How to Get Set Up at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

  1. Fill out the online Pre-inscription form. Wait until they e-mail you back.
  2. Go to the east entrance of the BNF. You go through security, which is quick, and then take a left. The Service d'Orientation des lecteurs is over on the left. You go in and sit down and the two front desk people get to you when they get to you. They'll give you a number after they briefly sound you out.
  3. When your number comes up, you go back to one of the cubicles behind the front desk people. If you're lucky, like I was, an incredibly nice grandmotherly lady will fill everything out on the computer, take your picture with a webcam, and produce your card. You have the option of getting a 15-day pass or an annual pass; they're almost the same price, so especially if you're a student, you might as well get the annual pass.
  4. You don't pay for the card there. You have to go back to the main entrance hall and go to the caisse (I know, I know, I should have already known this word): the cashier. You pay him and your card is activated.
  5. You then have to go the big long security desk by the escalators and turn in your bag, if you have one, and put all of your stuff into an transparent plastic briefcase thing (my phrasing for this: "Il faut prendre une...une valise en plastique?") This is to prevent you from stealing all of their shit.
  6. Then you go down an escalator after you beep a kiosk thing with your card, which registers your presence there.
That's as far as I got today; it turns out that the material you request can take up to an hour to show up if you haven't reserved it, so I figured I had pulled off enough heroics for one day and I'll reserve stuff online before I return on Friday. I'm just relieved to have jumped the initial hurdles.


becky said...

good job! that is totally the sort of thing that keeps me out of school altogether. i'm impressed by your heroics!

the rambler said...

That sounds like enough administrative hoops to earn you a decent bottle of red wine!

ninjahq said...

Can I ask the stupid question: what's so special about this place?

Dolce Vita said...

Cool! So where are the forbidden pictures? (Maybe wait until your last day, just in case....)

noncoupable said...

that is not so different from going to the archives in Toulouse, which I once did for the hell of it. I didn't get a photo taken but my passport was photocopied and a card was made and I wasn't allowed to take much in the rooms with me. So... Success! Congrats. =)

I might add a double success because what you wrote in french is totally what I would have said too. Your french is definitely improving. yay!

kungfuramone said...

Ninja: the BNF is the French equivalent of the Library of Congress, so it contains copies of pretty much every book, every magazine, and every newspaper (as well as a lot of other stuff) ever published in the French language. It's "so special" for me because it has copies of the journals my dissertation guy wrote in back in the 50s and 60s, which are hard to find in the states.

Dolce: I can get away with pictures from the outside. It's a really amazing building. Maybe I'll do that this weekend or something.

Not-guilty: Merci bien!

thetravellor said...

Access to the reading rooms at the Library of Congress has just about the same process, except you don't have to pay for your card. I had to stumble my way through that system last year. The fun part was, the foreign law books were behind someone's cubicle, so after waiting an hour for them to be brought to the reading room I was in, they just brought me to the shelf and let me me wander through the offices. It was weird.