The legal deposit in France

The legal deposit in France

The legal deposit is the obligation to all the producers of documents, free or not, to deposit copies to the State. The obligation concerns professionals like publishers, printers and importers, but private individuals also can deposit their documents since they are at the public’s disposal.

The legal deposit was created in France by King Francis I, in 1537. The aim was to control the production of books. At that time, it was the royal library which conserved all documents. It also published the list of books authorized by the state to libraries. Today, the legal deposit has another goal: the preservation of French heritage. Gradually, the obligation of legal deposit was extended to other documents than books, such as maps, scores, photographs. In 1992 the law of legal deposit – included in the heritage code – extended to all media, audio (radio), audio-visual (television, film) and multimedia (internet). Since 1811, the law has provided “the constitution and dissemination of national bibliographies”: The French national bibliography was born. This is a bibliography that provides access to quality bibliographic records. The National Bibliography celebrates its 200th anniversary. Longevity provides a general overview of the French publishing production.

So, the legal deposit is one of the missions of the BnF. However, it isn’t the only one institution which takes care of it: the National Audiovisual Institute (INA) manages radio and television, the National Cinema Centre (CNC) is responsible for films, and the BnF does the rest.

The department of legal deposit of the BnF is divided into several services: the monograph service, serials publications service, maps service, music service, audiovisual services and archives of the net service. The law stipulates that the publisher must send one copy of the documents if the printrun is less than 300. Otherwise he has to send two copies. Actually, the department of legal deposit receives the copies sent, stock them and catalog them. The first step is the identification of the document. Librarians check that the identification form completed by the publisher corresponds to the document, so they can be oriented toward the service concerned. Then, while waiting for the final catalog (the National Bibliography), librarians create a pre-bibliographic record that references the document in the internal catalog. This creates a bar code placed on the document. Finally, the first copy is kept and cataloged in the national bibliography. The second – if there is one – is handed to the document redistribution service in order to trade with partners of the BnF. The BnF receives about 70,000 books per year! This obviously creates storage problems.

Since 2009, the BnF has created an innovative service to improve the legal deposit: an extranet service of legal deposit is available to publishers ( This service facilitates the notification of legal deposit. Declaration of legal deposit forms are completed and sent in triplicate with the documents by the publisher. He can print these forms from the BnF’s website. On Extranet, the publisher, once registered, fills his notification online. He only has to attach the printed version and send the documents. In this notification form, the information is the same as the normal version. The difference is that it includes the bar code of the document. Librarians only need to show the pre-bibliographic record to a scanner. The publisher can then see the progress of the processing of his deposit: the bibliographic record created by the BnF. However, the BnF is aware of that they are quite slow in creating bibliographic records (because of the large number of documents received). As a result, librarians offer publishers the possibility to post bibliographic records of new documents. The public can have quicker access to bibliographic records, even if they are not perfect, in the catalog “new publishers”. Some even have a picture of the book (which will expand to the whole catalog in the coming years). This service has increased the reactivity of the BnF in the production of bibliographic records. In 2010, 3 384 publishers were registered in the extranet. 20% of books deposits were made via this new service. And the success continues.

About Amélie

I'm 20 years old. I live in Paris, near Versailles. I'm a student at IUT Paris-Descartes, information-communication department, option book trades. I'd like to be a librarian or a publisher.
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