Hello from rainy and misty Zagreb/Croatia!

I am Ivica, a student from group Croatia.
This is my first time to collaborate with different people from other cities/countries in this kind of tool.
I study at the Zagreb University in the Information Sciences Department. I am interested in e-books (reading, using specific devices, technology).
Elsa (Turkey) , Emi (Bulgaria) and I will upload our report about visit Sofia City Library next week.

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Visit of Sevran library

Hello dear colleagues,

Here is the first report of the French group. It concerns the visit of a library in a difficult environment. This report is divided into 4 parts: the environment, the description of the library, the activities and partners, and its originality.

We hope that you will find all the necessary information. If it is not the case, we are here to answer you.

We are looking forward to hearing your comments and reactions, and hope you enjoy reading our report !

Céline, Amélie, Laetitia et Marie-Lyne.

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A particular environment

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.

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Our discovery of the library

The Library Marguerite Yourcenar was inaugurated in 1993. As we said, it is part of a network which includes 3 libraries, 1 multimedia library and 1 bookmobile which stops in two different places in Sevran.

The Library Marguerite Yourcenar is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 18 hours a week. The registration is free for everyone and the users can borrow 10 documents for 3 weeks. Loans are free and you don’t pay a fine if you return your book late because the librarians don’t want to put off the users. But if a book is damaged or lost, the users have to buy the same book and give it to the library. If the user doesn’t buy another book, it can’t be replaced in the library. There are officially 10 employees to take care of the users, but at the moment there are only 6 employees working because some of them are on sick leave.

This library is 650 m² and it contains 40,000 documents, but only paper. There are about 1,000 active users and 1,200 loans a year. The premises of the library are very basic and there is no research in the design inside or outside the Library. But we can say that it is a quite bright and clean place.

The Library’s floor plan is very simple: it is divided in two levels and several sections. The first level on the ground floor contains the Adult Section, including Fiction, Non-Fiction, Language(s), Press, Comic Books. Books are classified according to the Dewey classification, except for fiction. We didn’t find the Adult section very comfortable: there are only a few chairs to sit on.

You can have access to the second level on the first floor by stairs or by an elevator which gives handicapped people access to the Kids’ Section. In this section, books are classified by type and age, and books in their original language have a little flag on the cover. In opposition to the Adult Section, in this section there is a cosy atmosphere: it is a comfortable place with arm chairs, cushions and carpets.

Moreover, there are 4 computers and 2 « OPAC » for public use in the library. These computers are in free access; you just need to register. However, the consultation is limited to 30 minutes per computer and per user. On these computers you can find the library software named « Horizon », Open Office and Internet access. Yet there is no printer.

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A variety of activities and partners

The library works with many partners and suppliers. It doesn’t buy its books from the local bookseller, but appeals to large networks of booksellers: Librest and the CFL (“Club Français Littéraire”). Those are well known bookshops in France. The most important partner is the city hall who gives the budget for the year and proposes topics for events. It is the city hall for instance which gave the theme of nature for the current festival. It also proposed the theme of the event “Lire à Sevran” (“Sevran Reads”). The budget for the library is reasonable but insufficient to buy books in their original language, which are books corresponding to what the population expects. Despite all this, the city hall doesn’t interfere in library policy.

The library offers plenty of activities for all ages and all social backgrounds. Most of them are for the children, with activities inside and outside the premises. It organizes story time for schools and for families. These story times take place outside the library, in the shopping mall or in the garden near community centre. The story time in the mall required policemen to protect families, which proves how dangerous this district can be. But there are also other activities proposed for classes like writing workshops or visits of the library. The librarians told us that these events work because children return to the library when they become older.

In Sevran, the library can welcome up to 80 different classes. It has a partnership with the local community centre. A local community center is a centre which brings help and advice to people, and which organizes socio-cultural activities for people with difficulties. As a result, this partnership also brings socio-cultural events like drama workshops. As we said, the librarians also organize festivals. The current festival is about nature and gardens. It highlights community gardens which have been created in Sevran. The festival was the opportunity for the employees of the city hall to design a window display for the library on the theme of gardens. With the local cinema, librarians invented the festival “A hauteur d’enfant” (“At child’s level”) made for children and their parents.

the placard of the festival "A hauteur d'enfant"

Furthermore, during the summer the library and the city organize a festival named “Festiv’été”, which is intended to move the library out of its walls and to offer events related to summer. This festival promotes the network of libraries in Sevran, with the bookmobile. This library bus brings books near people’s homes.

Another important partner of the library is the city art workshop. This workshop induces children to decorate the library every year with elements from history or from the library. For example they did frescoes on Dewey or made books in poetry.

For all the events, the library communicates thanks to the website of the city. But you can’t reserve books on the site. On this site, we can go to the catalog on-line and see the calendar of events organized by the different institutions in the network. Yet, the library doesn’t have its own communication department. At the moment, the communication is done by the communication department of the city hall: they provide leaflets distributed in the library and the website communication. The library is therefore not totally autonomous, nor totally up-to-date with digital technology.

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What makes the originality of the library

The library Marguerite Yourcenar is different from other libraries because of its specific social environment which compels librarians to go beyond the usual requirements of their job.

Indeed, the librarians are also social workers who help the users with their French learning, with homework for the children, with creating a CV, or other personal administrative problems. The librarians even stretch to organizing sociolinguistic workshops in the local community centre, for the adults wishing to learn the French language and improve their literacy skills. They also suggest visiting the library to them, to get acquainted with the place and to incite them to come back.

Therefore, the librarians are not only there to convey culture and to promote reading, but also to provide human contact and to be attentive to fellow human beings. The library is also a meeting place for its users: they find there a safe and quiet place to talk, outside their often too small apartments. However, certain parents have got used to leaving their children alone in the library, under the sole supervision of the librarians. Because of that, the library is often transformed into daycare.

Furthermore, the library often welcomes children who have been excluded from school for misbehavior, and who are supervised by an outside person to do various activities. They participate in workshops where they can perform slam poetry, or learn the Dewey classification. So, it allows the children not to stay home doing nothing and it keeps them in touch with a form of instruction. This practice is important for the future of the child, because if he or she feels constantly rejected by society, later he or she will have difficulties adapting socially and professionally. Of course, all these activities are free and open to all.

Besides, the library also tries to provide a collection in accordance with the ethnic variety of the area, and offers “easy readings” (French books with a limited vocabulary). However, it has at present only a small collection of bilingual books, some books full of pictures for illiterate people and very few books in their original language. The reasons for having few foreign books are the following, or so we were told by the librarians. First, the difficulty to find booksellers or publishers selling books written in these very varied languages, and the financial complexity to establish a market with French suppliers. Secondly there is the problem of cataloging books written in a different alphabet: the software used by the library doesn’t possess the multibyte character encoding for Unicode (UTF-8), and it is difficult to fit in the title of a book in Arabic for example.

Also – a rather rare thing in France – another library of the network sometimes welcomes workers for community service. In fact, following a criminal offence, instead of going to jail these people serve their sentence doing community service, and are brought into the library as trainees. In fact, these persons have to do the daily tasks of a librarian, which keeps them in touch with the world of work and preserves the social link which – on the contrary – would have deteriorated in prison.

Finally, it is all these atypical activities due to the particular context of the city of Sevran, which make the richness of the library, and which intrigued us and urged us to visit it. We hope this discovery also interested you and we are looking forward to discovering the libraries you have selected.

See you soon for a new report!

Céline, Amélie, Laetitia, et Marie-Lyne.

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Report’s almost here

One week ago, we visited our fisrt library in Sevran (in the suburb of Paris).

So, we wrote a report about our visit and you’ll soon be able to read it. We’re also going to post photos of the library, so you’ll see what it looks like.

We’re also waiting for your discoveries, so see you soon !

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Nice to meet you


I am Amélie, a student from the group France.

Like my colleagues, I study at the IUT PARIS-DESCARTES, in the Information-Communication department, specializing in book trades (librarianship, bookselling and publishing).

I am 20 years old and I live near Paris, in Versailles.I did an internship in a media library which I really enjoyed, so I intend to become a librarian. But the world of publishing also interests me. I hope to discover it during my next internship.

In any case, I look forward to beginning this project.
Our first visit of a library will take place on Wednesday, October 12th.
Our report will arrive in the following weeks.

See you soon,

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Hello from Paris

I’m very excited to participate in Bobcatsss 2012 and meet you. We are going to visited our first library on 12th October 2011 and tell you about what we saw.

See you soon.

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Photos from SULSIST – Bulgaria

Dr. Tanya Todorova

Dr Tanya Todorova

On August 2, 2011, Dr. Tanya presented the project to the SULSIT students team.


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