What's the use of a psychoanalysis library?
Interview with Cécile Marcoux, chief librarian of the Bibliothèque Sigmund Freud (BSF) by Françoise Coblence, RFP (Revue française de psychanalyse).
RFP: What is the use of a psychoanalytic library today?
RFP: Where is the BSF?
It has changed location several times… In 1934, the library was located on the premises of the Paris Psychoanalytic Association, at 137 Boulevard St Germain, in a room that was also used for courses and meetings: it consisted of a few books carefully kept in a cupboard, most of them given by the authors. Almost nothing is known about this library, because none of the archives survived the war. In March or April 1940, the Institute closed and the library disappeared without our knowing exactly what became of it. The only traces that we have of it boil down to a few books stamped “Bibliothèque de l’Institut de Psychanalyse, 137 Bd St Germain, Paris 6” in the collection of the current library, although I have also found some at the Henry Ey Library at “Sainte Anne’s Hospital” and some are still circulating in libraries for old books or in auction sales.
After the war, the Association was gradually reformed, a new Institute of Psychoanalysis and Library were inaugurated in 1954, at 187 rue Sainte Jacques, Paris 5. Attached administratively to the Institute, the Library was still intended exclusively for trainee analysts and members of the Association. It was located in a large room on the first floor. In the 1990's, the restricted space of the premises (books were stored anywhere from the cellar to the attic) and the double use of the room for the library as well as for meetings and training seminars led the SPP to envisage acquiring premises dedicated to the Library. This was done in 1996 and the Library moved to 15 rue Vauquelin, Paris 5. With a large reading room, bookshelves in wood along the walls, offices for the librarians, the Bibliothèque Sigmund Freud (named as such on this occasion) could now flourish.
RFP: What can one find there? Books, of course, but what else?
RFP: What are the functions of the BSF?
First, its doors are open to readers: the BSF is open to the whole public; it is no longer solely for the members and students of the Institute but also for all researchers, teachers, translators, students, psychiatrists, psychologists and, of course, psychoanalysts. Its scope extends well beyond France’s borders, in particular in the direction of the other francophone countries (Belgium, Switzerland, Canada), but also the other European countries, South America, the United States or Japan. Partnerships of utilization have also been signed with other French psychoanalytic societies like the APF (French Psychoanalytic Association), the SPRF (Psychoanalytic Society for Research and Training) and the Fourth Group. The online catalogue also includes the collections of the two regional libraries of the SPP, Lyon and Toulouse, as well as the collection of the Francis Pasche Library in St-Etienne.
RFP: What is the future of the BSF in the era of the internet and digitalization?
The Library has become an indispensible place of reference and research for the transmission of psychoanalytic thought. This is the role that it wants to continue to develop by initiating the first European network of libraries. Sharing, exchange, distribution and accessibility have always been the themes at the centre of the missions of libraries. The fully digital era, far from placing libraries in an anachronistic past, puts them on the contrary at the heart of the system.
At a time of “everything-in-just-one-click” Google-type research, uninterrupted flows of information in which anything and everything is disseminated without discernment, of “fake news”, it seems urgent and necessary to keep alive timeless places where one can still take time to reflect, learn, analyse, verify and criticize. And the role of the librarian may be likened to that of the “fontainier”,
someone who irrigates and directs the flows of information in networks.
 Expression used by Denis Varloot (1983), cited by Anne Marie Bertrand in Les bibliothèques, Presses universitaires de France, 2011 (Que sais-je).