Dear Erasmus students,
Here is our last report about third place libraries in France ! After that, we will post a final report in order to present the conclusions of this project. We will also talk about the developpement of third place libraries in our countries and in Europe.
The library Marguerite Yourcenar is situated in the 15th district of Paris. It’s a recent library because it opened in February, 2008. It has a surface of 2950 m², and includes 7 levels with 4 of them dedicated to the public. We can find several specialized departments: the languages department, the comics department (it has the biggest collection of comics in the library network of Paris), a department dedicated to citizen ecology and sustainable development and also a department for persons with visual impairment. It’s the busiest library in Paris; it lends approximately 1 million documents a year.
The library, from a point of view of the space organization, corresponds to the criteria of the third place library. From the point of view of its architecture, its conception is modern ; it belongs to the wave of new libraries. In general, the library is completely open to make its use easy for the users. It is organized in a linear way, with islands and small zones divided according to the type of public or the proposed collections. Spaces are multi-purpose.
On the ground floor, there is a lot of furniture. There are many sofas where the public can sit down to read. We find mainly the press room (the media library has approximately 200 subscriptions) as well as DVD. In the basement, we find essentially literature, novels and documentaries with some work tables. Between the ground floor and the first floor, on the staircases, there is a corner with pillows where parents can read stories to their children.
On the first floor, zones are divided according to the various publics: the teenagers (manga, magazines and novels) with bean bags, a space for 5-6 years, with picture books and easy readers and small furniture (tables, chairs, pillows) adapted to their size, and finally, a space for babies with book boxs on the floor. There is also a multimedia space which offers workshops and initiations, as well as a small events room and the department for persons with visual impairment. Finally, a work table is situated at the back, for students who prefer a quiet and secluded space.
On the second floor finally, there are essentially work tables, where many students come to work at the weekend. It is the quietest floor in the media library, the first one being often noisy because of the presence of families.
The public of the media library is very varied. The establishment is situated in a well-to-do and residential district, where there are large families, executives; elderly people and students. Large families appreciate the fact that the library is open.
There are many regular customers; there is a certain loyalty as for the attendance of the establishment. The public is very demanding; a librarian indicated that they had no particular problems with the public but it happened that people are not very pleasant.
Positive points and events on offer
The library Marguerite Yourcenar planned a large number of elements to attract its public and allow them to frequent a pleasant, modern and interactive library. The users have the possibility of borrowing tablets, to be able to read electronic books. It was already indicated previously, the multimedia space offers to introduce the public to computing, especially for the elderly who could have some difficulties. The premises for persons with visual impairment, with its equipment and its services, is a major point in the services offered by the library, because it’s entirely accessible for people with reduced mobility.
The media library organizes recurring events, like the literary breakfast once a month, the musical hour, events for children, documentary film projections, etc. Furthermore, users have the possibility spend time in a place where they can drink and have a snack. Young people can also, in the multimedia space, have access to video games. All these elements consolidate the media library in the role it can have as learning center.
Nevertheless, the library hasn’t reached perfection in satisfying all the types of public it can welcome. There is a garden, which is never used, except occasionally, for security reasons. If this garden was used, it could make the place more pleasant and could possibly be a playground for the children, or a place for adults who want to rest.
The events room is very small, what limits the possibilities. Furthermore, because of the open space architecture, it’s difficult to find privacy, and it can only be achieved with a curtain. The events are very difficult to organize.
The major problem is that the library is very noisy, especially at the weekend, because of its architecture. It’s difficult to read quietly and generally, people aren’t civic and speak loudly. It would be necessary, in the long term, to remedy the problem of noise pollution, maybe by isolating certain places.
Projects and programs
The library is part of the network of the libraries of Paris and is also in network with the other libraries of the 15th district. The district offers few cultural activities; so a theater company, to give an example, organizes some events in the district’s libraries. In partnership with certain associations, it works on the welcome of the more disadvantaged persons.
In a general way, the projects depend on the staff but the library is sorely lacking staff, so the projects are rather made for the short term. The library has a blog and it wishes to maintain it more regularly. It also maintains a Facebook page. To encourage children and teenagers to use the library more assiduously, it wishes to institute actions in middle schools and high schools, to maintain a link with the pupils.
Finally, a trainee from the ENSSIB ( a prestigious library school in France) is going to intervene, from February, to think about the possible improvements which can be brought to the library. The establishment wishes to acquire automatons for loans and returns; the trainee will think about the question.
In general, the library Marguerite Yourcenar is a really attractive pole for every type of public. With its specialized departments, its modern architecture, its comfortable premises, its events and its interaction with the users, it has everything to please. In spite of some elements which could spoil the whole, it’s strictly speaking a true learning center. Some improvements in the long term would be necessary, but this library is a really pleasant place to frequent, very dynamic and very alive.
Maxime, Julie & Pascaline