Home ~ Core Competencies ~ Courses ~ Special Project ~ Reflections ~ Resume ~ Contact Me

Nicole B. Cignoli - Capstone Portfolio

ILS 504 – 01 Reference and Information Resources and Services

Exercise 2: Great Library Reference Services

October 27, 2008

Biblioth¸que nationale de France (ŅBnFÓ) is the national repository for all works, printed or electronic, for France. The original collection came from the Royal Library and was established in 1368 making it the oldest national library in Europe. In 1522, Fran¨ois I decreed that all printers and booksellers were obligated by the "Depot Lˇgal" (legal or copyright deposit) to send copies of any printed books to the library and created the foundations of BnF. In 1793 under the French National Convention, the Library became the first free public library in the world. On July 14, 1988, then President Fran¨ois Mitterrand announced the construction and the expansion of BnF into one of the largest libraries in the world with state-of-the-art technology available to all (BnF website: History, 2007). After moving major collections from the rue de Richelieu, BnF opened the Fran¨ois-Mitterrand site in the Tolbiac section of Paris on December 20, 1996. The building is part of MitterrandÕs legacy of ultra modernistic buildings in Paris. It resembles and upside down glass table. Each ŅlegÓ has seven ŅLÓ shaped stories designed to resemble an open book of the four disciplines of learning: Laws, Letters, Numbers, and Time. BnFÕs mission is to establish collections, especially the copies of works published in France, to conserve them and make them available to the public, to produce a reference catalog, to cooperate with other libraries and organizations at the national and international level, and to participate in research programs (BnF Web site: Missions, 2007).

According to BnFÕs 2007 Annual Report:

į        More than 2M square feet of usable surface on five sites.

į        1,358,814 documents communicated to the readers.

į        10,535,142 bibliographic records in the catalog BN-Opale PLUS.

į        2,662 staff.

į        Total budget of $330M

į        More than 13M books and printed papers form (including two copies of the Gutenberg Bible).

į        150,000 volumes of manuscripts (including Dead Sea Scrolls)

į        350,000 collections of periodicals

į        Approximately 12M posters

į        More than 800,000 maps and plans

į        2M pieces of music

į        1M sound documents

į        Several tens of thousands of videos and documents of prints, photographs and multimedia

į        600,000 currencies and medals

į        12M engravings, largest in the world,

į        200,000 volumes of Rare Books (Back to the top)

BnFÕs fourteen departments are located in five branches and two conservation facilities. Each BnF branch is dedicated to specific collections. The rue de Richelieu – Louvois branchÕs Oval Room offers general research material such as encyclopedic collections (digitized books, reviews, microfilms, documents, etc.) on the Performing Arts, Engravings, Maps, Prints and Photography, Eastern manuscripts, Western manuscripts, Coins and Medals, and Antiquities. Currently Richelieu is under renovation and most of the twenty-four miles of collections are being shipped to Fran¨ois-Mitterrand or lÕOpˇra while the 240 employees are re-assigned to other branches. The goal is to update services, include meeting rooms, install classroom facilities and a cafeteria by the end of 2014 (BnF Web site: Xray the Richelieu project, 2007). Biblioth¸que de l'ArsenalÕs (Library of the Arsenal) focus is French Literature from the 16th century to the 19th century, publications connected with the archives and manuscript collections already held, the history of the book and bookbinding, and the history of the Arsenal itself. Biblioth¸que-Musˇe de lÕOpˇra national de Paris is the library and museum of the National Opera Company and the Comic Opera Theater. Its focus is on Music, the History of Theater and the Arts. The Reading Room is in the rotunda of what would have been the Napoleon IIIÕs living room. The Jean Vilar House in Avignon is part of the Department of Performing Arts and its collections focus on the Performing Arts, the National theatre and the Avignon Arts Festival. The library is free to the public. Fran¨ois-Mitterrand branchÕs collections include Printed Papers, Press Room, Reference Materials, Philosophy, History and Social Sciences, Audiovisual, Rare Books, Manuscripts, Right Department, Science and Technology, and Literature and Art (BnF Web site: Sites, 2007).

In response to GoogleÕs 2004 announcement to digitize books and documents, France passed an addendum to "Depot Lˇgal" in 2006 that any Internet site whose authors lives in France or whose contents are produced in France as part of their copyright registration is to be cataloged in an effort to capture French culture (Albanel, 2007). Gallica 2 is BnFÕs encyclopedic digital library constructed from existing library collections of printed materials, graphic materials, and sound. Its main purpose is to offer French bibliographic materials out-of-print since the 16th century online. In October 2007, Gallica 2 was created to replace Gallica as an open source digital library. It offers metadata and full-text search through public domain collections, copyrighted documents as well as BnFÕs digital collections. It went live July 2008 and should be fully functional by the end of 2008. With donations from the National Center of the Book, museums, libraries, and organizations nearly 350,000 documents are freely accessible on the Internet. At the same time, BnF devoted 2007 to redesigning their Web site Since then, the number of visitors rose 5% to 14,288,711 visitors searching approximately 250 million pages. The number of visits to Gallica 2 was 2,130,204 (Annual Report: Internet sites, 2007). Gallica 2 is also the platform for the prototype, Europeana, the European digital library that began its one year testing period March 2008 (Spongenberg, 2007). In order to protect its digital information, BnF launched the SPAR (Distributed Archiving and Preservation System) project to install a digital storage system to back up BnFÕs current catalogs.

Gallica 2 is supported by BnFÕs three online catalogs: BN-Opale PLUS, Mandragore, and CCFr. BN-Opale-PLUS is the main catalog available free to the public. The final conversion of maps and plans into the database made 2007 the first year all departments, except manuscripts and performing arts, were in one catalog. Mandragore (for Medieval illuminated manuscripts), or Mandrake, is solely dedicated to manuscripts and performing arts and specifically designed for research. This online catalog provides free access to approximately 15,000 documents such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, catalogs of the collections of the manuscript in French or foreign libraries, and classifies according to language or cultural group (BnF Web site: Mandragore, 2007). Lastly, the Union Catalog of France (Catalogue Collectif de France/CCFr) provides a single search interface to FranceÕs three main French catalogs:

į        The Catalog of Digitized Municipal Library Collections (Catalogue des Fonds des Biblioth¸ques Municipales Rˇtroconvertis/BMR);

į        BN-Opale PLUS; and,

į        The University Documentation Catalog (Catalogue du Syst¸me Universitaire de Documentation/Sudoc).

CCFr is a joint project of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, Ministry of National Education and BnF to make more than 15 million documents available throughout the French library system through interlibrary loan.

BnF is a research library and the amount of information can become overwhelming. To help the searcher, BnF Web site has links from the Home page to a self-navigation Research Guide flow chart, online ready reference resources and the French National Bibliography (Annual Report: The French National Bibliography, 2007). If the searcher is still unable to locate information, BnF offers SINDBAD (Service d'INformation Des Bibliothˇcaires A Distance), BnFÕs free Ask A Librarian reference service. SINDBAD answers bibliographical or factual questions within three days on average with a maximum search time of one to two hours per answer. Questions can be submitted by filling a form from the web site, by mail or telephone. Mail and telephone response time is a maximum of fifteen days and complex questions take twenty days. SINDBAD is open Monday through Friday, 10:00a.m. until 5:00 p.m. During 2007, SINDBAD received 10,712 questions which is slightly 3% less than in 2006: 5,710 via Internet (53% of the total) and 4,907 via telephone (46% of the total). Of the total Internet questions, 17% related to history, 16% to literature, 13% law and 11% to manuscripts (Annual Report: Answers to the questions in line or by telephone, 2007). Lastly, a researcher can make a reservation for a consultation with a Customer Service Librarian for help using the library, discussing search strategies, and where to locate the documents. Students, researchers, professionals, retired staff, universities, schools, cultural centers, associations and the public have open access to the library. BNF provides access to its catalogs to all on-line users. Each branch provides access to their Reference collections similar to the process required by the Fran¨ois-MitterrandÕs Reference LibraryÕs (Library of Study) reading rooms. The Fran¨ois-Mitterrand building encircles a two and one half acre garden with the Research Library on the Garden Level and the Reference Library on the Above-Garden level. The reading rooms are alphabetized to make it easier to locate the correct reference room, which is typically above the corresponding storage within the twenty-four linear miles of storage. The Reference Library is open to patrons 16 years or older. Prior to purchasing an access card, the researcher verifies there are available seats in the desired reading room at the walkup computers at either the East or West entrance. Once the seat is reserved, the searcher may purchase a one-day, a three-day, or an annual card in person only at the Customer Service desk. There are discounted rates for students, visitors with disabilities, and many more categories.

Access to Fran¨ois-MitterrandÕs Garden Level, Richelieu, lÕArsenal and lÕOpˇra research libraries is limited to 18 years or older, accredited researchers. Accreditation can either be proof of university, professional or personal research. BnF requires a pre-admission application for review and approval. The approval to have an admission interview with a librarian is usually granted in ten days. Once admission is approved, access cards can only be purchased in person at the Fran¨ois-Mitterrand or Richelieu libraries. Then, the researcher must make an online seat reservation either prior to arrival or the same day. Research materials can be reserved up to one half day in advance. The number of documents requests allowed per day varies based on collection. Sometimes it is possible to request up to twenty-five documents. (Back to the top)

Annual Access Cards are the preferred card because they will give the researcher access to all reading rooms as needed, the art gallery, and the cinema. 62.2% (39,833) of all cards produced in 2007 were Annual Access cards of which 6,898 were replacement cards. (Annual Report: Inscription and accreditation of the readers for the Library of Research, 2007).

Accredited research accounted for 60% of the access applications: 32% for professional reasons and 8% for personal research, of which 53% were women (Annual Report, 2007). Doctorates made up the greatest number of researchers (33% of total), followed by the university professors (19%) and Graduate Students (13%), In 2007, 1,289,675 documents were retrieved for Fran¨ois-MitterrandÕs Reference Level reading rooms which was down 4.1% from 2006. The Research library reading rooms had 1,019,338 documents retrieved amounting to 3,527 documents on average per day or 3.4 documents per patron. The same-day retrieval times have been improving since 2005 down to an average forty-two minutes in 2007. 67.10 % of online requests were fulfilled the same day. The Richelieu, lÕArsenal and lÕOpˇra branches retrieved 270,337 documents averaging to 945 documents per day and 3.6 documents per reader (Annual Report: Reception, information, and bibliographical orientation, 2007).

BnF understands that in order to make the collections accessible, the researchers need to be educated on how to use the library. BnF offers workshops online or onsite for searching the BN-Opale PLUS catalog, methodology of Internet research, bibliographic instruction. BnF also hosts school visits, architect tours, tourist group tours, art exhibitions, virtual exhibitions, online teaching modules for elementary and college levels, career fairs, and lecture series. In addition, BnF is moving towards having reference materials available for those with visual disabilities at all branches with funding The Orange Foundation (Annual Report: Exposures and teaching files on line, 2007). Biblioteque nationale de France is part of many cross-cultural libraries, social and cultural initiatives such as the partnership with the Library of Congress to document France in America. This bilingual digital library catalogs FranceÕs initial presence in North America to the end of the 19th century (Library of Congress Web site: France in America, 2008). (Back to the top)


Biblioteque national de france. (2008). Retrieved September 26, 2008 fromhttp://babelfish.yahoo.com/translate_url?tt=url&trurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bnf.fr%2F&lp=fr_en&.intl=us&fr=yfp-t-501.

Albanel, C. (2007). A turning-point in the history of publishing and new digital policy. Press release. Retrieved September 28, 2008 from http://www.bnf.fr/pages/catalog/pdf/discours_num.pdf.

Mandragore. Retrieved September 28, 2008 from http://mandragore.bnf.fr/html/accueil.html.

Library of Congress. (2008). France in america. Retrieved September 29, 2008 from http://international.loc.gov/intldl/fiahtml/fiahome.html.

National library of france. (2008). To Know BnF. History. Seven Centuries, Retrieved September 26, 2008 from

Sites. Retrieved September 26, 2008 from

Annual Report 2007. Answers to the questions in line or by telephone. Retrieved September 27, 2008 from

Collections: xray the richelieu project. Retrieved September 27, 2008 from

Evolution and the management of employment. Retrieved September 27, 2008 from

Exposures and teaching files on line. Retrieved September 27, 2008 from

Inscription and accreditation of the readers for the library of research. Retrieved September 28, 2008 from (

Internet site of bnf. Retrieved September 28, 2008 from

The french national bibliography. Retrieved September 28, 2008 from

Reception, information, formation and bibliographical orientation. Retrieved September 29, 2008 from

Spongenberg, H. (2007). France Launches Digital Library. EUROPE, March 30, 2007. Retrieved September 29, 2008 from http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/mar2007/gb20070330_226098.htm?link_position=link8.



Association for digitization French PublisherÕs Association (SNE) http://www.sne.fr/pages/informations/english.html

Conference of Directors of National Libraries (CDNL) http://www.nla.gov.au/initiatives/meetings/cdnl/

Conference of European National Librarians (CENL) http://www.kb.nl/gabriel

Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) http://www.cerl.org/web/

EROMM (digital European register off microform masters and surrogates): EROMM

Espace Francophone http://espacefrancophone.org/en/france/etudes.htm

Europeana http://www.europeana.eu/

European Conference one Research and Advanced Technology for DIGITAL Libraries (ECDL2007): http://www.ecdl2007.org/index.php

European Register of Microform Masters http://www.eromm.org/

International association of the libraries files and musical information centers (AIBM): http://www.iaml.info/

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions http://www.ifla.org/

Iran National Library and Archives (INLA) http://www.nlai.ir/Default.aspx?alias=www.nlai.ir/en

League of European Research Libraries (Ligue des biblioth¸ques europˇennes de recherche/LIBER) http://www.kb.dk/liber/

Lebanon http://www.baakleennationallibrary.com/

Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/index.html

National Centre of the Book http://www.centrenationaldulivre.fr/?Aide-pour-la-diffusion-numerique

National Library of China http://www.nlc.gov.cn/old/old/english.htm

National Library of Quebec (Biblioth¸que nationale du Quˇbec http://www.banq.qc.ca/portal/dt/accueil.jsp

Network EDLnet set of themes: http://www.europeandigitallibrary.eu/edlnet/

Online Computer Library Center (OCLC): http://www.oclc.org/default.htm

Rˇseau francophone des biblioth¸ques nationales numˇriques (RFBNN) http://www.rfbnn.org/

Safeguarding and Conservation (CAP) of the IFLA: http://www.ifla.org/VI/4/pac.htm

Syndicat National Unitaire des Instiuteurs Professeurs des ecoles et PEGC http://www.snuipp.fr/

TEL/The European Library: http://www.theeuropeanlibrary.org/portal/index.html

TELPlus project: http://www.theeuropeanlibrary.org/telplus/index.php

The EDL Foundation http://www.europeana.eu/edlnet/edl_foundation/purpose.php

Tunisia http://www.bibliotheque.nat.tn

ILS 504 ~ Core Competencies ~ Courses ~ Reflections ~ Resume ~ Contact Me