The French government is in the process of signing a policy that will protect some 16,500 public libraries.
More than 12 million people use these treasured reading spaces across the country, which are considered cultural institutions by literature lovers.
The legislation, initiated by the socialist senator Sylvie Robert, takes up the main principles that govern municipal and inter-municipal libraries: freedom and free access, neutrality of public service and pluralism of collections.
“Their missions are to guarantee equal access for all to culture, information, education, research, knowledge and leisure, as well as to promote the development of reading”, specifies Robert.
French MEPs are enthusiastic about the potential of libraries to preserve linguistic heritage and regional languages, reduce illiteracy (which is 7% among the French population) and close the digital skills gap.
The new law also stipulates that public library collections must be free from any form of ideological, political or religious censorship or commercial pressure.
Libraries have a social purpose
The proposed bill passed unanimously at second reading and was happily welcomed by Senator Robert.
She hopes the law will come into force as soon as possible.
Libraries “are no longer just a place of knowledge and study, they have a social vocation,” said Senator Elsa Schalck.
Other senators noted that it was gratifying to see the health of libraries in the digital age and the role libraries play in education.
“Culture in general is a bulwark against all the delusions that some instill in our country,” said David Assouline.
“Books have always been symbolic, the fascists first started burning books”.