Libro Futuro

Training, volunteering and “rural libraries”. Mario Coffa interviews Amandine Jacquet 

Intervista in italiano

Amandine Jacquet is a trainer for librarians and the author of numerous articles on the topic of libraries. She coordinated the work “Bibliothèques troisième lieu” (ABF second edition in 2017 and published in Italy in 2018). She coordinated “Conceiving a rural library” (ABF and ABD, 2018). In 2021, she wrote a new book with Claude Poissenot and Nathalie Etienne: “The library, a political approach, adapted to the territory” (Translate: “La bibliothèque, une approche politique adaptée au territoire”, Territorial, 2021). The themes she deals with are mainly: libraries as a third place, rural libraries, library network, sustainable development in libraries. She worked in municipal and departmental libraries and perfected his professional knowledge related to the development of documentary products at the National Higher School of Information Sciences and Libraries (Enssib, french LIS school). She has been a member of the national board of ABF (French Librarian Association), chair of International ABF Committee  and member of IFLA Library Associations Section and Management.

To start, can you tell us briefly about your work? Librarian, trainer and consultant. Who is Amandine?

After working in municipal libraries, I successively worked in two departmental libraries. Among other things, I trained there with my colleagues, but also with municipal librarians. I was passionate about acquiring the pedagogical techniques necessary for the transmission of knowledge! Then I had the opportunity to work at Enssib on online documentary products: which happily led me to deepen my theoretical knowledge. So I decided to become a full-time trainer and consultant. But maybe one day I’ll be a librarian again. In short, what drives me both professionally and personally is learning every day, thinking and testing, sharing and interacting with others!

The library as a “third place”: explain us better. 

“Come as you are” (Mc Donald), “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time” (Starbucks), “Connecting people” (Nokia), “Share moments. Share life.” (Kodak), ” Have it your way” (Burger King). All of these slogans implicitly refer to the concept of third place. While the notion has now conquered both libraries and commercial spheres, it originates in the early 1980’s with the American sociologist Ray Oldenburg. Ray Oldenburg points to the desocialization of American society due to the individualization of society, to the use of individual transport (the car) resulting from the sprawling development of suburban housing estates in the 1950’s and, later, to the means of communication dematerialized. According to him, human beings need “real” face-to-face human relationships.

He finds that society lacks third places, that is, places to meet outside the home (the first place) and work (the second place). In his book “The great good place”, he designates the parks, the Irish pub, the French café, the German biergarten and the Italian piazza as the third places par excellence. The issue of the third place is the social link (and the fight against isolation), but also social diversity and democratic vitality. It is also about offering a place to live, that is to say a space where the public can come and practice their daily activities, whether it is to read, play, study, work or even “hang out” (translate by chilling) between friends. This way of conceiving the library has been undermined by the Covid-19: many libraries have banned long stays. But perhaps the essence of third place is above all a paradigm shift in the relationship between librarians and audiences. In the third place library, we move from a relationship based on prescription to a more horizontal relationship anchored in cooperation and co-construction. We then speak of public participation. In my opinion, this is the essential contribution of the third place in the library and this aspect can continue despite health restrictions. 

I was struck by one of your many works: “Conceiving a rural library”. What is it about? 

France has the particularity of still having 34,965 municipalities (grouped into 1,253 inter-municipal authorities), compared to around 12,000 municipalities in Germany, 8,000 in Italy and 400 in England. The consequence of this large number of municipalities is that they are generally small: 50% of the population lives in a municipality of less than 10,000 inhabitants. And 88% of municipalities have less than 2,000 inhabitants. France is therefore very rural. The development of public reading involves a specific issue to provide access to books and culture throughout the territory, despite a very small number of inhabitants (and therefore few means). The book is intended to be a tool to help elected officials but also salaried librarians and volunteers to imagine and build a library project: from the definition of the project, including taking into account the territory and the public, the building design, technical and financial implementation, involvement of the population and recruitment of professionals. 

Thanks to your presence in the Management section of IFLA you also have an international vision of the library landscape. In your opinion, what are the prospects in terms of “mission” especially after the COVID experience for our libraries? 

By opening it up to partnerships of all types (institutional, associative, commercial) and going beyond the cultural field, the concept of third place has already considerably broadened the missions of libraries, which can now “get involved in everything”. The 2030 Agenda gave legitimacy to these missions by basing them on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By transcribing the UN SDGs for libraries, IFLA and then certain national associations and organizations (in France among others) have accomplished a remarkable work of pedagogy vis-à-vis librarians and advocacy vis-à-vis politics. The Covid-19 has shown us that the challenges related to social ties, access and digital skills but also ecology are essential. They are all enshrined in the 2030 Agenda. 

I was struck by one of your webinars entitled “The new face of volunteering”. Unfortunately, too often it happens that volunteering in the library becomes a sort of form that makes up for the resource assumed and specialized, despite the virtuous principle for which volunteering was born. What can you tell us about it? 

In France, the rural context (few inhabitants and therefore few potential audiences, but also little financial means) has often led to the management of municipal libraries by volunteers. But the development of inter-municipal library networks has changed the situation: we can now consider recruiting a professional librarian for the entire network. In addition, people are less and less willing to give of their time in the long term, which leads us to consider new forms of volunteering. Rather than having a team of volunteers who commit themselves over the long term (several years) and on a very regular basis (at least once a week) to all of the library’s tasks, we are now considering targeted volunteering (regular long-term commitment with, for example, the animation of a book club) or a one-off volunteering (just once, for example, to run a single bicycle repair workshop). This latter type of volunteering can be likened to public participation. We therefore have many volunteers who meet in the library: a salaried librarian is essential to unite and organize these energies.


Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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