3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Jun 15, 1993 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on June 15, 1993. This particular issue originally was distributed in two parts, as indicated below.
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From: Jack Kessler 
Subject: Bib.de France politics, Online list, the BN (15 Jun 93)

June 15, 1993

		FYIFrance: Bib.de France politics, Online list, the BN

by:	Jack Kessler

Part 1 of 2
1) Bib.deFrance -- Object lesson in the wisdom of being on the hard 
(bricks and mortar) side of things?...
2) French Online Library Resources list (updated)
3) The Bibliothe`que Nationale -- last chance


1) Bib.deFrance -- Object lesson in the wisdom of being on the hard 
(bricks and mortar) side of things?...

You'll remember that the question was posed here, in FYI France of May
15, whether the new Bibliothe`que de France might become nothing more
than a book warehouse -- no systems, no access -- when all the current
budget-cutting is done? The crucial May 15 bidding-date for the
library's computer information system was suspended by the new Minister:
one was facing the prospect of walls, ceiling, floor, and books, and no
easy way to get at them -- the suspension of most of the librarians'
(and users') dreams for the project.

Well, the Minister has spoken again. Interviewed in _Le Monde_ June 9
(p.16), regarding the budget-cutting,

_Le Monde_: "La Bibliothe`que de France est-elle se'rieusement touche'e?
N'est-ce pas une menace pour son avenir?"

"Je n'ai pas vise' la BDF parce que c'e'tait le dossier le plus cher,
mais parce que c'est celui ou` pe`se le plus d'incertitudes de fond.
C'est capital pour tenir des de'lais. Le ba^timent sera livre' comme
pre'vu de'but 1995."

_Le Monde_: "Son ouverture est-elle toujours programme'e pour le 1er
janvier 1996?"

"Si on peut faire de l'ouverture au public de la BDF le cadeau de Noe:l
1996, ce sera bien. J'ai mis en place des groupes de travail pour
re'soudre les vraies questions de son avenir et de son statut... A
l'automne dernier, on a qualifie' cette bibliothe`que ouverte au plus
grand nombre de Bibliothe`que publique de recherche. La BPR. Un beau
sigle dont on ne parvient pas a` me donner la traduction pre'cise. Dans
ce climat d'incertitude, je ne 'signerai' rien tant qu'on ne m'aura pas
dit qui pourra exactement fre'quenter cette fameuse BPR..."

Translation, anyone?: not of the French, but of the "nuances"? Sounds as
though the _building_ may be built by "de'but 1995", but that what will
go in it may be decidedly different from the original intention, and now
may not even be decided for some time. "Le ba^timent sera livre'", and,
for the rest, "1996, ce sera bien..." I wouldn't place heavy bets myself
on expensive information systems being included, from the sound of
things: I wonder how they'll find and use the books if they're not? (Is
a translation course given, anywhere, in "administrative French"?)


2) French Online Library Resources list (updated)

As of end May, 1993, the following French library resources may be
found online, accessible via the following online techniques:

New in what follows: the Bibliothe`que Nationale online -- not their
opac (you can get that too if you are a French library, although BN-
Opale isn't spreading more widely just yet), but at least their news
bulletins and book-reservation service, for that next trip to Paris --
some ftp sites, and gopher instructions in French (JUST what I need).

(Thanks to several French friends for what follows -- additions,
deletions, corrections gratefully received from friends anywhere.
"opac" means "Online Public Access Catalog": the library catalog and,
increasingly, as with those on the Internet, more.)

a) Minitel "kiosk" Libraries. The following may be reached from
anywhere via Minitel. (Free MAC or DOS diskettes for Minitel -- some
downloading capacity now is available -- may be obtained in the US and
Canada from voice telephones 914-694-6266, 914-399-0800). Access
policies do change from time to time (SIBIL no longer is available --
see 3617 PANCA). Access to all this is very INexpensive:

3614 TOLBIAC  Bibliothe`que de France (info.-- no opac, yet)
3614 BMLYON   Bib.Municipale de Lyon (info.+ opac)
3614 BIB      Bib.Municipale de Grenoble (info.+ opac)
3615 ABCDOC   Archives, Bibliothe`ques, Centres de Documentation
3615 BPI      Bibliothe`que Publique d'Information (Centre
               Pompidou, Paris) (info.+ opac)
3615 BIBNAT   Bibliothe`que Nationale (info. -- no opac, yet)
3615 DASTUM   Photote`que Dastum (info.+ opac)
3615 MIRADOC  Bibliothe`que Universite' de Metz (info.+ opac)
3615 VDP15    Vide'othe`que de Paris (info.+ opac)
3615 VILLETTE Me'diathe`que, Cite' des Sciences et de l'Industrie
               (info.+ opac)
3617 CCN      Catalogue Collectif National des Publications en
               Se'rie (national union catalog project, serials)
3617 PANCA    Pancatalogue (national union catalog project, books)

b) Minitel "V23" Direct-Dial Libraries. The following French library
services may be reached by a direct-dial telephone call, either from a
Minitel which can do so (European terminals can, but US Minitel service
distributed per the above cannot), or using a V23 modem, available in
European computer stores:       Amiens, Bibliothe`que d' (info.+ opac)       Arles, Bibliothe`que Municipale d'(info.+ opac)       Caen, Bibliothe`que Municipale de (info.+ opac)       Chamonix, Bibliothe`que Municipale de (opac)  Chilly-Mazarin, Bibliothe`que de (info.+ opac)  IRCAM, Centre de Recherche Musicale, Centre
                   Pompidou, Paris (opac)       Niort, Bibliothe`que de (info.+ opac)       Sallanches, Bibliothe`que Municipale de (opac)       Tourcoing, Me'diathe`que de (info.+ opac)

c) telnet (ie. from the Internet) to France    Caen, Bibliothe`que Universitaire de (login as
FRMOP22.CNUSC.FR  Centre National Universitaire Sud de Calcul,
                  Montpellier -- provides access to PANCATALOGUE and
                  SIBIL and numerous other French services -- account
                  required (fax -- in French -- to 67-52-37-63, at
                  Montpellier) -- also available via Minitel (see above)
                  or French Transpac #134022271494 (account required)
IFBIBLI.GRENET.FR Institut Fourier -- Saint Martin d'Heres (opac)

d) WAIS ! (There's a LOT going on in France.)

Generally, search the directory-of-servers under "bibliotheque" or

bib-dmi-ens-fr.src      Ecole Normale Supe'rieure, Paris, Dept. de
                        Mathematiques et Informatique
bib-ens-lyon.src        Ecole Normale Supe'rieure de LYON
bib-math-orsay-fr.src   Universite' Paris-Sud
bibs-zenon-inria-fr.src INRIA / Institut de Recherche en
                        Informatique et Automatique, Sophia
                        Antipolis (Documentation Center / Library)
cirm-books-fr.src       CIRM / Centre International de Rencontres
                        Mathe'matiques, Marseille (library)
                        INRIA / Institut de Recherche en
                        Informatique et Automatique, national
imag.ouvrages.src       IMAG / Institut d'Informatique et de
                        Mathematiques Applique'es de Grenoble

e) anonymous ftp sites

ftp.inria.fr    INRIA/Institut National de Recherche en Informatique
                et Automatique (Postscript technical reports)
zenon.inria.fr  ditto from INRIA in Sophia Antipolis
ftp.ens.fr      General computer science technical reports
ftp.cicb.fr     Univ. Rennes1 ("gopher" information in French!?)

As with BITNET and particularly the Internet, it is nearly impossible
to keep up with the phenomenal growth of French online resources. The
Minitel's own "Guide de Services" lists only 15,000 services, while
published accounts claim more than 17,000 currently in operation; and
these numbers don't begin to account for the many online services which
rely on the omnipresent Minitel "boxes" found throughout France -- and
Minitel "V23" norm emulation software now found throughout France and
increasingly elsewhere -- to act as simple terminals for their
connections. Many new library services (see the list, above), use this
latter function: un-tabulated and un-indexed, so that until libraries
go into the marketing business no one really knows how many online
French library services there are.


Part 2 of 2
1) Bib.deFrance -- Object lesson in the wisdom of being on the hard 
(bricks and mortar) side of things?...
2) French Online Library Resources list (updated)
3) The Bibliothe`que Nationale -- last chance


3) The Bibliothe`que Nationale -- last chance

(In Part 1, the new Minister of Culture gives his perhaps-disturbing
thoughts on the future of the Bibliothe`que de France, and an updated
Frlibs / French Online Library Resources list.)

The Bibliothe`que Nationale -- last chance

There is a privilege rare in the past and unavailable in the future,
which will interest anyone who likes cherished old institutions or who
loves libraries, and one which any of you who can get to Paris may be
able to enjoy, until 1995. The Bibliothe`que Nationale gave a small
group (15 of us) of the "Friends of the BN" a back-room tour a short
time ago. It was fascinating, inspiring, poignant, sad: a never-to-be-
forgotten experience for this library fan, who never will suggest in
the future, in his enthusiasms over the new technologies, that there
isn't real beauty in at least of some of the old ways.

We met in the Salle d'Honneur, in the administrateur general's office:
not many hi-tech libraries will be able to boast a similar high-
ceilinged, wood-paneled meeting-room decorated with a full-size replica
of Houdon's Voltaire. I suppose not many non-high-tech libraries can
boast of this either, but I have more the high-tech versions on my mind
these days, and I hope they won't be as boringly-functional
aesthetically as some which already have appeared.

We saw the Cabinet des Medailles, where the Curator treated us to an
hour-long glimpse into his love-affair with a collection. I never
before have held a Roman gold coin (reign of Hadrian) in my hand, and I
don't suppose many regular "book librarians" have either. This was the
first, but not the last, mention I heard that day of the plans/dreams
for an upcoming "Bibliothe`que des Arts", to consolidate all the
non-book collections which will remain at the BN's Rue Richelieu site
when all the "books" go to the Bibliothe`que de France in 1995.

The cavernous Salle des Periodiques was next, our guide reminding us
that this originally was intended to be an extension of the always-
overcrowded main reading room. It was converted to a periodicals room
when the logistics of managing two reading rooms defeated the
librarians of the last century. That prompted the thought that the
librarians of the next century will have not two but four "main reading
rooms" in the new Bibliothe`que de France: one hopes that it won't wind
up with a single main reading room, as its predecessor did, and three
other rooms for, say, periodicals, video-cassettes, bandes dessine'es?
Those who do not remember the logistical lessons of the past are bound
to repeat them.

Third stop on our BN backstage tour was the restoration lab: the most
impassioned stop usually, I've found, on any library tour -- there's
something about book conservators... The enthusiastic and impressive
conservator whom we struck showed us through a half-hour's fascinating
tour of the intricacies of his art. They have 60 conservators, over 40
of whom work in the prints section which we visited. They are plumbing
the depths of mass de-acidification, marrying the demands of mounting
with demands of storage, and analyzing the chemical properties of
various varieties of glue, on a daily and sometimes nightly basis. His
current problems include a beautiful set of chalk pastel drawings by
Valentine Hugo, each drawing encased carefully by the artist in plastic
sheets which were fine for the time but which now rub off more chalk
every time they're moved. How to improve, whether to improve? In the
lab they've mounted a little exhibit to show all the different "stuff"
which one artist threw into his particular home-made paper pulp --
feathers, string, stones -- all of which is coming apart inexorably as
time passes.

The Cabinet des Manuscrits, also on the list to remain at Rue Richelieu
and take part in the new "Bibliothe`que des Arts", then received our
visit. Umberto Eco's dream of medieval copyists laboring along in the
ancient scriptarium is kept alive and well here: the rows of tables
with tilted lecterns all were adorned with precious papers and scholars
dutifully copying from them. One dream of those who are promoting the
Bib.des Arts idea is that scanning and imaging might play a role here:
perhaps in bringing the contents of these manuscripts to a broader
public, and at least in protecting them from unnecessary handling. The
Cabinet des Manuscrits-on-Minitel?: perhaps not now, but in a few
years, with high-resolution scanning and video and isdn access?

The Department of Maps and Plans awarded us yet another enthusiastic
and impressive conservateur, who proudly showed us her "refrigerator"
-- a wonderfully-air-conditioned reading room on what was a pretty hot
day in Paris -- and, again, beautiful, high-ceilinged, paneled rooms.
Old -- 14th, 15th century -- navigators' maps on display showed every
small town which one was likely to encounter at that time along the
coasts of Spain and Italy and, gradually, northern Germany and the
Baltic. "Maps and Plans" is another BN department which might benefit
greatly from scanning and imaging under the new Bibliothe`que des

Finally, we saw the great problem, the centerpiece, the heart and the
sore of the BN: the great, efficient, but now nearly-full collection of
printed works. The BN houses its stacks on 11 floors of shelving --
those who are familiar with very large libraries will realize that this
shelf space isn't really that much -- and these shelves are nearly
full.  Their one reading room, with 295 places, gets 700 applicants per
day, producing long, frustrating waits outside very often for any
reader who comes in late. The wait for book-paging isn't long -- I can
testify personally to 30 to 45-minute waits on their especially-crowded
Fridays -- but that still is a long wait compared to libraries with
open stacks (that never will happen in France), or the wait for online
information (will information overload ever get us that far? you bet --
try logging into some of the busier opacs on Fridays these days).

Realia with a vengeance

All this -- all the printed books -- will move to the Bib.de France, we
are told, in 1995, or1996, or maybe 1997: new classification system,
informatisation, no service interruption. We'll see... harrumph. In the
meantime it is interesting to view the coming split in the BN
collection -- between printed texts and everything else -- as being
possibly a microcosm of the same split as it is going to occur in the
use of texts generally, and as perhaps it occurred 500 years ago when
printed books first appeared. Changes wrought by the appearance of the
printing press in the 14th century, about which much has been said, and
changes being wrought now by its supposed disappearance at the hands of
the computer, about which perhaps too much has been said, both might
find a specific instance in the adventure which the BN is about to
undertake. Printed text will go to Tolbiac, written text and images
will remain united at Richelieu, just as things were before Gutenberg:
a sociology student might do well to study the changes wrought by this
split at the old BN.

The jury still is out on who is going to run whom, between the
Bibliothe`que Nationale and the new Bibliothe`que de France. The fears,
and bets, for a while were that the BN and all its assembled talent and
tradition might somehow fade away, totally replaced by a hi-tech online
information world center which would find book arts and book library
skills irrelevant. Now the pendulum appears to have swung a bit the
other way: with the new non-Mitterrand political administration in
Paris looking for excuses to make changes, and the very real French
budget crisis, a realization seems to have dawned suddenly that it's
one thing to build a library and another very different thing to run
it, and that the team already in place might be best suited for the
latter job. The Bibliothe`que des Arts proposal -- this is an active
idea now, being promoted in the press and talked about by Ministers and
by the 80-year- old and influential "Friends of the BN" (from their
brand-new headquarters) -- complicates the BN-BdF debate much further.
I'm not the first American to find that Paris is a complicated place,
but now quite a few Parisians associated with these issues are finding
them unbelievably complex as well. Stay tuned.

Note: Quelques chiffres, as the French say: the BN currently has,
about, (no one really has counted up most of this accurately) -- 10
million books, 550,000 periodical titles, 15 million prints and
photographs, 300,000 manuscript "volumes", 1 million music
compositions, 600,000 maps and plans, 400,000 sound records, 800,000
objects in the money and medallions collection, 3 million documents in
the theater arts collection, 1245 employees, 400,000 readers per year,
1,200,000 articles consulted per year, and 945 places for readers in
all the combined reading rooms. Some logistical problem to move around
and then manage all that.


ISSN 1071 - 5916



FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter        ISSN 1071 - 5916

      |           FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic newsletter,
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      |           experiment, in the creation of large - scale
      |           "information overload", by Jack Kessler. Any material
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        Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.    

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