For Librarians, They Sure Don’t Read Enough

, , , , , , | Working | September 21, 2020

About two decades ago, I started to do extensive research about true crimes. It led me to write my first book, and several of them since. Being the early 2000s, digital cameras were still very expensive, so, when I went to archives or libraries for documentation, when I couldn’t do copies — which happened a lot, because old documents were too large or fragile — I pretty much had to integrally transcript on a notebook each and every newspaper article I needed for my stories. That was long, and sometimes exhausting, but totally worth it.

When I left my folks to live near Paris, I did buy a digital camera and a laptop, and man, did it radically change my efficiency!

But when I went to the main French library, I was scolded like a child by librarians when I tried to take pictures of newspaper articles. I was very surprised; that was the first and only place I was reprimanded for it, so I thought there were special rules I didn’t know about. Since I didn’t like their tone, the place, and a few other things about it, I stopped going there for almost a decade. 

But to be honest, the library was the best place to go to find pretty much every French newspaper ever published without having to drive hours to go to local archives, where staff were usually way nicer and none used such drastic rules! Since one of my books truly needed every piece of information available, I drove to about sixty different places throughout the country to complete my files during the next few years.

Meanwhile, some colleagues confirmed for me that no other study place in France worked that way — only official archives, and even then, only with files containing sensitive information, and absolutely not newspapers. So, I tried my luck again in the library, only to be rebuked once again when they saw I brought my camera. I tried to ask if they were sure they weren’t wrong, but it was like talking to a wall, so I called it a day and used my laptop to type the articles.

I went there about ten times in two months, and a librarian eventually noticed that I was ordering about twenty newspapers on each visit. He asked me about my work, and when I explained I had to copy articles, he asked, “Don’t you ever bring your camera? It would be way faster!

“But every time I’ve tried that, your colleagues have told me it’s forbidden!” I exclaimed.

“Not at all!” he assured me.

The truth was that about a week before that precise day, library management did realize that laws had changed about photographs in libraries and did accordingly apply them. The problem was that my very first try at that library happened… about six months after the law was effective.

I honestly couldn’t repeat each and every curse word that came right away to my mind about these bureaucrats without being censored definitely there.

But believe me, there was a huge bunch of them.

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