Our first visit was one of the libraries in Sevran, named Marguerite Yourcenar. Sevran is a Parisian suburb, located north of the capital. As a former industrial city, it enjoys today a remarkable ethnic mixture, after several waves of immigration. In 2008, the population of Sevran amounted to 50,770 inhabitants, distributed between more than seventy different ethnic groups (Pakistani, African, Rumanian, etc.). The public of the library is thus extremely varied. Language can be a problem as many people don’t speak French very well. The majority of the public of the library come from North Africa and French-speaking Africa. There are also people from the Indian continent and from the Middle-East.
But despite this variety – which is not without creating tensions between the inhabitants – the city is launching many projects to give itself a new image. Indeed, after its industrial era, Sevran didn’t manage to modernize and to turn the page of its past. At the moment, it is finding difficult to attract the big industrialists, which has checked the economic growth of the city. However, the project of “Grand Pari(s)” (“Greater Paris”) –the aim of which is to revitalize Paris and its suburbs by improving the transport system, and developing ecological and cultural projects – gives hopes to Sevran. Three train stations in the city are going to be refurbished and enlarged, and the cultural facilities are also going to be renovated and improved. It is in this climate that the library of Sevran lives.
The Marguerite Yourcenar library belongs to the network of libraries of Sevran. It is situated in the district “Beaudottes”. We reach it easily because it is situated at the exit of the station of RER B (train linking Paris with the suburb). Furthermore, we can reach it by bus and by car. There is a parking lot. This neighborhood is very busy because, next to the station, we find a big shopping center across the street.
At the moment, the library is located in the extension of a shopping center which is part of the station. The environment is thus not very welcoming. The library is surrounded by a driving school, a grill, a grocery store and clothes shops. Furthermore, there is a continuous stream of people in the rush hour. The station is not clean: walls are tagged and there used to be homeless people in front of the door of the library. What’s more, it was broken in several times, but not a single book was ever stolen. In fact, it is the computers which were targeted. This problem was partially resolved during the summer of 2011. The employees of the library called the city hall so that the area was cleaned up, and policemen watch the zone. The objective was to improve the image of the institution and to allow mothers and their children to enter the premises serenely.
In the district of Beaudottes, the only cultural competition is the cinema “39 marches” (“39 steps” after the Hitchcock movie) which is classified “art house”. This cinema is also a partner of the library. And even if the library benefits from the attraction of the shopping centre, it is the stores which attract most of the public, which is an inconvenience.