The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 24, Number 5
Feb 2001


The French National Library is Sick, Again

The French Bibliothèque Nationale reopened November 9 after being shut down for a week when staff members complained of violent headaches and a burning sensation in the eyes and throat. Sixteen staff were affected, and one, a security guard, was taken to a hospital.

The problem-plagued library had been open for only a few hours November 2 after being closed for a month while workers repaired electrical damage caused by a fire in an underground corridor. The board decided to reopen the library for the second time after forensic scientists and an independent testing agency found nothing amiss in air samples taken from the library, Le Parisien reported November 9.

Regarded as a memorial to the late French President Francois Mitterrand, the library, with its four towers shaped like open books, was ridiculed when it opened in 1995 and has suffered a string of setbacks since then, the London Daily Telegraph reported November 5. Problems have included rare books being damaged by light streaming into the glass towers; transplanted trees that failed to flourish in the library's courtyard garden, which was then closed; the failure of computer systems that control not only access to books but the flushing of toilets; cost overruns; strikes; and the discovery of asbestos in the air-conditioning system.

(From American Libraries, Jan. 2001, p.35)

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