65th IFLA Council and General
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
"Culture et développement"
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
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
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
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
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
This project combines à) of international solidarity,
creating employment with cooperation for reading development
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
Identify the African partners initiating library creation
To specify, register, manage and to satisfy the request of
The mode of action of this project in Rhône-Alpes
Region is experimental and we intend to extend it to other
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
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.