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.


US: Free.

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


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.


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.


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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