In France, Libraries Without Borders (LWB) supports the creation and implementation of innovative educational and cultural policies for underserved populations. To this end, LWB develops tools and programs that aim to stimulate and reinforce the networks of public reading and socio-cultural organizations.


France is marked by increasing inequalities, and entire sections of the population have little access to cultural goods.  First among them are people in precarious  situations: studies show how the close linkage of instability, exclusion, and illiteracy. In addition to these precarious populations, there are also those living in areas that are “off the grid,” not part of the cultural fabric: rural areas as well as working-class neighborhoods often identified as “urban policy” priorities. . 

With more than 16,000 public reading spaces, France has an exceptionally dense network of libraries and access points to books. However, with an average registration rate of just 17%, the social utility of libraries is still too often a potential left undeveloped. Their remoteness, limiting opening hours, but also the prejudices about libraries limit their impact.

Our Approach

With the Ideas Box, the Digital Travelers, Khan Academy, and  LWB Campus, LWB supports  change within libraries and offers innovative educational tools that librarians, teachers, and socio-cultural facilitators can adopt and use with their audiences. 

The strategy for the dissemination of these projects focuses in particular on priority urban policy districts and rural areas. LWB also develops tools and programs that support and welcome  asylum seekers and refugees in France.

The tools and programs supported by the association are designed principally for the most disadvantaged groups, in a dynamic of co-construction with local actors.

Fighting against illiteracy on the Reunion Island

The French Red Cross, accompanied by BSF, is deploying an Ideas Box in two low-resource neighborhoods and in residential facilities in Saint-Denis. The CRF teams offer educational and playful activities to promote cultural expression and collaboration between participants. Actions and activities are also adapted to include residents with a handicap or with reading difficulties.

« Micro-libraries » to recreate links in under-resourced areas

To give as many people as possible access to books and reading and the opportunity to build social cohesion in France’s underpriviledged areas, BSF, the Cultura Foundation and the Ministry of Culture support the creation of several « micro-libraries » throughout the country. Following a call for projects, fifteen winning structures have each received an endowment of 1,500 books from the BSF catalog and personalized support to help them run their micro-library. The winners work in synergy with local partners and public libraries to complement the existing cultural offer. In 2023, new awardees will consolidate this collective of micro-libraries.

A bag of books for dreaming and integration

« My Book Bag »: BSF and the school l’École alsacienne handed out backpacks filled with books to 200 children housed in three emergency shelters and hostels run by Samusocial de Paris and Emmaüs Solidarité in the Île-deFrance region (Paris). Each bag contained books chosen and donated especially for them by children of the same age who attend the school, as well as specially selected new books purchased by our teams. This was an opportunity to help these children develop an interest in reading, learning French, and learning more about their host country… Thanks to the support of the Ministry of Culture, thousands of refugee children recently enrolled in « non-French speaking classes » in the Paris and Amiens Academy were able to benefit from this project in 2022.

Supporting the reintegration of homeless people in Paris

Every winter, several sports complexes in central Paris open their doors to homeless people. There, they can eat a hot meal, shower in the changing rooms, and sleep on camp
beds. BSF sets up an Ideas Box and offers cultural activities there three times a week. The residents can use this time to entertain themselves, play games, watch films, or take care of administrative tasks required to get reestablished in society. In 2022, the Ideas Box was deployed in a former shopping center at the Porte de Saint-Cloud, which was converted into a shelter during the winter.

Encourage dialogue between the youth and their elders

Started in 2019 in Marseille, Between Generations is a documentary project supported by the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Prevention of Delinquency and Radicalization that promotes intergenerational discussion between residents sharing a neighborhood. The project’s goal is to encourage young people to film their elders and ask them questions about their history, the concept of identity, and the feeling of belonging. This gives them the opportunity to learn how to produce a report and conduct an interview. In 2022, new videos were produced in several cities: Villepinte, Toul, Arcachon, Marseille and Koungou in Mayotte.

Health awareness-raising in underserved communities

With the CNP Assurances Foundation, BSF has developed Health Ideas Box programs since 2017 to strengthen the quality of health-related information among adolescents and young adults. The greater Boulonnais community, the city of Sarcelles, and the Île-de-France Regional Center for Information and Prevention of AIDS and Youth Health (Crips) regularly deploy them in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The Health Ideas Box kits facilitate the implementation of awareness-raising activities on the themes of emotional and sexual life, prevention of alcohol and drug abuse, and healthy living overall. With the help of a scientific committee, a health prevention kit has also been created for facilitators, teachers, school nurses, and librarians who are partners in our projects in France. They can find themed content, activity sheets, and training tools to organize workshops for their audiences.

Sarcelles: Reducing social inequalities linked to health

In 2019, in response to a call for projects, the town of Sarcelles welcomed our second Health Awareness Ideas Box. Developed in 2017 thanks to the support of the Fondation CNP Assurances, and first installed in the Boulonnais community, this thematic Ideas Box supports activities of health awareness and prevention among children, adolescents, and young adults. By proposing content adapted to their needs, the Ideas Box allows them to learn more about health in this formative period of their lives. Workshops also turn them into artists and content creators (video, theater) who showcase their skills to their friends and family.

Our teams selected six topics to discuss: emotional and sexual relations; well-being; prevention against drug consumption; food; physical activity and sleep; and access to healthcare for the disabled. In 2020, a third call for projects for districts and associations will bring a third Health Awareness Ideas Box to the community for the youth of the city’s Municipal Priority Districts. A Health Awareness Kit was also created in 2020 to be used by facilitators, teachers, school nurses, librarians, and partner organizations, everywhere in France, to support a first encounter with health issues. Users will be able to find content organized by theme, activity sheets, and training tools. Within the Ideas Box and the Ideas Cube, the kit will allow us to make use of some of the activities developed in the Health Awareness Ideas Box.

Ample content on prevention and awareness of Covid-19 will also be available in the kit. Finally, we will launch this year an appeal to a scientific commission that will, as its principal mission, define the broader strategic and technical stakes of the project and approve the pedagogic resources in the Health Prevention Ideas Box and the kit. This commission is composed of experts in the fields of unequal access to medical care and in the topics outlined above.

Accompanying young people towards employment in rural areas

With the support of the Ministry of Solidarity and Health, BSF is deploying Ideas Box Pro’pulsion to welcome and guide young people who dropped out of school and are unemployed in several French departments: Côte-d’Or, Guyana, Meurthe-et-Moselle and Haute-Garonne. In these friendly, communal spaces, young people can discuss their aspirations and career plans with local mediators – trained by our teams – and get some information about available trainings and job opportunities. They are offered tailor-made courses to help them remobilize and widen their horizons.