Libraries of Amiens

Bibliothèque d'Amiens

Confiscation by revolutionary authorities of libraries from various former abbeys such as Corbie, Sélincourt, and Saint-Fuscien, caused the city of Amiens to gather a considerable collection of ancient books and manuscripts. As early as 1811, a first project was considered in order to add an extra floor to the city's town-hall, dedicated to the storage and conservation of those collections. In 1823 it was decided to erect a full building specifically meant to be the future library, on land acquired by the city in 1820 on Rue Royale (now Rue de la République), formerly occupied by the Moreaucourt abbey. The library of Amiens is one of the oldest in France, since the idea of creating a public library was new at the time.

Bibliothèque d'Amiens

From 1823 to 1826, the edifice slowly rose from the ground as per plans drawn by architect Cheussey, and a few modifications at the hand of Parisian architect Guy de Gisors the Younger. That building included a long skylight-lit gallery with a theater-shaped half cupola in its middle section. Its front features a ten-column peristyle. Interior decoration is in neo-classical style. The wainscoting, columns and pillars feature a faux-marble paintjob in Sienna yellow, antique green and white. In 1842, the city council decided to add an extra gallery behind the building's main body. In 1867, Salle l’Escalopier was built in order to display the collection of Count Charles de L’Escalopier, recently donated to the city by his widow.

The library's collections had just become 15,000 volumes richer, including 121 manuscripts. In 1897, a monument by sculptor Albert Roze, located at the center of the front yard, was inaugurated to honour Mayor Frédéric Petit. In 1900, in order to increase the room available, two wings were added to the main building thanks to funding by patron of the arts Auguste Janvier. A reading room was set up in the north wing. In 1979, façades of the 19th century buildings as well as parts of the interior decoration were registered in the Regional Inventory of Historical Monuments.

Bibliothèque d'Amiens

In 1982, a major renovation project was started. A new building was opened behind the 19th century main library, in order to house vast storage space, a new reading room, and an area dedicated to children's books. In 1991 the renovation project, temporarily interrupted, was resumed : the place was modernized and a wider array of services was offered to the public. The project was devised by architects Serge Gasnier and François Gossart. It involved setting up two auditoriums, a vast area for the audio library, the video library and the art library. The children's area was renovated, along with the general study room, and some exhibition areas were provided.

In April 1993, the new areas were inaugurated. The façades underwent a cleaning process in 1998 while a glass booth was added in the peristyle.

From the 70's onwards, public reading became increasingly important in the view of both elected officials and librarians. A network of local libraries gradually developed throughout the city, in its various districts, close to the people. An urban bookmobile was created with the same vision in mind, striving to make books as easily available as possible to the inhabitants.

Besides the mobile library, the network now involves five libraries within Amiens itself (Libraries Hélène Bernheim, Edouard David, Le Petit Prince, Saint-Leu and Léopold Sédar Senghor), one in Longueau (Bibliothèques Jacques Prévert) and approximately twenty smaller libraries in the urban agglomeration's various suburbs.

Since 2000, the agglomeration community has been in charge of cultural matters for all the municipalities involved in it. All municipal libraries have therefore joined the Libraries of Amiens network, which truly became a reality through implementation of a common catalogue and membership card. Any user registered in any particular library can now circulate freely in the whole structure.

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