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Focus on Libraries in France

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Article Sections

  1. Academic libraries
  2. Interlending and document supply
  3. Public libraries
  4. Conclusion
  5. References

Interlending and document supply

These rather dry terms denote the very important mechanisms whereby documents (both print and electronic) are accessible across institutions.

Schopfel and Gillet (2011) sum up the situation as follows:

    Our study reveals a contrasting landscape. On the one hand is a rapidly growing access to online resources through library gateways, digital libraries and open repositories. On the other hand are the rising (legal) protection of rights-holders (e.g. publishers) and declining ILL and document supply activity.

French copyright law is highly restrictive: although copying is allowed for educational purposes, this is in very limited circumstances, for example for a particular lecture or seminar.

A further law (HADOPI) restricts digital use, by making it the subject of individual negotiation. (For more information on the French copyright situations, see Schopfel and Gillet 2011.)

All this makes it very difficult to exploit digital rights commercially, because each document has to be the subject of individual negotiation.

As an example, INIST (see below), along with the French copyright agency, came up against the High Court of Paris when it tried to sign an agreement for commercial document supply without the author’s permission.  Their latest appeal was turned down in June 2011.

The situation has, however, given rise to a number of initiatives on resource sharing, which are described below.

  • ABES (Agence Bibliographique de L’Ensiegnement Supérieur, ) was formed in 1994 by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, and has developed a number of bibliographic tools and services for the academic and research community. Recently it negotiated, on behalf of the French Government, two major national licenses with Springer and Proquest.  One of ABES’s main products is:

  • SUDOC (System Universitaire de Documentation, ) is a union catalogue for all types of material located in academic libraries. It also facilitates inter-library loans and in some cases, full-text access, and provides bibliographic tools for librarians’ own catalogue records.

  • INIST (Institut de L’Information Scientifique et Technique, ) is the document delivery and bibliographic arm of the CNRS (Centre Nationale de Recherches Scientifiques). Established in 1988, it is currently heavily involved with electronic resources, including negotiating license deals with publishers. One of its main products is () which is a one-stop shop, single search box for access to bibliographic information and purchase of documents.

  • COUPERIN () is the major French academic consortium which negotiates with publishers on behalf of all academic and research libraries, with the exception of the CNRS, which negotiates separately.

Open access

One way of getting round a restrictive copyright situation is open access, where the author simply deposits a copy of his or her work in an institutional archive.

France has 65 repositories, according to OpenDOAR (), which provides an up-to-date worldwide listing.

Many of these are maintained by individual institutions, although France has its own national archive – HAL, or Hyper Articles Online ().

HAL was created on the presumption that authors would upload their work to a national system, as distinct from other countries such as Australia or The Netherlands which promote individual repositories (Hitchcock, 2006).  (It is also possible to create an institution-branded portal.)

However, many universities have set up their own repositories, feeling that this better promotes the institutional publishing efforts. An added incentive is provided by the new legislation on universities, which mandates the latter to disseminate research outputs.

INPT was the first to set up its own repository: see

Image: The OATAO repository at the University of Toulouse
The OATAO repository at the University of Toulouse

To date, Science-Po, Paris IX, Toulouse 1, and Université de Lorraine have also set up their own repositories.