a library and community center for the English speaking population of Paris.

It was originally intended, in part, to help train French librarians. That portion of the mission did not last, but its mission to provide English language library service has continued. The library once had branches in other large towns in France, but those have been absorbed by university libraries or closed. As far as our guide was aware, this library is the only one of its kind in continental Europe.

The library caters to American expatriates, English speakers, French people who study English, researchers, and patrons from across Europe. The collection consists of approximately 113,000 items and has more extensive resources than many French universities with American studies programs. The collection is strong in American culture, political science, literature, literary criticism, and history of North America and the English speaking world. It has little in the way of science and technology. The library also has a small rare book collection (acquired mostly through donations) and a collection of artifacts (mostly books signed by former library patrons).

The library is a non-profit organization and is incorporated in the United States. It is run by a board of trustees that deals with policy and fundraising and a staff that deals with the operational needs of the library. The staff consists of approximately 10-15 people. Additionally, the library is partially staffed by a group of approximately 60 volunteers who each work 4 hours a week.

The library provides a wide variety of services. It provides computer access, free wifi, children’s and adults’ programming, bibliographic instruction (in the library and at local schools), exhibitions, talks, cultural programs, and movie nights.

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