French public libraries between tradition and modernity: building up and popularising the collections
The issues of building up and popularising public library collections are subjects of lively debates among librarians in France. The principles of the French policy of compiling collections were presented in 1991 in the Charte des bibliothéques (Library Charter) and in the brochure Acquisition et bibliothèques de service public published in 1998 by the Association of French Librarians. These documents, just like opinions expressed by respected librarians, show, first of all, a concern for high quality of the acquired collections, for their variety and usefulness for the needs of all readers. The French attach a lot of weight to making the collections available in various media, and to high substantive and artistic value of the acquired works. The popularity of such media as records, tapes, electronic documents, etc. has led to the emergence of a new type of libraries characteristic of France — called media libraries (“médiathèques”). The versatility of the French collections as well as their considerable variety in terms of the level of difficulty and the medium have a significant influence on the fulfilment of the basic functions of libraries (cultural, educational and informationrelated). The article examines the French collections supporting these functions. The French believe that just as important as building up collections is the duty of libraries to make these collections popular. This is to be achieved by animations organised on a regular basis. The article analyses the most common initiatives in this respect. In addition, the author points to the important role of the central government in boosting the development of public libraries in France (including promoting the idea of building up the collections in various media, of digitising them and creating digital databases), and to the coordinating function of the National Library with regard to the compilation of educational resources and successful regional and local cooperation between libraries and other institutions to create, among others, shared catalogues and databases.