Thursday, November 5, 2009

Das Lern- und Sprachzentrum (The Learning and Language Center)

Self-learning (or autoformation as the French call it) appears to be much more popular in German and French public libraries than in American public libraries.With its recently opened Lern- und Sprach Centrum (Learning and Language Center), the Hamburg library has adopted the Information Commons idea from English and American universities and applied it, including e-learning and chat rooms, to the public library setting.

The library obtains its online courses from Bipmedia, a German/Austrian firm that provides online training to SAP, BMW and other companies. The library asked Bipmedia, which had never worked with libraries, if it could be on its platform, but Bipmedia offered to create a platform for the library to host instead. The library now offers 102 courses in IT, language, economics and other subjects and it has contracted with Bipmedia to sell this service to other libraries. The IT staff promoted the service at the recent Frankfurter Büchmesse, the world's largest book trade fair, where Leipzig and Frankfurt signed on.

The Hamburg library’s eMedia offer includes eBooks, eAudios, eVideos and eMusic, and ePaper (newspapers, journals and magazines), which it obtains from DiViBib GmbH, Wiesbaden, Germany. DiViBib buys the media from the publishers. The Hamburg library and 105 other German libraries, including Bremen, Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich and the Association of Public Libraries in Berlin buy licenses to use the media from the publisher. See

The ePaper incudes Der Speigel, the German news magazine; four national daily newspapers and Manager Magazin and Wirtschafts Woche, two business magazines. Under terms of its contract, the libraries can eloan Der Spiegel to only one customer at a time only. When I used the temporary Hamburg library card I was given (good for 30 days) to download the 156-page four-color most recent edition of Manager Magazin in pdf format, I was told my loan period was one day, three hours and 13 minutes. For Wirtschafts Woche my loan period was one day three hours and nine minutes.When I requested Der Spiegel, I was put on a waiting list. I received an email a few days later telling me that magazine was available for me to download.

Customers access the Learning and Language Center by clicking the eLEARNING link on the library’s home page. They access the library’s eMedia offering by clicking the emedien link on the home page.

The library’s website tells customers that with the new eLearning platform, Bücherhallen Hamburg is the first German library to give customers this new online offering. It tells them they can enter the world of online learning round the clock by choosing from more than 100 courses, including language, management and computer courses as well as courses to help them pass their European Computer Driver’s License exam. With the new eMedia service, the website says, the Bücherhallen Hamburg together with Stadtbibliotheken in München (Munich),Würzburg und Köln (Cologne) enter a new virtual world where it is possible for customers to choose the eMedia they want and need from a large pool. All they have to do to access this world of eLearning and eMedia is enter their library card number and PIN. The loan period for most eMedia is one week during which they can read or work with it whenever they want, or put it on a USB stick and take it with them to their weekend house. At the end of the week the loan expires and the items is longer be available to them.

Customers learn on the library’s website that to use the eLearning platform or the eMedia they need Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Windows Media Player 9 or higher; Adobe Reader 7.0 or higher; Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher; and Firefox 1.5.0 or higher. They are advised that they will be able to make only limited use of the eMedia with Mac or Linux operating system. It gives a list of MP3 players compatible with the system, and a list of compatible eBook readers, which currently includes only the Sony eBook Reader. (The Kindle is not yet available in Europe; but even if it were, it would not be listed because eBooks for the Kindle have to be purchased from Amazon.) The website also has tutorials customers can follow to learn how to use the eLearning platform and eMedia.

The eMedia offer includes more than 1,000 eBooks, eAudios, eVideos and 4,000 music titles. It can also be search by theme:

Children (207 titles): Adventure and Discovery, Detective and True Crime, Earth and Universe, Fantasy, Friendship & Family, For our Children, History, Religion & Folklore; Horror, Body & Health; Songs & Poetry; Fairytales, Sports, Games & Fun; Animals & Nature, Other;

Young Adult (241titles): Adventure and Excitement; Family, Friendship & Love; Fantasy & Science Fiction; Free Time & Sport; Horror & Mystery; Body & Health; Fairytales; Real Life; Travel, Lands & Cultures; Novels & Experiences; Animals & Nature; Other;

School & Learning (1702 titles): Reference; Work and Study Techniques; Career Choice and Application; Professions; Test Preparation; Other.

Nonfiction & Advice (9621 titles): Education & Study; Beauty & Wellness; Occupation & Career; Computer & Internet; Parenting; Esotericism & Astrology; History, Peoples & Lands; Society; Health; Home & Religion; Hobby & Lifestyle; Information & Documentation; Art, Culture & Media; Music; Practical Advice; Nature and the Cosmos; Pedagogy & Psychology; Politics; Law; Travel & Adventure; Religion & Philosophy; Sport & Fitness; Languages; Environment & Environmental Protection; Consumerism & Finance; Economy & Business; Science & Technology

Fiction & Entertainment (1153 titles): Biography & Memoir; Drama; Essays; True Crime & Thrillers; Verse; Fairytales; Oral Tradition & Humor; Novels & Experience; Science Fiction & Fantasy.

Music (4632 titles): Genre and Epoch.


In conversations about libraries in France I often heard the word patrimoin (patrimony), a word with several meanings, one of which is cultural heritage. How frequently the word is used indicates how libraries are viewed in France. More than American libraries, they're seen as protectors, defenders and extenders of the country’s cultural heritage. Their role is to educate, elucidate, elevate.

The emphasis in libraries in the U.S. seems sometimes to be more on entertainment than information. It is important for American libraries to remember that they are essentially cultural institutions and that they have a loftier mission than merely to entertain.

Some conversations turned to discussions about what it means for France to be a republic, what it means to be a citizen of the republic, and what kind of services libraries should provide French citizens.

Citizenship in France, according to the director of the Montreuil library, is viewed as separate and apart from any other status or condition, such as race and religion, and it is from this point of view that the French government has attempted to help immigrants, especially those from France’s overseas departments who are already citizens, to assimilate into French life. In many cases these attempts have not worked, especially among immigrants groups who come from cultures where life is not compartmentalized and where the conditions of a person’s being, including citizenship, race and religion, are not distinct.

In France the need to help immigrants assimilate is becoming more urgent. Until recently most immigrants came from France’s overseas departments and former colonies, but today they come from many more countries around the world. As the debate about immigrants and immigration continues in France and elsewhere in Europe, French librarians are asking themselves what role they and their libraries should play and what programs and services for immigrants they should provide.

French as well as German libraries provide programs about immigration either to contribute to a cultural shift; i.e., help citizens accept immigrants and help immigrants adapt to French or German life, or to meet the immediate, everyday, practical needs of immigrant groups. French and German libraries would like to offer more of these programs, but face obstacles that are very different from those faced by their American counterparts.

After the Second World War, Western European countries set up elaborate social support systems that, in addition to medical care, meet many of the social needs of their citizens. Since their creation, the agencies that provide these services have become institutionalized and entrenched. In their presentations and conversations about programs for immigrants and the unemployed, French and German librarians often mentioned the turf battles they have to fight with these agencies. Despite the help they provide, the Western European social support systems can also be a hindrance.

As there is an upside and a downside to the Western European model, there is an upside and a downside to the United States model. The U.S. has no universal health care, for example; and millions of its citizens are uninsured. But many of the services that are provided by government in Western Europe are provided by private social service agencies in the U.S. When libraries in the U.S. want to provide services to immigrants, the unemployed or other groups, they have a smaller entrenched bureaucracy and fewer turf battles to fight. Even where battles must be waged, often they are fought against opponents who are more accustomed to partnering with organizations like public libraries and private social services agencies and may even be predisposed to working with them.

Despite the difference in obstacles Western European and U.S. libraries face, the dialog between is instructive and beneficial. Each has ideas and offers programs from which the other can benefit.

Bibliothèque Montreuil

Montreuil is a suburb of approximately 100,000 on the eastern edge of Paris. The city has a very diverse population, including the largest population of Malians outside Mali’s capital city of Bamako. Montreuil’s lower housing prices attract many artists, writers and movie directors who can’t afford or do not want to pay the high cost of housing in Paris. Historically the city has had a communist government, but the green party captured city hall two years ago. The city offers many social services, and encourages dialogue between its disparate groups. These are some of the reasons, according to the vice major, Montreuil escaped the riots that wracked many of Paris’s suburbs in 2005.

The decision to create a municipal library in Montreuil “to give the average citizen access to the domain of ideas and the world of literature “was made on May 7, 1875. The library opened in September 1879. It has occupied its current building since November 1974. The library has a central library and three branches. Three annexes, or branches, were opened in 1964, 1970 and 1971.
Generally it costs nothing to join a municipal library in France, but there is an annual fee for borrowing CDs. In Montreuil, the director has removed this fee. Access to the music collection at Montreuil is free.

The director has introduced to keep the Montreuil municipal library relevant to its customers and the way they live today. The Café Literaire is one example. October is an important month for the introduction of new books in France. To coincide with this event, the library’s recent Café Literaire (literary café) gave customers an opportunity to enjoy coffee and refreshments, talk to the librarians about new books and take a “behind the scenes” look at the library.

Another example of the innovations the director has introduced is a publicity campaign the library ran to tell customers about the services available and to encourage them to suggest or request other services. Using full-page announcements under the headline “Un jour de + (one day more)” in Tous Montreuil (All Montreuil), the free weekly newspaper the city government distributes, the campaign told customers, “the library is this. It is this. It is this. Here you will find…” And then it asks, “And why not ….”

Friday, October 30, 2009

La Vie à Paris

The Saint-Saëns and Ravel concert at Saint Eustache was wonderful. The orchestra was seated at the back of the church under the organ and all of the chairs in the church were turned around to face the orchestra. The concert was sold out, and the staff had to bring in extra chairs to seat the last concert goers. The acoustics in the church are good, but not as good as in a concert hall, and the organ wasn’t featured as prominently as I had expected. At the church I saw a tryptich by Keith Haring commemorating those who have died of AIDS and I learned that Molière was baptized and married in the church.

Theatre des Champs-Elysees
On Monday evening I went to another concert of music by Mendelsohn and Strauss by the Synfonieorchester des Westdeutschen Rundfunks (WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne) at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees. The orchestra is particularly known for its performances of 20th century and contemporary music. They played a concerto for two pianos and orchestra by Mendelsohn and Eine Alpensinfonie, opus 64, by Richard Strauss. The Lebeque sisters, Katia and Marielle, were the pianists.

I was as interested in seeing the theatre and testing the acoustics as I was in listening to the music. Designed by Henry Van de Velde in a mixed art deco and classic style, the theatre was built in 1913. The concerto for two pianos was joyous, and my seat in the balcony gave me an excellent vantage point from which to view one of the pianists. When I was seated, the usher told me she worked for tips. I gave her one euro. I'd never had to pay an usher before.

The Strauss piece required a significantly larger orchestra, which produced a sound that seemed almost too big for the space. It included kettle drums, several flutes, a large brass section, and a large woodwind section, including three oboes. The music started very slowly and quietly, but featured many crescendo passages. The piece includes several solo passages, especially oboe and flute (one of which was played with a few sour notes). It was the longest pieces of music I’ve ever heard. It was pretty exhausting for the listener. I can’t imagine how the musicians felt. All I could do was slump back in my chair when it was over.

Cimetiere Père Lachaise

I finally did it. I’ve been telling myself for years that if I ever get back to Paris I will go to Père Lachaise, and I did. Oscar Wilde’s was the grave I most wanted to see. On my way, a man appeared as if from nowhere like Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He looked like a brunette Prince Valiant on a bad hair day. He told me that Frederick Chopin’s grave was nearby and motioned me to follow him. Knowing it was going to cost me, I did since I didn’t have much time. Among others I saw the graves of Oscar Wilde, Frederick Chopin, Molière, Jean de LaFontaine, Edith Piaf, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, Amedeo Modigliani, Marcel Marcau, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Sarah Bernhardt and Maria Callas.

There are some strange traditions in Père Lachaise. Victor Noir, a journalist, was shot and killed by Prince Bonaparte, the cousin of the Napoleon III. A bronze statue that depicts him as if he had just fallen in the street decorates his grave. The statue has a noticeable bulge in his trousers. A myth, which says that kissing the lips, rubbing the genital area and touching the toes (one if you want one child and two if you want twins) will bring fertility. This has made the statue one of the most popular memorials for women who visit the cemetery, and the bronze on those parts of the statue is noticeably oxidized. At Wilde’s grave women apply lipstick and kiss the stone. It’s covered in kisses.

At the end of the tour, I tipped my guide. I won’t tell you how much.

I ventured up Montmartre on another evening, maybe not the best time to go, but not bad. It was quite amazing to walk by the buildings were many of the impressionists lived and then to view their work when I went back to Musée d’Orsee on Thursday. Montmartre certainly has been taken over for and by tourists. When I told one of my colleagues what I’d done, his response was Montmartre is not real.

Credit Cards and Microchips

It’s strange to come from the U.S. and feel sometimes like you’re coming from a backward country. Not having a microchip in any of my credit cards has caused a few problems. I could not rent a Velib bicycle, for example, because renting one requires a credit card with a microchip. And I couldn’t add minutes to my French cell phone at the self-service machine, because the machine requires a credit card with a microchip.

Municipal Libraries of the City Paris

Paris has a population of approximately 2.1 million, 14.4% of whom are foreign born. In the past most foreign-born residents came from former French colonies or protectorates that are now overseas department of France and they have French citizenship. In recent years immigrants have come from many other countries as well. There is wide economic disparity between the native and foreign populations. The city’s unemployment rate is 12%. Only 742,000 of the 1,815,000 people who work also live in the city. In the 20e arrondissement, the unemployment rate is 17%; and one-third of the unemployed are 25 years old or younger.
Paris has not had a central library since the central library was destroyed in a fire at the Hotel de Ville (city hall) in 1871. The library administration is housed in offices at 16 rue des Blancs Manteaux 4e (Street of the White Coats). Paris has 59 community libraries, 10 special libraries and 735,000 library card holders. These libraries house 44 million books and 81,000 DVDs and videotapes. They get nine million visitors a year.
The special libraries are Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris (City of Paris Historical Library), Bibliothèque Administrative de la Ville de Paris (City of Paris Administrative Library); Bibliothèque Forney (Forney Library [plastic, graphic and decorative arts]); Bibliothèque Musicale de Paris (Paris Music Library); Bibliothèque du Cinéma (City of Paris Cinema Library); Bibliothèque des Litératures Policières (City of Paris Detective Story Library); Centre de Documentation sur les Métiers du Livre, Bibliothèque Buffon (Buffon Library of Library Science); Fonds Historique & Documentation sur la Litterature Jeuness, Biliotheque l’Jeure Joyeuse (Children’s Literature Library); Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand (Women and Feminism Library); Bibliothèque du Tourisme & des Voyages, Bibliothèque Trocadéro (Trocadero Library of Tourism & Travel).
Competition with book and video stores is of much greater concern to French libraries than to libraries in the United States. According to French law, citizens can show the DVDs they buy only in their own homes, and they cannot lend them to friends. (As you would expect, this law is widely ignored.) Libraries can buy DVDs only after they have been available in video stores for nine to 12 months. And even then, libraries pay more for them because they also have to buy lending rights. The cost of these lending rights varies. For Disney movies, for example, they are especially high.
In an earlier posts I reported on my visit to the Bibliothèque Couronnes community library. I spent the day on Tuesday, October 27, with Catherine Auzoux, Coordinatrice du Réseau (network coordinator), who brought me to Bibliothèque Picpuc, one of the most recently renovated community libraries, and to the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris.

Mediathèque Picpuc
Libraries in France are sometimes called mediathèque to indicate that they offer multimedia materials, not just books. The Mediathèque Picpuc is a Paris municipal library that reopened in January 2009 after extensive renovations, including the installation of RFID technology. It is housed on six floors of a social housing building owned by the city. In addition to books, its collection includes 20,000 CDs and 9,000 music scores. The library also has an extensive DVD collection, including many popular American TV series.

One of the busiest municipal library in Paris, it circulated 600,000 items last year. Its music collection draws patrons from a wider area than its print collection because not all Paris municipal libraries have music collections and the Picpuc collection is one of the most extensive.

The library is starkly modern, but welcoming. Its uncluttered spaces encourage visitors to go about their library business without distraction. The monochromatic color scheme of black, gray and white is accented with orange, but only selectively, and mostly in the children’s room.

Cyrille Fierobe, library manager, was able to make many of the color, surfaces and furnishings decisions, which included the purchase of two orange chairs with Keith Haring designs for the children’s room. Catherine Auzoux said that with budget cuts managers of other libraries slated for renovation probably won’t be given so much leeway.

Cyrille acknowledged that a six-story space with only one elevator is not ideal for a library, but explained that the library had to make the best of the space the city made available. He conceded that the fourth floor, which would be the fifth floor in an American building is not the best floor for a children’s room, but it was chosen because it is the best of the public floors because it has the most light. On Saturdays, which are the busiest days, customers often have to wait for the elevator.

The ground floor houses only the circulation desk, newspapers and magazines and a seating area. The rest of the space is left open and used for program. Glass doors from the ground floor lead to an outside area with comfortable seating that patrons can use in good weather. Above the ground floor, in addition to the children’s room, are an adult fiction floor, an adult nonfiction floor, a young adult floor and an office floor. The adult, young adult and children’s areas of the library have computers for public use. The library has areas where customers can plug in their laptops, and it offers wifi.

Germany has very strict laws with regard to the amount of space and the amount of natural light that must be made available for each employee. Since the office floor at Mediathèque Picpuc is flooded with natural light, I asked Catherine if France had similar laws. Not laws, she said, but recommendations.

Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris

The Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris is in le Marais (swamp) a district of Paris with many old buildings because it is one of the few districts that were not affected by Baron Houssmann’s plan to rebuild the city during the reign of Napoleon III. The Bibliothèque Historique is housed in a Hotel Particulier that dates from the 15th century. Hotels Particuliers were the medieval mansions of the aristocracy.

The Bibliothèque Historique is a reference library whose collection of 600,000 documents about the history Paris includes maps, photographs and books. The collection replaces an earlier historical collection destroyed in a fire in the Hotel de Ville (city hall) in 1871.
The library was part of the Musée de Carnavalet, the city’s history museum, until 1968 when it moved to its present location. The library computerized its catalog in 2004. It recently undertook a digitization project, and to date it has digitized 200 of its maps.

The only areas of the library open to the public are the map room and a reading room that seats 80. Anyone 18 year of age or older is eligible for a library card, which is different from the municipal library card. Since the collection (except map facsimiles) is closed, customers have to request the items they want and wait approximately 20 minutes for them to be retrieved from the stacks. The library is used mostly by journalists, students and historians.

The map room contains an collection of facsimiles of maps arranged by date. Many of the older maps offer a bird’s-eye view of the Paris looking east. During my visit, Genevieve Madore, chief librarian showed me six maps that traced the growth of Paris from medieval times to the late 19th century. In these maps you can see the facades of the city’s churches which were always built facing west.

The Bibliothèque Historique collection includes original as well as facsimiles of manuscripts by authors such as Voltaire, Georges Sand and Gustave Flaubert. The library hosts special exhibitions and is planning one on the 1910 great flood of Paris when the water level of the Seine reached 20 feet above normal drowning streets throughout the city and sending thousands of Parisians fleeing to emergency shelters.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Libraries as Places for Social Cohesion

Thursday, Friday, October 8, 9, 2009
Bibliothèque Public d’Informtion, Paris

The challenge facing libraries today, according to information I received about the workshop, is “to diversify their offer by adding services linked to economic and societal changes; to create new relationships with their publics; to find a “discussion space” with socially involved organizations and associations; and to define a role to play in order to strengthen social cohesion and professional integration.”

The purpose of the workshop was “to make an exchange of knowledge and experience possible, not just successes but also difficulties if not failures, and to develop a collection of ‘would be’ models and practices.” Thought also was given to “ways to defend the existence of such services in municipal libraries.”

During the workshop French librarians alternated with German librarians in making presentations. Their presentations included a brief description of their library and the programs it offers for immigrants and the unemployed. In this summary I have not included presentations made by or about the Paris, Cologne, Bochum, Bremen or Berlin libraries, because I provided detail about these libraries in other blog postings.

Municipal Library of Bordeaux
The City of Bordeaux has a central library, nine branch libraries and one bookmobile. It has a self-learning center called L’espace Autoformation. It has 34 computers and books on language learning.

The unemployment rate among the library’s customers is 20%. The library works with the Pôle Emploi, the national unemployment office, and PIMMS, an organization created to help immigrants assimilate into French life, to help the unemployed find jobs. The librarians often complain that it is difficult to work with the Pôle Emploi.

Municipal Library of Rennes and Library of Rennes-Mctropole

The public library of Rennes, the capital of Brittany, has 35,971 subscribers. It circulated 856,000 items last year. It has eight 15-minute public computers and 21 one-hour public computers. The library provides one-on-one computer training to customers on Saturdays. Among constraints the library representative listed that hamper its efforts to provide services to the unemployed and immigrants are the staff's need for more knowledge about information technology; resistance among staff members to performing tasks they consider social work; a lack of knowledge among target populations of the digital resources available at the library; and the limitations on computer inherent in some of the measures taken to protect the library’s network security.

Bibliotheque d’Etude et d’Information de Cigny-Pontoise

This library has created a study/career center where, according to the librarian representative, it has adapted its resources to the real needs of job seekers and other people. The library works with the Pôle Emploi, the national unemployment office, to host Journées Consiels Emploi, job advice days. The librarian said she did not find the agency as difficult to work with as did the representative from Bordeaux.

Blogging is wildly popular in France. The Bibliotheque d’Etude et d’Information de Cigny-Pontoise writes a blog about employment that patrons can access by clicking the Nos Services (Our Services) link on the library’s home page. The library’s weekly blog post includes information about job fairs, job training, and other practical information about employment-related activities in the Cigny-Pontoise area as well as information about the latest materials on the topic available at the library.

Stadtbücherei Stuttgart
According to the director of the Stadtbücherei Stuttgart, 35% of the city’s population is of “immigrational background.” They come from 100 different countries and speak 120 different languages. The director described her city as “multicultural but peaceful.” Stuttgart offers 3,000 programs a year in its central, music and 17 branch libraries, many of them in partnership with the Volkshochschule (school for adult education). The city is building a new central library, which, the director said, will be a center for life-long learning. The library created a 600-page book composed of letters written by citizens about how they feel about the library. The book was put into the cornerstone of the new building.

The director listed a variety of programs the library offers, some more successful than others. Like other libraries in Germany, it offers a fee-based research service, but there is no longer much demand for it because the library provides free access to many databases. It offers an information skills course that is also meeting with less success and may be discontinued. It offers a popular digital literacy course, which focuses not on computer technology but on providing a deeper understanding of what is expected to happen in the digital world. It has a course on protecting online information that is extremely successful.

The library has a volunteer staff of learning guides who help senior citizens with computers and help all patrons with spelling and grammar. It provides a message board where people who want to learn a language and people who want to learn each other’s language can connect. And it has a Knowledge Café that, according to the director, provides social networking, but in real rather than virtual time.

Breakout Sessions
Workshop participants were asked to indicate which of three breakout sessions they would like to join: minorities and social integration; services for the unemployed; and life-long learning. Presentations took longer than anticipated, however, and after a tour of the Bibliotheque public d’information, participants convened in a general session to discuss the three topics instead.

Public buildings in France and Germany must be handicapped accessible. Much of the general discussion had to do with laws in France and Germany that require public institutions like libraries to have handicapped-accessible websites as well.

Gender Mainstreaming

A European Union (EU) directive that generated considerable discussion had to do with “gender mainstreaming.” The UN Economic and Social Council formally defined the concept as “mainstreaming a gender perspective in the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation policies and programs in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.” According to a European Union (EU) directive, this gender perspective must be integrated into the budget planning process for all public institutions like public libraries by the year 2011.

La Bibliothèque des Sciences et de l’Industrie

The Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie is the science and industry museum of Paris just as the Centre Pompidou is the city’s modern art museum. The heart of the Cité is the Bibliothèque des Sciences et de l’Industrie (Library for Science and Industry), a vast multimedia public library entirely dedicated to science, technology and industry. It has several specialized areas including the Cité de la Santé (health information center), Carrefour Numérique (Digital Crossroads, a digital resources training area), the Salle Louis-Braille (Louis Braille Room), a fully equipped area for visually impaired and deaf readers, and the Cité des Métiers (vocational guidance center). It receives approximately 650,000 visitors in every year.

The museum has many permanent exhibitions on automobiles, aeronautics, energy, mathematics, light, space, sound, man and his genes, the story of the universe, etc. In addition it hosts special exhibits such as Epidemics of the 21st Century, and The Earth: What Is It? It also has a planetarium, a cinema, a theatre and special exhibitions for children. The library often creates displays relating to both the permanent and special exhibits.

The library is open to the public, but it is not free. I believe it costs €20.00 to join. The fee entitles members to borrow books, including e-books; journals; CD-ROMs and DVDs and to access the internet for up to eight hours a month.

You do not have to be a member, however, to use the Carrefour Numérique, which has an autoformation (self-learning center) with free access to hundreds of computerized self-learning courses. Visitors to the Carrefour Numérique can pursue the self-learning courses or their own or they can also attend scheduled practical work sessions monitored by staff members who are available to answer their questions.

The Cité des Métiers
The Cité des Métiers offers employment and training information and advice at any stage of life or profession. The Cité des Métiers at the Library for Science and Industry is organized into five areas: education/professional development; job offers; vocational training; assess your skills/change your professional life; and create your own business. It conducted 22,000 interviews in 2008. It averages 700 visitors a day, many of whom are job seekers.

The Cité des Métiers receives both public and private funding. It started at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, but out of it has grown a non-governmental organization (NGO) called the Réseau des (network of) Cités des Métiers that has replicated the Cité des Metiérs model at many locations throughout Latin Europe.

Members of this network are located in libraries, museums, unemployment offices and in street corner offices. In Barcelona, the Cité des Metiérs is inside a business incubator. The creators try to put inside “what the future will be,” according to Dr. Oliver Las Vergnas, the founder. It’s a question, Las Vergnas said, of how politicians see the future. Nearly nine of every 10 attempts to create Cités des Métiers fail, according to Las Vergnas. The challenge is trying to get labor and education to work together.

There are not many Cités des Métier in libraries, Las Vergnas said, because politicians don’t think of libraries and vocational guidance centers as being linked. The traditional French library concept was very limited in the kind of information you could give, he said, but now you can give information about everything.