French and Francophone

French resources

1. French Resources in Metropolitan France

1.3 libraries

Some French libraries require letters of introduction from your supervisor. If you are going on a research trip, make sure you have an adequate supply.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France
The French equivalent to the British Library. The BNF is spread over five different sites, so if you plan a visit, make sure you have located the documents you want to view beforehand. The sites are as follows:

  • Le site Francois Mittérrand: the central reading rooms of the BNF
  • Le site Richelieu-Louvois: holding collections of manuscripts, stamps, money and music, 'Le project Richelieu'
  • Arsenal: manuscripts, books, stamps, performing arts
  • Opéra: architecture, performing arts, decorative arts
  • Maison Jean-Vilar: an extension of the Department of Performing Arts of the BNF.

You will need to purchase a reader's pass (annual or daily). There are photocopying services, but they are not cheap.

BN-Opale Plus
This is the general search engine for tracing documents owned by the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The manuscript catalogue of the BNF. Subdivided into 'division occidentale' and 'division orientale'.

Les catalogues de la Bibliothèque Mazarine
Founded in 1643, this is the oldest library in France, holding a great variety of books, journals, manuscripts and encyclopedias, especially on literature and French history. Access is free and there are three types of cards: annual card, two days card, ten visits card. Photocopies, photographs and microfilms are available.

La Cinémathèque française
This site is a database of cinema. Follow the links to the library, museum and collections. Access is free of charge.

Institut International de la Marionnette
You can search their catalogue by title, author, subject, collection or alphabetically. Access is free of charge.

Musée national d’art moderne - Centre Pompidou
Information on editions, exhibitions and cultural events. It is also possible to order books and periodicals from their online bookshop. Access is free of charge.

Videothèque de Paris
On this site you can find information on 6500 films. Access is free of charge.

Collège de France
Information on French literature. The library is open Monday to Friday from 10.00 –17.30. Closed during the first 3 weeks of August and at Christmas. Outside researchers do not get unlimited access to the collections, but you are allowed to take photocopies and microfilms.

Bibliothèque de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris, Ulm-Sèvres (Lettres & Sciences Humaines)
This is the website of one of the best libraries in Paris. Its collections are vast and its historical site is inspiring.

Please note that the following links are exemplary. If you are looking for a more comprehensive list of University libraries in France, consult:

This library of Université Paris 7 - Denis Diderot, specializes in 19th century literature. The Library is open every day from 14.00 –18.00. Access is free of charge.

Université de Strasbourg
Here you will find information on a variety of subjects including philosophy, music and arts.  There are also video-documents and music-documents. Access is free of charge.

Centre d'Etudes Supérieures de la Renaissance - Université Tours
Here you will find more than 45.000 monographs on history of art, philosophy, literature (French, English and Italian). There is also a library specializing in music. Access is free of charge.

Université Paris 7 - Denis Diderot
Link to the catalogue of the Bibliothèque des Lettres et Sciences humaines.

Université Paris 3 - Sorbonne Nouvelle
The libraries of Sorbonne Nouvelle comprise amongst others the Bibliothèque Centrale for humanities in general, Bibliothèque de l'Institut de Linguistique et Phonétique Générales et Appliquées, Bibliothèque de littérature générale et comparée, Bibliothèque Gaston Baty Etudes théâtrales, Bibliothèque de l'Ecole Supérieure d'Interprètes et de Traducteurs, Bibliothèque de Littérature et de linguistique francaise et latine. You can search their catalogues through the Catalogue collectif.

Université de Provence - Aix, Marseille 
The catalogue of this library will provide you with bibliographical information on the humanities, art, archeology, painting and musicology. Access is free and no fees are charged.

Université de Lille 3
A large university library with access to catalogues and much else besides. Access is free and no fees are charged.

Université de Lyon 3
Provides access to the many libraries of Lyon 3.

Université de Nantes
Contains information on French literature. Access is free and no fees are charged.

Please note that our list is not exhaustive and refer to the CCFR: Le Catalogue Collectif de France for further links to municipal libraries in France.

Catalogue of the Lyon Library (Catalogue de la Bibliothèque de Lyon)
On this site there is a great variety of catalogues, collections, books, magazines, painting, music and documents from 1920 onwards. Access is free and no fees are charged.

Bibliothèque Municipale de Grenoble
On this site you will find information on libraries, borough libraries and collection libraries. Photocopies, CD-Rom, photographs and tapes are available. Access to specific documents and to the research department is not always available. The fees vary from 7 € - 60 €.

Bibliothèque de Caen

Bibliothèque Municipale de Besançon
A catalogue of many different libraries is available from this link. Searches by using key words, the name of the author, the title, the collection or the subject are possible. Access is free and no fees are charged.

Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon
The Library of Lyon offers a great range of collections including some rare ones. You have to show ID and students are entitled to a discount on the subscription. Photocopying facilities are available. There are also  videos, cd-roms, and DVDs.

Paris Bibliothèques
This site serves as a portal to all the municipal libraries of Paris.

Le fil d'ariane
Through this website you can obtain information about 379 specialist libraries in the region of Paris.