Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
In a few days two events will celebrate in the most beautiful way the special bond that unites France and the letters, France and the book, the French and the reading.
First, on January 11, the inauguration by the President of the Republic, a few steps from here, of the restoration of the historic rooms of the national library.
And then a few days later, on Saturday, January 14, and that’s what brings us together today, the first edition of the Night of Reading will take place all over France.
I wished for the creation of this moment of sharing, popular, festive, gathering around the book, to recall the importance of reading and what it can bring us in times that are sometimes difficult.
We wanted to propose this meeting in early January. First, we must remember that on the same date, two years ago, freedom of expression and fraternity were attacked with unprecedented violence in our country. We must remember to remain united and vigilant, and not allow the poison of indifference to feed that of the fragmentation of society. And the best defence of society is dialogue, debate and reflection.
And then this beginning of the year is also that of the second literary season. The first, in September, was very beautiful, highlighting youth and diversity, including the Goncourt and Goncourt students attributed to Leïla Slimani and Gaël Faye. I have no doubt that this new year will be just as exciting.
Reading is, first of all, the easiest access to the other. In Notre Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo reminds us that the book is this instrument the simplest, the most convenient, the most practicable to all ».
It is the first source of knowledge and also the first step towards the imagination.
Source of knowledge because it makes knowledge accessible in all areas. Our municipal and university libraries, like the BnF, are here to remind us of this with their limitless funds and their studious atmosphere.
First step towards the imaginary because it gives access to unsuspected worlds for the youngest first but also for the oldest.
Reading is of course above all an individual act. We often read alone, what we want, where and when we want. It is practiced in secret, in secret, as it is practiced in the midst of a crowd, in plain sight.
But what we also want to remember with this Night of Reading is that it is also a collective adventure, a human relationship.
First, of course, through dialogue with the authors. Contemporary authors also shed light on their vision of contemporary society through fictional or documentary writing. Yesterday’s authors allow us to converse with past centuries.
Defending them means giving access to this “conversation” This Government has made it a priority, I will come back to this.
Reading is also transmission. Before we could read ourselves, someone read for us. We all remember these first stories that were read to us, opening the doors of unknown worlds, as attractive as they are vertiginous. And often at dusk to lead us to the Night.
And I also believe that reading is never more beautiful than when it is shared.
This is where the Night of Reading in libraries and bookstores takes on its full meaning. The 16,000 French libraries and reading points in France are places of culture and equal opportunities.
Gaël Faye in Petit pays writes I have lived for years in a peaceful country, where every city has so many libraries that no one notices them. ” This public reading network is our wealth. It must be preserved, and that is what we have done.
I am thinking of the resources committed since 2014 in favour of books and public reading in addition to those allocated by the State to support the investments of local authorities for the development of their equipment.
I am also thinking of the Reading Territory contracts, which make it possible to compensate for territorial inequalities and which will benefit from [500,000 euros] additional resources in 2017. Thus their number will have doubled between 2015 and 2017 to 145.
We want libraries to be not only places of consultation and lending but also places of living, meeting and sharing.
It is in this spirit that we encourage and support the extension of the opening hours of libraries and especially their opening on Sundays, thus responding to a public appetite never denied in the places where it is already at work.
I am fully aware that this is an important effort, especially for municipalities; My ministry, central services and Regional Directorates of Cultural Affairs are mobilized in order to support the local authorities as well as the directorates of institutions to advance in this direction.
In April, we reformed the conditions for granting the General Decentralisation Grant (DGD) in order to financially support libraries that wanted to extend their opening hours, in the evenings and on weekends.
This initiative has been very well received by major professional associations and libraries. The first results are encouraging. The movement is engaged and I hope, because I know it is worthwhile, that it will be extended beyond the fifty or so initiatives already identified [more than 20 in 2016 and as many in 2017).
In 2017 about twenty additional projects have already been identified, among which a number of large cities such as Marseille, Lille, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Caen, Brest or Rouen]
The Night of Reading is part of the same ambition to open the doors of places of culture that are libraries, to bring together all the cultural actors, and therefore also the bookshops that do an exceptional work of mediation and advice to the public. These 3,500 independent bookstores have been supported by a remarkable support plan since 2014.
This Night of Reading further reinforces the action of the State in favour of bookshops which are of course key actors for books and reading.
Since the beginning of 2014, we have implemented a support plan for the bookshop of an unprecedented size that mobilized 11 million euros. It was strengthened in 2016 by two new measures: the raising of the procedural exemption threshold for public procurement of school books and the extension of the conditions for intervention of the advance fund managed by the IFCIC.
I announced a few weeks ago in Beirut at the Salon du Livre francophone, a plan to support diversity through books through the strengthening of aids to francophone bookshops and an increase in aids to translation in the Mediterranean area, between Arabic and French in particular.
For this Night of Reading, all libraries and bookstores are invited to open their doors to the public on extended hours on Saturday, January 14. And the public is invited to discover or rediscover the riches of these libraries and bookstores.
We know that the French are eager for events of this type since they are many to respond to the invitation of the Nuits des Bibliothèques in Lille or Dijon for example.
Many animations will be proposed to make joyful and lively this moment of encounter and sharing.
Itinerant readings, pajama readings, treasure hunts, a night of forbidden readings, music readings, a mythological family quiz, debates, the presentation of literary novelties. But also meetings with authors, illustrators, storytellers… The inauguration of media libraries, or the discovery of the other side of the scene.
Around 100 projects have been selected by a steering committee of industry stakeholders for financial assistance.
Night of Reading opens a furrow, a dynamic.
And since our will was to spread it very widely and allow as many initiatives as possible to be carried out everywhere, We have also set up a dedicated website for all libraries and bookshops wishing to join the event and make known their initiatives.
To date, more than 1200 events are recorded [carried by 600 structures] in all metropolitan departments but also in Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion, New Caledonia and Guyana.
More than 300 venues will open on this occasion beyond their usual schedules. The momentum is underway…
Of course, I would also like to warmly thank all those involved in this first edition of the Night of Reading. All the professional and institutional actors responded to our invitation.
I am thinking in particular of the various library associations, the Bibliothèque Publique d'Information (BPI), the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), the Centre National du Livre (CNL).
I want to thank the professional organizations of booksellers, authors, publishers.
I also want to thank the regions through their regional structures for the book.
What we are told by the organization of this first Night of Reading is that there is a formidable network of committed actors to bring the book and reading to daily life, closer to the French, everywhere in France. I am particularly happy about this and I want to greet them. They keep the Republic of Arts and Letters alive.
This Reading Night is part of a year that saw Operation "Go Book", in its second edition, destined last summer for youth, benefit even more children: more than 500,000.
That is the broader movement in favour of books and reading that we have imagined this Night of Reading.
It is intended to take place everywhere in France, to address all French people and perhaps especially the youngest.
Its purpose is to recall the power of books and reading.
A hundred years ago the poet Patrice de La Tour du Pin was born. I want to quote here the first two verses of his sumptuous Quest for Joy :
All countries that no longer have legends
They will freeze to death.”
The “legend”, etymologically, is “what must be read”. It is these wonderful facts that carry the soul of a country. And the poet urges us not to let them fall into ignorance.
At the beginning of this year, I express the hope that the Night of Reading will help us all to rediscover the path of libraries, bookstores and books and to participate in this rediscovered humanity.