Francois Mitterand Public Library
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Francois Mitterand Public Library

The French National Library traces its origin to the library of the king founded at the Louvre Palace by Charles V. It expanded under Louis XIV and opened to the public in 1720. Following the series of regime changes in France it became the Imperial National Library and in 1868 was moved to newly constructed buildings on the rue Richelieu.
In 1988, President François Mitterrand declared that, "the construction of one of the largest and most modern libraries in the world" was to be built. Inaugurated in 1995, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BNF) presents every book and periodical printed since 1537, almost 12 million copies ! The new building is made of a large esplanade and four L-shaped towers, whose shape recall the shape of an open book. This architecture was controversial; many judged that it was costly, and not very suitable to the storage of book collections. Indeed, wood boards had to be set up at the windows to protect the books from the light. The towers of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France are named. They are the tower of Laws, of Letters, of Numbers and of Time.

It has a public seating capacity of 1,600 readers, many of which are afforded a view of a two-level, garden-styled courtyard. The research part of the library seats 2,000.
The modern capabilities of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France emphasizes computerized documentation and microfiche. The public has access to 260,000 books. Researchers can access 550,000 volumes of the 11 million volumes held in the library, including 200,000 rare volumes, 350,000 periodicals, 76 000 microfilms and 950,000 microfiches, 100,000 digitized texts, 50,000 multi-media items, 900,000 sound recordings, 90,000 videograms and 400 km of shelves.

The National Library of France is a public establishment under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture. Its mission is to constitute collections, especially the copies of works published in France that must, by law, be deposited there, conserve them, and make them available to the public. It produces a reference catalogue, cooperates with other national and international establishments, and participates in research programs.


11 Quai Francois Mauriac 75013 Paris.

How to get there ?

Metro 6 & 14: Bibliotheque, Quai de la gare.

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