Back to Books: Libraries in France

In an attempt to stop being so lazy and actually learn something again, I finally got around to renewing my library card tonight (it had expired in December). Then I quickly remembered why I hadn’t renewed it. Let’s just say that I’ve never been too impressed with French libraries.

[Even though you learned that bibliothèque means library in French, most libraries in France are actually called a médiathèque. This just reflects the fact that you can borrow CDs & DVDs instead of simply books & magazines.]

Comparison of the library in my old town in Michigan and the library in my suburb in France.

Price:

US: Free.

FR: Around 20 euros a year (less for students).

Hours:

US: Open 9 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 9am-5pm Fridays & Saturdays, and closed on Sundays.

FR: Most erratic opening schedule I’ve ever seen and can never remember. Closed Sundays & Mondays. Open Tuesdays 2-6pm, Wednesdays 10am-12pm & 2-6pm, Thursdays 10am-12pm, Fridays 2-7pm, and Saturdays 10am-12pm & 2-6pm.

Checkout:

US: You can check out as many books as you’d like.

FR: You can check out 10 things total; a combination of: up to 8 books/magazines, 4 CDs, 3 DVDs, 1 CD-ROM, and 1 “méthode de langue.” (But this is mostly because French libraries are rather small compared to American ones with much fewer resources to borrow.)

Due date:

US: 4 weeks.

FR: Everything can be kept for 3 weeks, except the méthode de langue, which is 12 weeks. During the summer (a.k.a July), it’s extended to 4 weeks and 12 things total. But here’s the problem, a méthode de langue is any foreign language book that is not a novel, so even though you can keep it for 12 weeks, you can only check out one at a time!  Not that the library has good language books anyway… So I just head down to the children’s section and check out their language books, because those aren’t considered méthodes de langue. And they have pretty pictures.

Return:

US: Put them in a box and you’re done.

FR: If you return materials when the library is open, you have to bring them back to the correct sections and wait for them to be checked back in so you can check out new books without going over the limit. Books here, CDs there, children’s comic books here, adult comic books there.

Yearly Closing:

US: Not closed for summer vacation.

FR: Closed for the entire month of August!

Air Conditioning:

US: Ridiculously cold. So cold that I couldn’t stand to be in there for more than 10 minutes.

FR: Just right.

So even though France seems to be losing this fight 6-1, the air conditioning counts for a bazillion points, therefore, France actually wins. I absolutely cannot stand places that are so frigid my skin hurts when I walk inside, like every single store, movie theater, restaurant and public place in the US when the temperature is above 70 degrees. I will always be anti-A/C and I hope France will be too.

These are just examples from my personal experiences with these two libraries. They’re not representative of all libraries in the US or France!

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  • http://french-state-of-mind.blogspot.com/ Monique

    Wow that’s funny! The médiathèque in Antibes was totally different!

    Our libraries in CA actually cost a small subscription fee (under $5) while the médiathèque was free! It was open all the time (obviously not Sundays) and even during lunch.

    And our library in CA only let us have two “media” items out at a time for about two weeks. So the three week check-out period was much more generous in France and we could drop them off in an outdoor box if the médiathèque was closed.

    I’m such a nerd that the médiathèque was seriously my favorite after work activity in France! Glad you renewed :)

    Moniques last blog post..She’s got those Wrangler-bottom jeans and the boots with the spurs….

  • http://french-state-of-mind.blogspot.com Monique

    Wow that’s funny! The médiathèque in Antibes was totally different!

    Our libraries in CA actually cost a small subscription fee (under $5) while the médiathèque was free! It was open all the time (obviously not Sundays) and even during lunch.

    And our library in CA only let us have two “media” items out at a time for about two weeks. So the three week check-out period was much more generous in France and we could drop them off in an outdoor box if the médiathèque was closed.

    I’m such a nerd that the médiathèque was seriously my favorite after work activity in France! Glad you renewed :)

    Moniques last blog post..She’s got those Wrangler-bottom jeans and the boots with the spurs….

  • http://noemagosa.wordpress.com/ Noelia

    I remember the town where I grew up in France, we were allowed to borrow 3 items in each section for 3 weeks, it was free, and we could drop the stuff in the outdoor box, or the reception desk at the entrance.

    Here, in Canada, we are allowed to borrow something crazy like 12 books, 8 magazines, 3 DVDs, 10 CDs!!! Most items for 4 weeks, except DVDs (3 days). Oh, and it’s free too if you show a proof of residence (out of town borrowers must pay a -quite expensive- yearly fee).

    I hate a/c with a passion as well. :twisted:

    Noelias last blog post..Expat-blog en español

  • http://noemagosa.wordpress.com Noelia

    I remember the town where I grew up in France, we were allowed to borrow 3 items in each section for 3 weeks, it was free, and we could drop the stuff in the outdoor box, or the reception desk at the entrance.

    Here, in Canada, we are allowed to borrow something crazy like 12 books, 8 magazines, 3 DVDs, 10 CDs!!! Most items for 4 weeks, except DVDs (3 days). Oh, and it’s free too if you show a proof of residence (out of town borrowers must pay a -quite expensive- yearly fee).

    I hate a/c with a passion as well. :twisted:

    Noelias last blog post..Expat-blog en español

  • http://toutesdirectionspourlafrance.blogspot.com/ L

    In Toulouse the library is free if you are “non-imposable” (one of the few advantages of being poor). It’s actually open Sunday afternoon, but closed for 2 weeks in August. An odd enough, when I was there last week, the a/c was on way too strong. I checked out The Beautiful and the Damned from the version originale shelf.

    Ls last blog post..Who on Earth are we?

  • http://toutesdirectionspourlafrance.blogspot.com L

    In Toulouse the library is free if you are “non-imposable” (one of the few advantages of being poor). It’s actually open Sunday afternoon, but closed for 2 weeks in August. An odd enough, when I was there last week, the a/c was on way too strong. I checked out The Beautiful and the Damned from the version originale shelf.

    Ls last blog post..Who on Earth are we?

  • http://blondeinfrance.blogspot.com/ Andromeda

    Word about the random hours, and it changed during the summer so all that time memorizing was for nothing! But I do like that I can check out art books, you couldn’t at the art history library at my university, so I enjoyed that quite a bit.

    Andromedas last blog post..In your eyes . . .

  • http://blondeinfrance.blogspot.com Andromeda

    Word about the random hours, and it changed during the summer so all that time memorizing was for nothing! But I do like that I can check out art books, you couldn’t at the art history library at my university, so I enjoyed that quite a bit.

    Andromedas last blog post..In your eyes . . .

  • http://kulturvergleiche.blogspot.com/ Bek

    I love my library here in the US, even though it took some time getting used to having the items only for 2 weeks. Back in Austria you could borrow books for over a month at a time. It’s definitely much cheaper here: In Austria they were charging a fee just for having a library card, which is similar to what you wrote about the one in France. Then they also charge if you want to reserve a book, which is my favorite thing to do over here. The only time our library here is closed is for holidays. It’s even open on Sunday afternoons.

    Beks last blog post..Mode – Fashion

  • http://kulturvergleiche.blogspot.com Bek

    I love my library here in the US, even though it took some time getting used to having the items only for 2 weeks. Back in Austria you could borrow books for over a month at a time. It’s definitely much cheaper here: In Austria they were charging a fee just for having a library card, which is similar to what you wrote about the one in France. Then they also charge if you want to reserve a book, which is my favorite thing to do over here. The only time our library here is closed is for holidays. It’s even open on Sunday afternoons.

    Beks last blog post..Mode – Fashion

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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