FYI France

File 3: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler,

February 15, 2018 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on February 15, 2018.

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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:

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. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at




Gallica Anniversaire!


G allica’s 20th birthday is a good occasion for re-appreciating, and re-considering, the “digital library”. Online at their main site they have mounted a special celebratory feature for the anniversaire —

— bright colors, balloons, the French love to celebrate...

4,348,725 “documents en ligne”...(!)

& “The Blog” —

— with interviews — timeline, events, & people you too may remember — and of course Comments

— and fascinating excerpts from building Gallica online.

And on Gallica, as always, links to treasures:

— treasures, riches... each worth-a-journey, and now you can do it from-home, whenever you want & wherever you are...




And a Note:

“Paris is a grand Reading Room of a vast library which spans the Seine”, Walter Benjamin suggests...

Turn that image inside out & Paris becomes unvariegated data... and perhaps that is what is happening —-

— all of this landing now, coming together, aggregated & unmediated & not at all differentiated, directly upon The User... via her or his tiny mobile and its increasingly-remarkable screen and camera and audio quality and other features...

My question being: the library originally was a chief provider, of much of this — you went to the library to read the-books they had there, you didn’t have the-books before you went — now, tho, “digitally” we “have the books”, and the music and the pictures and the sounds and the smells and down to, even, the undifferentiated bytes and bits and pixels and aromatic units (?) of same, and near-tactile experiences of our VR helmets at-home — so of what use, going forward, is the library?

But the digital-library, once reservoir and conduit of information as opposed to just-data, again online has become both. Once — 30 years or so ago, now — some of us greatly feared the advent of information-overload; now, understanding more, we know that really is just data-overload — we now have so much data in so many forms that really less and less of it proportionally is “information”, how many of us really keep up with the news and correspondence and communication and movies and content our personal mobiles now pour forth...

So the digital place to which we turn, online, for sorting through and making sense of all this data, is the platform, such as Netflix or GoogleNews or Twitter for our Infotainment, such as Wikipedia for our language and history, such as amazing-Amazon for our shopping and reading and food and music and other “access”, friendly-Facebook for our social relations, grand digital-libraries like Gallica and Pinterest for what we used to call our culture.


So see this celebration of Gallica: it is moderation, intervention, intermediation, explanation and instruction, all of these back with a vengeance and with their special French eyes gleaming and their Gallic wits sharpened, in the Gallica case.

Not for them the raw data without the information — one good definition of the difference between those two is that information is data with intelligence added — raw data is not so useful, but real information is. Gallica’s is a special French intelligence: familiar yet foreign, to someone with an anglophone background, a glimpse from the Outside, and a friendly one still.

What Gallica offers us is a platform, in the computer-systems sense, where vast amounts of data — the pixels & bits of French Culture, which is a massive thing, are being organized and presented to us in a useful and even beautiful format — that may well be our general digital-library definition, going forward.

We are assembling vast quantities of digital data. Space exploration, political paranoias, Infotainment, natural science, all are among the undertakings attempting to build these huge data-mountains — our data-miners attempt to make sense of the great piles, and entire sciences assist them now in search and retrieval and organizing and presenting “all that stuff”.

That last is what digital libraries do best, and Gallica is an outstanding example: a platform, for presenting well-organized digital data in useful & sympathetic & sometimes beautiful ways.

For, as Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie once whimsically put it, wryly but smilingly, facing a ferociously-hitech audience at Berkeley: “We French have been called dinosaurs, but the dinosaur is a very sympathetic animal, and at least now we will become electronic dinosaurs."

Bonne route,


Jack Kessler





FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071-5916

      |         FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic
      |         journal published since 1992 as a small-scale,
      |         personal experiment, in the creation of large-
      |         scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler.
     / \        Any material written by me which appears in
    -----       FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for
   //   \\      any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me
  ---------     credit and show my email address, and, b) it
 //       \\    isn't going to make them money: if it is going
                to make them money, they must get my permission
in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. 
Use of material written by others requires their permission. 
FYI France archives are in various places on the Internet, i.e. 
at (PACS-L), 
or Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, 
praise, and poison-pen letters all gratefully received at .
        Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler,
all rights reserved except as indicated above. 


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Last update: February 20, 2018