The National Library of France wants to force part-time research

The management of the BNF has announced that it wants to limit direct communication of documents to three hours and only in the afternoons. An unprecedented decline in public service, denounce representatives of the institution’s readers under the #BNFgate.

For several weeks, the National Library of France (BNF) has been communicating on the extraordinary Champollion exhibition, on the complete reopening, after ten years of work, of the Richelieu site and the inauguration of its museum (Paris, IIe), on the evolution of its services on the Tolbiac site (Paris, 13th arrondissement)… What the BNF does not say is that these scintillating achievements are made at the cost of an unprecedented degradation of public service and a questioning from essential missions of an establishment on a national and international scale. What the management of the BNF does not say is that the restrictions on access to the collections on May 2 are seriously hampering the work of researchers while degrading the working conditions of staff.

A major cultural institution based on several sites in Paris and in the regions, the BNF fulfills essential heritage missions: from the collection, conservation and enrichment of the national heritage in its care, to the communication of its collections to as many people as possible. The BNF is the living conservatory of everything related to the French language, to the written but also graphic, photographic and musical heritage; in short, collections with a worldwide reputation. It implements a dual public service, culture and research, because beyond its exceptional specialized collections, the BNF concentrates the richest bibliographical resources of which a researcher, amateur or professional, can dream.

Everything will go through the reservation

What is this degradation of the public service? Taking advantage of the disorganization of the reception of the public caused by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past two years, the management of the BNF has just announced, under the guise of “reopening” direct communications of documents to its readers, an unprecedented decline in the public service it provided until March 2020. Until then, it was possible to consult works in direct communication all day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and to prepare for your day by ordering works in advance. From now on, on the Tolbiac site (François-Mitterrand Library), the direct communication of documents will only take place for three hours and only in the afternoons, out of the 11 hours of daily opening. Three hours for the largest library in France, a national library, the Grail of researchers in literature, philosophy, human and social sciences, law, economics and so many other disciplines. And the rest of the time? Against all logic, more room for improvisation, everything will go through reservations. Too bad for non-Parisian researchers, too bad for those non-professionals who juggle between several schedules, too bad for parents with shortened afternoons – what about women’s careers, in these conditions? –, too bad for the very logic of research, based on often unexpected rebounds from one reference to another, too bad for research in short.

We, the readers, are summoned to adapt our research and to content ourselves with the crumbs of the public service. The staff of the National Library of France are imposed an aberrant daily rhythm concentrating most of the work on minimal time slots. And to crown it all, the reform and its procession of dysfunctions and exhaustion serve to justify the use of precarious contracts. However, whatever the president of the establishment says Laurence Engel, the personnel missions, whose numbers have been reduced by 300 jobs in ten years, are redeployed to the detriment of the public service, thus implementing a policy of brutal austerity, which readers have strongly contested for more than a year. month. The president did not take into account the demands of the elected representatives of readers and ignored the petitions (14,000 signatories). Faced with the outcry aroused by this reform, the management is advancing fallacious arguments based on truncated and manipulated figures – which we are constantly dismantling – and is proposing potentially discriminatory micro-concessions to create a necessarily dysfunctional gas plant. .

This attack on public service, accompanied by a 10% increase in the price of the annual pass from September 1, 2022 – already one of the most expensive of European national libraries, many of which are free – will dry up French research to which the National Library of France must however contribute by statute. It already has direct consequences on the international influence of French culture: why will foreign colleagues work in France if they cannot easily access resources? How to represent French research abroad if we cannot work properly?

The jargon of the management will do nothing to the case: we, readers, demand the withdrawal of this reform, just as we reaffirm our full solidarity with the staff of the BNF.

An ambitious culture and research policy requires resources that political authorities must put on the table before deploring France’s downgrading in these areas.

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The National Library of France wants to force part-time research


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