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October 30, 2018

Présidente of the Bibliothèque nationale de France Laurence Engel visits Stanford Libraries, reaffirming partnership and close collaboration

STANFORD, CA—During her first visit to the Bay Area, Laurence Engel, president of Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), visited Stanford Libraries and met with librarians and staff on topics ranging from GIS and artificial intelligence to digital research and discovery environments.  At a public talk hosted by Stanford Libraries, Engel presented her vision for BnF and areas of innovation the French national library continues to adopt in the digital age. 

The visit also provided an opportunity for Engel and Michael Keller, university librarian and vice provost for teaching and learning at Stanford, to sign partnership agreements that deepen the collaborative efforts already established between the BnF and Stanford Libraries.

“Scholarship knows no boundaries, and therefore as heads of major research institutions we should constantly be working on ways to better connect our digital collections and reduce the burden on the scholar or student,” said Keller.  “Fortunately, Laurence agrees. Together our great institutions can make great strides in achieving these ends.”

Seated (left to right) Laurence Engle, president of the BnF and Micheal Keller, university librarian and vice provost for teaching and learning. Standing (left to right) Mimi Calter, deputy university librarian and Sarah Sussman, Curator, French and Itali

Since 2004, a central point of the collaboration between Stanford Libraries and the BnF has been around the development of the French Revolution Digital Archive, an online trove of documents and images relating to the French Revolution.  The newly signed agreement outlines a commitment to add to the French Revolution archive, while also deepening the cooperation of the two libraries by exploring new fields of work and projects.

The two libraries will immediately begin contributing to the restoration, preservation and accessibility of the films and paper of Guy Debord, a French theorist, philosopher and filmmaker, whose work was deemed a “national treasure” by the French Minister of Culture in 2009.  The archives of prominent Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai, whose films examine the conflicts surrounding the landscape of Israel, have also been identified as a priority project. 

Gitai has given portions of his archive to Stanford, the BnF and the National Library of Israel, all representing regions where he has connections—the Bay Area where he received his PhD from U.C. Berkeley, Paris which he has called home since the 1980s and Israel his country of birth. 

Having the collection spread across three countries would have proven to be challenging 10 years ago, but according to Keller, who is also a founding chair of the International Image Interoperability Framework Consortium (IIIF) that works to standardize sharing of image-based scholarly resources on the web, “we can now create a common methodology regarding content curation so each institution can offer researchers a consistent and facilitated discovery experience.”

Stanford Libraries will also seek consultation from the BnF on numismatics, an area of growing interest at Stanford with the relocation of nearly 8,500 ancient coins, mostly from the Stanford families’ collection, once held in the basement of the university’s museum and relocated to the Libraries for enhanced access and use by classes.  The BnF has almost 600,000 coins and medals that provide a complete overview of the history of money, from its invention in Lydia in the early 7th century B.C. to the present day.

Both libraries have embedded in their culture a dedication to innovation and a commitment to discoverability.  “Our partnership agreements reaffirms our commitment to those relying on us to fuel their scholarship, and solidifies the longstanding respect our organizations have for one another,” said Keller.




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