Projects - 12 October 2021

Caen La Mer: “Librarians No Longer Have Dust On Their Shoulders”

“In a library, there is no hierarchy of things to do. You can come chat with your friend, watch a DVD, listen to music, play video games, go online, drink some coffee, read a newspaper, or simply relax” Marion Doré, librarian at Caen.

The urban community of Caen La Mer acquired an Ideas Box in 2019 for its network of libraries: Caen, Hérouville-Saint-Clair, and Ifs. This mobile media kit library, developed by LWB, allows librarians to organize outreach activities for people in target neighborhoods and their rural environs who live far from books and are removed from reading.

With the success of the Ideas Box with the community, Caen La Mer acquired a second Ideas Box last summer. It is available to the urban community’s partner associations and will allow us to reach people not used to visiting libraries. We conducted an interview with Marion Doré, librarian and coordinator of the Ideas Box project at the Library of Alexis de Tocqueville in Caen.

Off-site activities in priority neighborhoods

In Colombelles, an old working-class town just outside Caen, the Normandy Society of Metalwork (SMN) kept its blast furnaces glowing for nearly a century. Before its closure in 1993, thousands of employees worked there. The infrastructure has since been demolished: all that remains are the reception booths, the cooler, and the electrical workshop, which has become the WIP Great Hall.

Unveiled in 2019, the WIP is a cooperative space that houses shared work offices, training spaces, a restaurant-bar, cultural events, concerts, and temporary exhibitions. On this September afternoon, two Ideas Box kits are installed in the middle of the Great Hall. One of them has been in the region for two years: used by the Caen La Mer library network, the media library kit allows librarians to link to audiences not used to meeting in their spaces.

“With our outreach activities, our goal is to go where people live, in front of buildings, in squares, and in the stairwells of surrounding communities. The Ideas Box is a very flexible tool, an attractive object. It’s a library that you can enter without a door, where there is no threshold to meet, and which can be adapted to all audiences, whatever their age and their desires in terms of cultural objects. – Marion Doré, librarian at the Library of Alexis de Tocqueville in Caen.

According to the Ministry of Culture, 11 million French people do not have a public place to read in their commune – that is, 55% of communes. Many of them have an outdated, unrealistic image of public reading, far removed from current developments and challenges. By deploying the Ideas Box in parks, in front of building complexes, and in other unusual places, library staff also want to challenge the stereotypes that residents may have about libraries – and make them want to go there.

“When you put a library somewhere, not everyone goes there, not everyone knows that it exists and that it is also for them. But today’s librarians don’t wear buns, pleated skirts, vests with little gold buttons, and dust on their shoulders. They no longer ask people to be quiet. The library is no longer that, and hasn’t been for a very long time. Attitudes have changed a lot: librarians are facilitators and no longer directors.”Marion Doré.

Librarians: From directors to facilitators

In use for two years by librarians in conjunction with local associations, the Ideas Box mainly welcomes families, children, and adolescents. They can find children’s books, comics, and board games selected by LWB, the library teams, and their partners. Computers and tablets are also made available to them.

“What we offer in the Ideas Box is what we have created with the partners who welcome us according to their needs and their knowledge of the public. They know what people like and what their habits are. The idea is to find content that will appeal to them directly and also to help them discover things they may not know.”Marion Doré.

This summer, the arrival of the second Ideas Box in the region is an opportunity for the librarians of the urban community – Caen, Hérouville-Saint-Clair and Ifs – to strengthen their partnership network, to share their best practices, and to highlight the numerous resources and facilitation services of the territory.

“Our work with all the libraries in the surrounding towns is essential! The Ideas Box is one of the tools that allows us to exchange practices and skills, to share our experiences, and to learn from each other.

They are a bit like a laboratory: you can come and do what you know how to do, what you like to do, and what you can bring to others. It’s also a time to experiment with things we’ve never done before and which we don’t have time for on a daily basis.”Marion Doré.

Convinced of the essential role of libraries in society, LWB participates in making them accessible to all. To do this, we are reinventing libraries, both in their form and their mission, and in the way they are perceived and appropriated by users.

All over the world, we are working with librarians to amplify their impact on audiences distanced from books and from reading. We create tools and programs that give access to books and learning, particularly in rural areas and impoverished neighborhoods.

Translation by Austin Li


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