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To Bangkok Conference programme

65th IFLA Council and General

Bangkok, Thailand,
August 20 - August 28, 1999

Code Number: 125-107-E
Division Number: V
Professional Group: Acquisition and Collection Development
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 107
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No

Promotion and role of partnership and exchanges between libraries of France and Africa

Francisco d'Almeida
"Culture et développement"
Grenoble, France


As far as international relations are concerned, a significant process is now taking place in France. Indeed, the initiative consisting in cultural exchanges with the southern countries belonging to the French-speaking zone, along with the state that used to be for a long time it's main actor as well as artists, is now more and more falling to local authorities. Publishing and library being the privileged sphere of this form of cultural cooperation, public libraries are assisting to the development of their exchanges with extra-European countries.

In order to have a cleaner view of this reality, our association "Culture et développement" periodically makes inquiries. The last one was done in 1998 and it clearly shows that in the French libraries there is an opening movement directed towards the southern part of the French-speaking zone such as Western Africa, Central Africa, Maghreb and the South-East of Asia. But most of all, the African continent and more specifically Western Africa constitute the privileged zone of this partnership.


This growing interest is due to the necessity of taking the populations which have migrated into account and of making integration easier for them. In different cities - among which Paris and Roubais - various realisations show an increasing tendency because libraries are wishing to include the populations in their public.

This opening towards Africa can also be explained by the necessity to confront experiences with Southern libraries as well as the necessity to think about the social function of libraries. In Southern countries, the role of libraries as a means of information and a means for a social promotion is becoming obvious, especially in urban areas. Considering the economical and social contest, in France, this is a very serious issue thus, offering to French librarians and French speaking African librarians, a common foundation for reflexion.

The ensuing cooperation are numerous. A lot of them are ephemeral but there is an increasing range of long lasting type of actions consisting in giving books, building libraries, creating or co-publishing books.

Our inquiry shows that there are different forms of involvement of French libraries into exchanges. The most wide-spread one deals with the animation work done in Africa within the scope of national and cultural events such as "Enfantillage", "Lire en Fête" or during local cultural events.

Another form of comittment concerns the training of the driving force behind those libraries. Finally, another form of partnership which gets more and more widespread concerns the gift of new books or secondhand ones, initiated by the libraries themselves or by request of North/South solidarity associations.

The development of those types of cooperation and more specifically the gift of books generates a profuse activity which needs to be channeled and structured. This is the reason why we have organised a survey so as to know better about its reality and its difficulties.

The observation of this allows us to make the difference between the gifts of new books chosen in concert with those who receive them and the gifts of weeded books coming from libraries. In between both forms of gift, there is a formula enabling the association of both new and secondhand books.

However, we must mention the fact that the gift of new books compared to the gifts of secondhand books, most of the time done by public libraries has contributed to convey a negative image.

In fact at the moment the economical situation doesn't allow local authorities and their libraries to develop the gifts of new books even though they are in possession of a considerable amount of books that are kept in stock.

In the period, when the book weeding is becoming the corollary of a coherent policy of acquisition where regional cooperation for shared acquisitions is turning out to be necessary, integrating a reasoned policy concerning the gift of books has become relevant it seems significant to include a bibliothéconomique circuit. So, putting the gift of books at the centre of a management policy of the collections where acquisition, conservation book weeding and gifte are complementary gives a coherence to this form of cooperation allowing a second life to the given books and contributes to the libraries notoriety.

The inquiry that we've made has revealed a dispersion of the actions and consequently a need of concert and cooperation and more exactly a need of sharing together the means in order to have more coherence.

Then, in collaboration with the Rhône-Alpes Regional Council (a local authority), we have set up in an experimental view what we have called the "Rhône-Alpes Bank of books for Africa". Its encyclopedic character gives it a complementarity with what BIBLIONEF is doing with books of youngsters.

This project combines à) of international solidarity, creating employment with cooperation for reading development in Africa.

By creating this Bank of books for Africa, we wish to reduce the mismanagement that hinder the actions and the quality of the gifts to Africa. This mismanagement is due to the lack of information of the operators about the needs of their partners as well as to the difficulty of defining and linking the different stages of the gifts circuit or to solve the various problems of transport.

The "Rhône-Alpes Bank of books" provides a service to the libraries and the local authorities to organize the gift in the framework of an operational structure.

It consists of different steps :

  • First raising the interest of the librarians about cultural cooperation and book gift to the African countries.
  • Secondly, the assistance taking into care the different stages starting from the storage to the book delivery to the partner in Africa.
  • Thirdly informing and training the librarians so that they get used to selecting the right books among their stock of books.
  • Identify the African partners initiating library creation project.
  • To specify, register, manage and to satisfy the request of books.

The mode of action of this project in Rhône-Alpes Region is experimental and we intend to extend it to other French regions.

Today 20 town libraries in Rhône-Alpes are partners, work together with the Bank of Book.

Several book expeditions have been made towards public libraries network instead of isolated libraries. We have choser to do so in order to have a professional interlocutor aware of the needs of his country's libraries. Comores, Mali and Mauritania those are the countries we collaborate with.

The project includes a part of scientific observation realised in relationship with the African libraries networks to which we send the books in order to embetter our work. It consists in tests and studies about the books contents.

They are also related on types of readers, on what they are expecting and on their opinions on books sent to them.

We also organized a regular meeting with directors of eleven African and Haïtian libraries networks with the aim to encourage cooperation with those of Rhône-Alpes region such as librarian reception and exchange of cultural activities.

Parallel to that we struggle that something be done with the local authorities with the idea to create a group of coordination so that we (arouse) creation of other banks of books either that at the level of a region or of a district.

We lastly organize encounter according to regions between librarians and associations to discuss about problems of donations of books and solutions to fit as better as possible the dispatching according to the reading addressees' needs.

Thus, at the national meeting in Lille (December 1998) we presented a worked out project in collaboration with the French librarians association, La Joie par les livres, the Ministry of Cooperation and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and Communication.

This document entitled "Book donation charter for culture and development" is referred to not only the librarians but also to all book donation actors. The goal is to provide a methodological tool to guide acting reading cooperation in French speaking areas. This charter is based on a total approach for book donation and picks up the different essential aspects related to it. It also draws attention on the necessity of an evaluation, the importance of including book donation in a larger cooperation programme for reading policy and, at last, reciprocity and cultural exchanges.

So, the charter is for us one more tool added to the others such as the African and French libraries partnership price awarded every two years to promote reading development in Africa. Endowed with a credit of buying books the price is to reward long lasting actions.

Thus, for being efficient the structure of the exchanges with the French libraries must be based on a common effort and on concert with the African networks. That's why the creation of the international association of French speaking libraries networks is an encouraging factor for reinforcing the exchanges with Africa and to adapt the partnerships to the African readers' needs.


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