Friday, 9 July 2010

American Library in Paris

Literature. Learning. Culture. Community

In the midst of being lost in language, The American Library in Paris was like a little slice of home.  This subscription library opened in 1917 in order to serve U.S. service personnel.  It was founded by the American Library Association.  In 2009 the library expanded the reading room and increased their computer access.  The collection has grown to offer over 120,000 books, 300 periodicals, multi-media, online databases, programs, a bi-weekly e-newsletter that reaches over 4,000 patrons, and more.   I found it interesting that this was the first library on the continent to offer Braille books in English in 1955. During the months of July and August the library is closed on Sundays. 

According to their Web Site, their vision and mission is as follows,


The American Library in Paris celebrates the written word and the life of the mind. It is constantly renewing its purpose in Paris as a center for literature, learning, culture, and community.


  • To provide access in France to what is best in English-language books, periodicals and other materials by sustaining and extending a varied and enduring collection.
  • To provide the services of a contemporary American public library.
  • To encourage and support reading in English by children and young adults.
  • To act as an educational support center for people of all ages on their pursuit of formal instruction or personal growth.
  • To promote better understanding between France and the United States by making available the artistic, historical and business record of the American experience to an international audience.
Our group had a brief tour of the library.  I was invited back to help with activities in the children's department the next day, however I was already booked on another tour.  The children's room was small but comparable to other UK and US libraries.  It seemed like a great learning environment for children.  There are 10,000+ books, 1,000 audio visual items, 15 magazine subscriptions and programs for all ages.  Story time readings are called "Lap Sit" for 1-3 year olds.  There is no registration for programs unless they are for special events.

On one of the brochures there is a picture of the Statue of Liberty, with the Eiffel Tower in the background, reading a book titled American Library in Paris.  They have clever marketing and outreach to promote their services.  Outside of the library was a cart full of books all marked FREE.  Our professor thought we were going to town buying books, not realizing they were marked free.  I added a few quick summer reads to my collection and then ended up donating them to another library before leaving the UK.  

I think it is very important for Americans to have a library like this in a foreign country.  I was only in Paris for a few days, and felt pretty overwhelmed with the language barrier and being out of the loop from American happenings.  This is a great place to go for American materials.  Even though it is a subscription library, it is well worth the rate if you consider how much it cost to purchase books, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, etc.  I know I would rather give my business to a library than a book store any day of the week.

Visit their site at

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