Amid two million books

Labrouste reading room

What can be better than a summer in Paris? A summer in Paris with two million books! One life is not enough to read that all, but two month and a half is enough to contribute to the activity of one of the most beautiful libraries in France.

As a student of the master program Rare Book and Digital Humanities at the University of Bourgogne Franche-Comté I was lucky to have my internship at Sainte-Geneviève Library in Paris this summer in the period of 18.05.21-23.07.21. This internship was a unique and life changing experience, that give me the most practical touch possible in the field of my studies. As an intern in the library I was mainly working on the web-site of the exposition “Savoirs Cachés” dedicated to the collection of rare books and documents on the topic of Esotericism. Apart from that I had a chance to visit other departments of the library and to learn a lot not only about the operational processes in the library, but also about the culture and spirit of the place.

Sainte-Geneviève Library is a place with strong traditions. There are people, who work there for decades, who keep and preserve not only the books but also the story of the library and pass it over to the next generations. Sainte-Geneviève Library is a book itself, with its walls telling the stories about the people who created it and who used to work there. The first visit to Labrouste reading room is breathtaking. The metaphor of knowledge as light becomes here the matter of fact. The book depositories impress with their scale and system of organization that run like clockwork. Reserve greets with the smell of old books and antique furniture. It seems like you have become a character of a movie about time travels, fantastic adventures and great mysteries.

My working place was in Reserve, where ancient books are kept. While working on the website and applying the latest technologies, I could, at the same time, hold the rare books, and even manuscripts as old as 12th century in my hands. I was writing the codes and searching for technical solutions. I was thumbing through the pages of old books and taking pictures of them. My internship underwent, on the crossing of between the digital tools and real objects, between tangible and intangible means of passing on the knowledge. And this is exactly what digital humanities are about.

Those were both very long and very short two and a half month. One post is not enough to tell about all the impressions and learnings. One post is enough to share the excitement of being in a place like Sainte-Geneviève Library.

My working place in Reserve