Library for all in Sète: the charm of the libraries of yesteryear

It has been 50 years this year that this associative library is installed at 34 rue Paul-Valéry. Meeting with its manager Francoise Pasco.

Many Sétois pass in front of this window. They throw, sometimes, a curious but fast glance at the books which are there. However, this showcase is anything but dusty and neglected. Claudine, one of the volunteers, has talents as a decorator and takes special care of them: chicks, nests, fish will soon be replaced by a dark room atmosphere and books that have been brought to the screen. Cannes Film Festival obliges. “Our problem is visibility. People don’t know us” deplores Françoise Pasco who would like a few more people to push the door of 34 rue Paul-Valéry. It’s been 50 years this year since this place became a small library under the impetus of a young lady Puyo and Aline Degage. Previously, and since 1952, it was in an annex of the parish of Saint-Louis, in the upper district, that works were exchanged. In 2012, an annex opened on the Corniche in the space of friendship made available by the City of Sète. And until it closed in 2019, a weekly service was organized at the Plein Soleil clinic in Balaruc.

On this old postcard, we can see the entrance to number 34 at the beginning of the 20th century.

From the old ironwork of n° 34, remains the beautiful wooden counter and a metal facing in scrolls. This is not the only curiosity of the places where we find the practices and the atmosphere of the libraries of yesteryear, including the smile. A register with sepia sheets held the account of the members – especially female – until 2013. In the Seventies, the majority of them disappeared behind the name and the profession of their husband.

Nowadays, digitization has not yet interfered in the operation nor passwords – with characters so special that one does not know how to type them – and identifiers. The readers have index cards in their name stored in wooden boxes; books and authors each have one. Françoise Pasco has been responsible for the Sète branch of the Culture and Library for All (CBPT) association since 2009 and “It’s an exciting job!” she enthuses. Former certified maths teacher including four years at Paul-Va, she trained, “very serious” fifteen days provided by the departmental association. “You learn to manage a library but, above all, to talk about books and understand what may please the person in front of you.” A great reader, she forgets nothing of an intrigue discovered ten years ago and “adore” talk about literature.

In March 1972, Midi Libre devoted an article to the inauguration of the library for all.

In March 1972, Midi Libre devoted an article to the inauguration of the library for all.

The stock amounts to approximately 3000 books. Older ones end up in boxes to make room for new ones. Françoise Pasco buys ten a month at the New Sète bookstore after consultation with a reading committee made up of seven volunteers from the structure. It obeys two precepts: “beware“newspaper articles and “be careful” with literary prizes. There are therefore French and foreign novels, biographies, thrillers and, of course, the essential authors such as Mussos, Levy, Christian Signol, Danielle Steel, Françoise Bourdin. “A lot of female readers love it. What is very satisfying is that I managed to get older women who only read Danielle Steel to read more literary novels.” Eighty readers are members. “I am often told how you manage to hold on when there are two media libraries in Sète? Well, we buy new products and then there is the reception. Our readers, we know them by heart and we know their tastes!”

How it works ?

To be able to borrow a book from the library for all, you must be a member (€14/year) and pay €1 per book borrowed. Four sessions are offered each week: Monday and Wednesday mornings at the Espace de l’Amitié at the Corniche; Wednesday and Saturday morning at 34 rue Paul-Valéry. Thanks to this fiftieth anniversary and the activities that will be offered, Françoise Pasco hopes to convince new readers and strengthen her team of volunteers. The first meeting is scheduled Saturday May 21 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 34 rue Paul-Valéry with a “weeding” of books sold at low prices around a friendship coffee.

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