3.00 FYI France: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

November 15, 2005 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on November 15, 2005.

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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. And you can pay via PayPal, on the FYI France homepage:


Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us


The Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Paris


A respite... from the very difficult news emanating from the Hexagone over the past few weeks: the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal is one of the wonderful places in Paris which built the modern France -- as the latter now copes with, and to some extent pioneers in, the Globalization growing pains facing us all (more below) --

Unlikely combinations: the famous library, and its sites both physical and "digital" -- plus, the ghost of Victor Hugo -- and the cannons of Paris -- and Kyoto? -- and Georges Perec?...

* The library [tr. JK]


* The site, physical

The Arsenal was indeed an arsenal, once: they did make guns there, and they stored them there, right in what now is the center of Paris or nearly -- across the river from the peaceful little Ile St. Louis, and right next to the tranquil houseboats of the Canal St. Martin, also known as the Bassin de l'Arsenal.

For the history, see the 1739 Turgot map of Paris, the section "Marais & Iles" at folio 6: the following Kyoto University Library version of that famous map offers the entire Plan Turgot in wonderfully-accessible detail, showing the grand buildings, elegant gardens, and esplanades of the old Paris "Grand Arcenal" area very well -- also the Canal St. Martin site, still just city wall ramparts at that time, no longer "moat" but not yet "canal", leading up to the then-still-towering Bastille...


* The site, "digital"

To see more, online, by and about the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal:

The descriptions above are translations of excerpts from that offered by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, of which the Arsenal now is a part, online at,

The BnF offers links there to:

It is an interesting problem, the successful integration of a famous old institution into a larger and more modern assemblage. And it is a common problem, on campuses academic and corporate, and within institutional communities citywide or professionwide or nationwide: so often there is some precious "nugget", in there somewhere, which for whatever reason ought to be preserved.

And too often this preservation effort is not successful: collections become merged, and the "nugget" simply disappears -- or internal civil wars break out which balkanize the larger institution, and its battling collections, at great cost in finances and service inefficiencies and personnel frustrations.

The Web seems to help. Now we have the Arsenal, still, with its catalog merged into the larger for efficiency: and with one great collection gone to the "center", true, but with the others retained in improved facilities -- and the famous old premises preserved and functioning as well or better than before.


* Etat des lieux

And now we have physical site renovations, at the Arsenal:


* & Victor Hugo!

The Arsenal long has been a place for "literary evenings", and it seems it still makes those a priority, revolutions and even modern construction projects notwithstanding: one account --

The 19th c. French library: much of both the folly and the grandeur of the Great European Era, all in a single image, with the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal playing its vital & central part: a "community" & "face-to-face" & "physical" role -- one needed more than ever, now, in the new Global Cities of our Digital Age.

Visitez the Arsenal: imagine the "intense discussion" -- 20-yr-old Victor Hugo, over in the corner -- and the dancing...





One delight, of which Georges Perec would have approved very much, in dealing with our new digital - toile - ouebbe - Matrix - Globalized - whatever universe, is the sheer serendipity of the associations which nowadays turn up: Paris, Hugo, cannons, Kyoto, and Perec... all on one wordlist... Oulipo would be fascinated. And yet nowadays this is a commonplace, on the nets.

The Plan Turgot was nowhere to be found, in France; so, *click*, up it came in Chicago, at a "mirror-site" which failed to connect because the original host-site in Manhattan was down; so, again, simply *click*, and we are in Kyoto -- Ryoanji down the road, and the Katsura Detached Palace nearby -- but here we are looking for the 1739 Plan Turgot of Paris and so we find it, and in better digital shape in Kyoto than it was in either Paris or Chicago...

One of the great interests of Victor Hugo was context. His novels and his poetry are filled with wonderful description: evocations of mood, portraits of a great den of thieves in Paris, and of the illusory comforts of French provincial life, and of Waterloo -- all sometimes but not always, and rarely necessarily, related to the "plot" of his writing.

So perhaps we are losing that, now. If the Plan Turgot appears more readily, and more conveniently, and in far greater detail, online in Kyoto than anywhere else, what becomes of the context?

Perhaps we will look for the Katsura Detached Palace on a webserver somewhere in Toulouse, or in Kansas, along with Corbu's Unité d'Habitation, and recipes for Tamil thali dishes. Perec is laughing at us, I can hear him... It is funny.


Note 2:

And all this is somewhat of a diversion, as I said, from the more serious and perhaps pioneering if painful efforts, of the French, in dealing with Globalization's new "labor mobility" mandate...

Longtime readers here already will know that I am a fan of Saskia Sassen, the University of Chicago sociologist who writes about Global Cities, and about the global überclasses and underclasses (those two neither her terms nor mine) which they are producing.

Sassen makes the interesting point that the pools of migrant and immigrant labor which many advanced nations are building up now, in their highly-wired and stratispherically-wealthy cities, in fact are necessities of life in the New Economy: who else is going to flip the burgers, serve the Starbucks, clean the UV resistant bomb-proof windows of the glitzy mile-high skyscrapers -- also take out the garbage, wash the dishes, park the cars, sweep up the papers in the parks...

Sassen herself calls them, carefully, part of "producer services" -- she includes lawyers and bankers [The Global City 2d ed 2001, p. 90ff.] -- one point about the lower-paid migrants and immigrants among them being that if they are necessities we must cease brutalizing them, and certainly "excluding" them, and it might even be time that we all began providing a livable and promising place for them, at least as long as the rest of us are going to be relying on them -- a "de-nationalized place", perhaps, along with the rest of us, in our increasingly - globalized international and even trans-national economy.

For more on Sassen see,

For more on the French, well, read any headline. What has happened there, this month, already has happened in Germany somewhat, and will happen in the US and in Japan and anywhere else in the Wired World which has not kept up with its own migrants and immigrants. Globalization growing pains...








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Last update: July 16, 2008