The “Bibliothèque nationale de France“: its history
On Tuesday 29th of November, we visited the Library François Mitterrand, a part of the “Bibliothèque nationale” de France (National library of France), also called “BnF”. This National Library is made up of seven sites but the main one is the site named Library François Mitterrand, the newest.
The history of the National Library of France began in the fourteenth century. However Louis XI really created the National Library in 1461. The legal deposit in 1537 increased the influence of the National Library because its collections will able to grow. During the French revolution, this legal deposit was removed but the library acquired new documents thanks to the seizure of French and foreign documents during this period.
The Richelieu site was the first one historically. For a long time, this site used to be the National Library because all the collections were in this place. But now, it houses the administration and specialized collections. These collections are maps, performing art, prints and photographs, western and eastern manuscripts, music, money and medals. The site of the Arsenal and the one of the Museum of Opera Library are two places with documents specialized in a period. At the Arsenal there are documents from the Revolution, whereas the Museum of the Opera Library has documents about architecture and documents about the Garnier Opera and archives of performances. The Jean Vilar site – which was founded in 1979 – houses documents about the performing arts. The two conservation sites, outside Paris, were founded in the 20th century. These sites conserve and repair all documents of the National Library. In the site of Bussy-St-Georges all these documents are digitized.
The site that we visited – François Mitterrand – was created in 1996. This is a reference and research library. It is composed of four buildings. It’s a big site – the lower level is only open to scholars and researchers, whereas the rest of the buildings are open to people over 16 years old. Actually, scholars and researchers have more rights than other users. They have access to all the documents from the legal deposit if these are necessary to their research. François Mitterrand Library also proposes many lectures, debates and exhibitions open to everybody. We’ve recently participated in one debate, “Cartography at the time of the geoweb”.
Nowadays, the BnF has many missions. Its first mission is the conservation of all documents of France. The other mission has a link with this conservation: all these documents have to be communicated and must be able to be used for research. This library wants to have an exhaustive collection which gathers all the book production of France.