UNESCO in France, France in UNESCO, and the Role of Libraries and Books in Postwar Cultural Reconstruction, 1945-1951
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In early 1948, Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain served as President of the French Delegation attending the second General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). His report back to France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs provides a clear articulation of the mix of idealism and opportunism France had regarding the “international spirit” that the newly-established UNESCO represented:
For the UNESCO Libraries Section, “reconstruction does not imply simply the distribution of gifts, important as those may be: it is much more important to assist in the creation and development of agencies and in the development of techniques which will be continuing and effective means of assuring the free flow and the proper use of materials on education, science and culture.” An exploration of a selection of such techniques through the lens of three postwar library reconstruction case studies will illustrate three different manifestations of what it meant for UNESCO to be in France and for France to be in UNESCO. In the first, France achieves its aims via a UNESCO book collection and distribution program; in the second, France becomes a unique beneficiary of UNESCO’s collaborative and educational efforts; and in the third, UNESCO Book Coupons provide an example of a mutually beneficial program.
An overarching premise behind this research is that one defining characteristic of postwar reconstruction, although rarely articulated as such, was a pressing need for the cross-border sharing and exchange of information. Throughout the war years, enormous need and desire to catch-up with what had been going on in the rest of the world had built up in all countries regarding all realms, from industry and medicine to science and culture. The books and periodicals compiling and documenting the world’s most current innovations and developments had achieved limited, if any, international dissemination for the duration of the war. As such, access to informational print sources was widely recognized as a necessary element of successful reconstruction, one to which the collection, access and circulation policies of libraries could efficiently contribute. As François Billoux, France’s Minister of Reconstruction and Urbanism said in mid-1946, “The current international economic situation demands that exchanges be made between countries that were damaged and countries that were spared. It is above all necessary that our buildings industry modernizes and brings itself up to date on new construction techniques and modern means of fabrication.” Postwar demand for information and texts extended far beyond those associated with professional and technical fields and included those who read for pleasure and escape or educational and teaching purposes. The resultant demand for books and periodicals in all languages and topics was vast, overwhelming and coming from all corners of the globe. As a result, not only specialized agencies like UNESCO, but also most national governments, saw libraries as vital to the reconstruction and rehabilitation process. Indeed new laws and decrees regarding the expansion of public libraries and librarian education emerged throughout Europe during the early postwar years. President de Gaulle stated in a November 1945 ordinance, for example, that the establishment of central lending libraries throughout France was an “urgent” matter.
At UNESCO, France constituted a unique case. First and foremost, France was UNESCO’s “hostess nation,” with the organization initially headquartered at the Hotel Majestic in Paris. The French had fought hard to achieve their hostess status, viewed as a meaningful victory representing an opportunity for France to reassert itself as the past, present and future model of intellectual and cultural life and cooperation. In addition, France was among the states UNESCO considered war-devastated in the aftermath of the war. Unlike most others on that list, however, France was able to financially and materially contribute fairly significantly to UNESCO’s reconstruction efforts, even while being an important recipient of the same.
The pleas and directives that flooded into UNESCO from war-impacted countries worldwide illustrate the overwhelming scope of the postwar demand for information, and for publications and assistance to libraries specifically. These included a June 1946 French proposal which read, “The Libraries Section [of UNESCO ...] should simultaneously study [...] Measures for giving speedy help to countries whose libraries have been destroyed or damaged, and for immediately restoring exchanges of publications.” As its member nations knew well, in seeking both to repair prewar information and publication sharing networks and to develop ever more expansive new ones, UNESCO was offering a vital service to a divided, tense and chaotic postwar world. It is fairly well-known that libraries and books were a specific target for destruction, plunder and confiscation throughout the war years. Less known is the extent to which the war’s impact on libraries extended much more broadly. Further exacerbating the previously discussed isolation that cut nations, including their print output, off from one another, libraries suffered unintended collateral damage from allied shelling, various wartime censorship and confiscation policies were directed at library collections and restricted or shut down publishing, printing and bookselling industries, shipping lanes were dangerous or impassable, paper and other printing supplies became scarce as they were repurposed for the war effort and their costs, like that of most resources, skyrocketed. In combination, these factors and others rendered maintenance of existing collections, not to mention acquisition of new publications from abroad, almost impossible for virtually every library throughout Europe, and in many cases well beyond it, for the duration of the war. The overwhelming scope of the problem raised urgent questions regarding who would take responsibility for the postwar restocking of libraries’ emptied shelves and the resumption of the international circulation of information and publications.
There are two main reasons why these questions and their answers have previously remained unstudied. Postwar virtually all aspects of life were in need of reconstruction or renewal. Even the recent turn in historical scholarship that has begun to consider the significance of culture within that context, however, has largely overlooked books and libraries in favor of a focus on other elements, such as theater and cinema. In addition, because war-impacted countries were determined to create strong new national identities and to distance themselves from the pain of occupation and loss as well as from any questionable wartime behavior, postwar reconstruction has traditionally been studied in individual or comparative national contexts. Nations wanted to emphasize their victory and newfound superiority over wartime aggressors, and to create clear distinctions between themselves and the growing influence of the United States. These countries could not accomplish reconstruction, financially or materially, without external, and often American, assistance. Also overlooked in most scholarship on postwar reconstruction are the more profound ways in which reconstruction was a transnational and universalist endeavor in which transcending borders and boundaries, real and imagined, between countries and between people were viewed as essential. The rising turn to transnational study of the postwar has emerged only during the past decade or so. This approach, including via networks of sharing and exchange and through the previously mentioned pursuit of an “international spirit,” is clearly visible in the origins of UNESCO.
Why the insistence on sharing, cooperation and exchange? Generally speaking, there was a postwar push to participate in the process of creating a more transnationally cooperative, tolerant and peace-oriented world. That impetus had a history in the realm of libraries. Luther Evans, Librarian of Congress from 1945 to 1953 and Director-General of UNESCO from 1953 to 1958, once remarked that from its earliest days UNESCO had been doing “exactly what all of us as librarians have always been trying to do in our professional work.” In addition, postwar it was also virtually impossible for most libraries to purchase sufficient books and periodicals to replace all that had been lost or had gone uncollected as a result of the war. They were limited not only by the obvious financial resources such an enterprise would require, but also by the unavoidable constraints of supply and demand; unique or rare items were generally out of print and either far too expensive for libraries to purchase or simply no longer available at all. Even many recent, wartime periodicals and specialized publications were in short supply. While donation and distribution programs were vital, the number of texts that could be collected remained profoundly insufficient in the face of the enormous demand and need. Therefore, UNESCO’s primary solution to restocking Europe’s libraries was threefold: to develop ways for libraries to share copies - such as through microfilming and expanded interlibrary loan; to exchange or gift copies of unwanted materials to other libraries that wanted them; and to make books more affordable and accessible. While beneficiaries of such programs often take them for granted today, they had to be carefully (re)constructed and expanded in the aftermath of war. UNESCO’s transnational efforts to that end, of which France was one of many important recipients, were variously helped and hindered by the nation out of which they were centered.
This paper’s first case study will examine an occasion when France’s aims were partially at odds with those of UNESCO. In 1947, the French government donated, via UNESCO, copies of classic French texts, in the French language, published by l’Association pour la Diffusion de la Pensée Française. The offer letter read, “The French Government, desirous of associating itself to the extent possible within its means to the reconstruction work undertaken by UNESCO to benefit the nations devastated by the war, has decided to offer to the [UNESCO] Reconstruction Section, 5,000 copies of each of the following works.” They were: Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le noir (1830); Rousseau’s, Les Rêveries du promeneur solitaire (1776-1778); Les Destinées by de Vigny (1863); Les Fables de La Fontaine (1668-1694); and Trois Contes by Merimée. The Minister of Foreign Affairs officer writing to UNESCO continued, “It seems desirable [...] that the books be distributed to the diverse countries that suffered from the war.” The clear aim, to disseminate French cultural greatness in the French language, raises the question of whether UNESCO, identified as a neutral international coordinating body, was the appropriate distributor; a question heightened by the fact that UNESCO’s International Clearing House for Publications (ICHP), its postwar body charged with distributing publications, had the stated goal of “meeting exactly stated needs in as exact a way as possible.” Indeed, UNESCO accepted the donation as a response to its calls for books, but it was nonetheless not in-line with UNESCO’s clearly stated policy of providing libraries specifically with the books that they required and requested, rather than with whatever donors happened to offer.
On one hand was France, taking advantage of its role as donor country to seek to advance its cultural position internationally, via, on the other hand, UNESCO, the transnational intergovernmental agency seeking to avoid imposing any single cultural model or message onto recipient nations. France surely could have found another means by which to send the books to the countries it chose, so sending them via UNESCO can be seen as a provocative attempt on the part of France to assert itself within an organization, indeed a postwar world, that many in France saw as becoming too Anglo-American. In the statement quoted at the beginning of this paper, Maritain was articulating the view that France walked a fine line between being the representative champion for universalist thinking at UNESCO, and promoting its own language, culture and national interests. In this case, the latter motive offers a more compelling explanation for France’s book donation, a gift that put UNESCO into a delicate position. Determined to meet demand rather than to distribute available supply, it could not be seen as disseminating or favoring one country’s intellectual, cultural or literary heritage over any other, and so had to distance itself from being over-identified with a nationalistic gift that it had, nevertheless, accepted responsibility to distribute and manage.
Seeking to be diplomatic and avoid conflict, UNESCO subtly formulated a compromise solution, informing France that it had neither the funds nor staff necessary to take full responsibility for the donation as France had hoped. Rather, UNESCO left it up to each potential recipient nation – initially limited to UNESCO member states – to decide how many copies of each text they wanted, and to the representatives of each government to work through their own diplomatic channels in Paris to arrange shipping and delivery. UNESCO went only so far as to facilitate communication between the interested parties, maintain distribution statistics, and deliver the number of requested books to recipient nation’s Parisian embassies or legations. Most importantly, it was careful to emphasize that the books were a gift of the French government and not of UNESCO, which was merely acting as intermediary. After final distribution, the twenty-five thousand books, divided between twenty or so countries, represented hardly a drop in the bucket of postwar book needs and was clearly more symbolic for France than restorative for the rest of the war-impacted world. In fact, when the copies that Ukraine and Belarus had rejected were offered to Poland instead, that country also declined them, stating that its original allotment had been sufficient and that while it required a vast pool of donated texts, it was requesting works that would be more diverse and practical in both language and content. Despite this tension, the distribution of France’s donation to so many different countries illustrates the capacity of UNESCO, and of its ICHP in particular at the time, to coordinate publication gifts and exchanges between far-flung libraries relatively quickly and effectively.
In contrast to that area of success, generally speaking, however, UNESCO did not have the funding, infrastructure or local authority to physically rebuild structurally damaged or destroyed library buildings. An example of how libraries in France proved an exception to this rule is the focus of this paper’s second case study. While libraries, of course, did not figure as very high priorities when there was such dire need for housing, hospitals, schools and other vital shelters and services, most countries did view libraries as vital to reconstructing people and society as well as national identity, culture and industries. Here, UNESCO, ideally positioned to coordinate assistance, found the means for a number of libraries in France to be physically restored after several years of neglect had exacerbated the damage they had suffered during the war. Despite the fact that, according to a French government report, library losses in France’s provinces had been heaviest, a strong focus on Paris coupled with the limited resources available, left many smaller, less “important” or less accessible libraries by the wayside. This second case study examines how UNESCO turned its “international spirit” toward one of these, a small municipal library, dating to 1719, in the village of Valognes in Normandy.
Allied aerial bombardments had badly damaged the Valognes library building in 1944. The Library had remained almost untouched since, its contents - which included the most important incunabula collection in the region and about 4,000 works dating to the sixteenth century or earlier - exposed to the elements and time. Even the most valuable, which had been transferred to an attic for safekeeping during the war, were rapidly deteriorating due to simple neglect. Valognes had the good fortune to be visited, by chance, in 1950 by American David Leff, editor of the UNESCO Reconstruction Section’s periodical, Impetus (entitled Élan in French). Leff described his reaction as Valognes’ librarian showed him around:
Subsequently, the collapsed roof and shattered windows had been repaired, but the books had remained untouched, scattered as they had fallen amidst building debris, and the library unused. Leff’s solution, which he proposed on the spot to Valognes’ mayor, was “for Unesco and the French library administration to sponsor the formation of an international restoration team to save the precious books in your library? We could invite students and young librarians from all over the world to come here,” he suggested, “with their own camping equipment of course – and with tools and materials to repair the library, preserve and re-index the volumes.” Leff’s idea combined the expertise of numerous UNESCO divisions: the Libraries Section, Reconstruction Program, and International Youth Camps, with that of the French library authorities, all working toward the shared goal of restoring the damaged contents of the neglected Valognes library, and later others as well.
Leff included a long article in the next issue of Impetus describing Valognes’ problem and outlining his solution, writing, “Unesco invites bodies in this field – such as libraries, library schools, associations of librarians and University classics departments – to express an interest in undertaking to manage such a venture.” The response he hoped for came almost immediately from Scandinavia and it was quickly arranged for about fifty college-age students and a number of professional librarians and conservators, mostly from Denmark as well as from Sweden, to travel to Valognes on what one Danish newspaper referred to as a “rescue expedition.” The project, which proved to be a great success, was co-directed by UNESCO and by the Inspector General of France’s libraries; official UN/UNESCO photographer Eric Schwab documented the entire process. Ultimately, two groups, led by a conservator from the Danish Royal Library, came to Valognes for about a month during the summer of 1950 and three months during the summer of 1951. The Scandinavian students had access to rare texts, important, in some cases, to their own academic interests, and were exposed to book and manuscript conservation techniques. The Scandinavian librarians were able to share their knowledge and expertise with a community that lacked such capabilities. The French library authorities were associated with the restoration of a small but important French library and the rescue of one more collection of historic documentation of France’s heritage, without having to pay for or otherwise administer it. Looking back, the periodical UNESCO Bulletin for Libraries described the undertaking as one of “a few strikingly effective projects organized by Unesco, but, with finance provided by various Member States (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom), to help in the rehabilitation of war-damaged libraries in France.” It continued, “Unesco staff members on mission there began the development of direct contacts with librarians in many countries which has been the continuing basis of the work,” meaning their continued work with and for libraries and librarians throughout the world.
While UNESCO received pages upon pages of reports detailing physical damage or destruction of libraries in every war-damaged country, it is notable that no similar endeavor has been identified outside France, which here clearly benefited directly from its hostess status. Headquarted in Paris, UNESCO could more easily learn about manageable reconstruction projects and establish and nurture the local, national and international connections necessary to implementing them. Moreover, since UNESCO’s own resources were severely limited and stretched, working within France was relatively affordable and logistically manageable, requiring minimal travel and no visas, permissions or other bureaucratic details that often impeded its work, even in other member states. Through collaborative, highly productive international work camps such as that at Valognes, UNESCO added one more success to its growing list of achievements in library reconstruction and rehabilitation and in expanding transnational networks of cooperation, education and exchange.
But book coupons, the focus of this paper’s third case study, were perhaps UNESCO’s greatest achievement in the realm of libraries and books, and are an area that provides an example of France’s success in its dual role at UNESCO as donor and recipient. Launched in December 1948 as a one-year experiment and almost immediately lauded for their practicality, objectivity and efficiency, book coupons received the broadest, most positive response any UNESCO endeavor had to that date. Specifically, the coupons provided primarily libraries, as well as schools, institutions, organizations, and, in some cases, individuals in war-impacted countries with a form of currency that allowed them to purchase books and periodicals they could not otherwise afford. The primary benefit was that soft currency countries could use the coupons to purchase from hard currency countries. France, along with the United States, United Kingdom, India, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia, was one of the original countries to participate in the program by both spending and accepting coupons. During the program’s first years, French publications were almost as in demand as were American publications. By putting money directly into the hands of those in need, UNESCO found a way to stay true to its aim not to impose certain texts on recipients, nor to rely on unsolicited gifts or donations, but rather to create open lines of communication between and with librarians, publishers and booksellers in order to ensure that war-damaged libraries could acquire the specific texts they sought.
France’s report to the 1950 UNESCO General Conference outlines the coupons’ immediate success in France during the first experimental year:
Through donation, exchange and affordability programs such as the three outlined here, UNESCO was able to fill in some of the voids left by the many national, international and non-governmental bodies working in relief and reconstruction. Its individual, incremental achievements collectively contributed to reconstruction in general and more specifically to the restoration of Europe’s cultural and intellectual life via its libraries, helping scholars and other experts catch up with developments and become active again in their fields, and greatly expanding the information and publication base that all library users, not only specialists, were able to access. This not only benefited national reconstruction efforts, in some cases particularly in UNESCO’s home country of France, but also seemed to show promise for the universalist world UNESCO hoped to create and that France felt it exemplified, a new postwar world in which sharing, exchange and collaboration beyond borders would become the norm, and tension, conflict and war would disappear.
* With thanks to the Social Science Research Council, whose 2011-2012 International Dissertation Research Fellowship made possible much of the research cited herein.
Jacques Maritain to Ministre des Affaires Étrangères, 28 January 1948, 14. Archives, Ministre des Affaires Étrangères, France (hereafter MAE), S50 3-5 UNESCO. Unless otherwise noted all translations from the French are my own.
Universal is defined here broadly and simply as applicable everywhere and to all as in Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights: A History (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), 20. Further discussion of the complexities of universalism at UNESCO and of the debates over its definitions and ramifications are beyond the scope of this paper. Many argue that during its early years a “one world” vision prevailed over cultural diversity at UNESCO. See Poul Duedahl, “Selling Mankind: UNESCO and the Invention of Global History, 1945-1976,” Journal of World History 22:1 (2001): 103 and Chloé Maurel, Histoire de l’UNESCO Les trente premières années. 1945-1974 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2010).
Text of press conference held by François Billoux, Minister of Reconstruction and Urbanism, 9 May 1946. Note générale Secrétariat d’État à la Présidence du Conseil et à l’Information. Direction de la Documentation. Hors série n° 100.
For more on the postwar expansion of national cultural life and institutions see Philippe Poirrier, ed., Pour une histoire des politiques culturelles dans le monde 1945-2011 (Paris: Comité d’histoire du ministère de la culture, 2011).
Ordinance n°45-2678, 2 November 1945. http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006069187&dateTexte=20110831. Accessed 9 September 2011.
Located on Avenue Kléber, the Hotel Majestic had served as headquarters for the Wehrmacht during the Nazi occupation. UNESCO remained at the Majestic until 1958 when it moved to its current location on the Place de Fontenoy.
For more about the negotiations between France, Great Britain and the United States regarding UNESCO’s initial establishment, see for example, Maurel, Histoire de l’UNESCO; J.P. Singh, UNESCO: Creating Norms for a Complex World, (New York: Routledge Press, 2010); Denis Mylonas, La genèse de l’Unesco : la Conférence des Ministres Alliés de l’Education (Brussels: Bruylant, 1976); William R. Pendergast, “UNESCO and French Cultural Relations 1945-1970,” International Organization 30:3 (Summer, 1976): 453-483.
The list of countries UNESCO considered devastated sometimes altered slightly, but generally included Belgium, Burma, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Iran, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, United Kingdom and Colonies, Yugoslavia, Belarus, Ukraine. Commission on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, Provisional Verbatim Record of the Third Meeting, 26 November 1946. UNESCO/C/Rec&Reh/Plen/V.R.3., Paris, 26 November 1946. General Conference 1. Session Paris 1946, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Commission, Documents; Resolutions adopted by Unesco Meeting of Experts from Devastated Countries, 12-13 May 1949. Unesco Archives General Registry (hereafter UA), Representatives War Devastated Countries 1949.
Indeed France was also counted among the five countries, along with the United States, China, Great Britain and the USSR, that were viewed differently “due to their importance and to the contribution that they could bring to the work of reconstruction.” Fabien Daubresse, “Conférence des Ministres alliés de l’éducation pendant la Seconde guerre mondiale : la naissance de l’Unesco ou les relations intellectuelles mises au service de la paix” (PhD diss., Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, 1992), 25.
The world received a clear message about this intentional targeting as early as May 1933 during the Nazi book burnings. A small random sampling of scholarship examining the war’s impact on libraries that has appeared over time includes, Rebecca Knuth, Libricide: The Regime-Sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries in the Twentieth Century (Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2003); Jonathan Rose, ed., The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001); Marek Sroka, “The University of Cracow Library under Nazi Occupation: 1939-1945,” Libraries & Culture 34:1(Winter, 1999): 1-16; Eileen Brown, “War Damage, 1939-1945, and Post-war Reconstruction in Libraries of the Federal German Republic and England: A Comparison,” Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 7:4 (1975): 288-308; Lester K. Born, “The Archives and Libraries of Postwar Germany,” The American Historical Review 56:1 (Oct., 1950): 34-57; Pierce Butler, ed., Books and Libraries in Wartime (University of Chicago Press, 1945).
For initial assessments and reactions see, for example, Maria Danilewicz, “The Post-War Problems of Continental Libraries,” Journal of Documentation 1 (1945): 81-88; Grayson N. Kefauver and Carl M. White, “Library Situation in Europe,” Library Journal (May 1 and May 15, 1945): 385-389 and 473-476; Milton E. Lord, “The Devastated Libraries of the World,” Harvard Alumni Bulletin 48:7 (January 5, 1946): 289-293; Joseph A. Barry, Libraries in Need (Paris: UNESCO, 1949).
See for example, Philip Nord, France’s New Deal from the Thirties to the Postwar Era (Princeton University Press, 2010); Julian Bourg, ed., After the Deluge: New Perspectives on the Intellectual and Cultural History of Postwar France (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2004); Dominique Barjot et.al., Les Reconstructions en Europe 1945-1949 (Paris: Éditions Complexe, 1997); Andrew Shennan, Rethinking France: Plans for Renewal 1940-1946 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). One exception which does include some discussion of libraries is Philippe Poirrier, ed., Pour une histoire des politiques culturelles dans le monde 1945-2011 (Paris: Comité d’histoire du ministère de la culture, 2011).
One reason for the specificity of traditional postwar histories correlates to the specificity of each country’s postwar situation, a point made by historian Mark Mazower in a recent article on postwar reconstruction: “there were considerable differences between countries like Denmark, the Low Countries, Norway and the USSR, where reconstruction essentially involved pre-war regimes reconstructing themselves; countries like France and Greece where the democratic transformation took place amid the memoires of earlier democratic collapse; and countries under occupation—Italy, Germany, Austria, and Hungary-whose transition to democracy was being managed for them.” Mark Mazower, “Reconstruction: The Historiographical Issues,” Past and Present Supplement 6 (2011): 28.
See for example the review essay, Gerd Horten, “Americanization and Anti-Americanism in Europe,” American Studies 47:3/4 (Fall-Winter 2006): 193-200; Richard Pells, Not Like Us: How Europeans Have Loved, Hated, and Transformed American Culture Since World War II (New York: Basic Books, 1997); Richard Kuisel, Seducing the French: The Dilemma of Americanization (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993).
See for example Léonard Laborie, L’Europe mise en réseaux: La France et la coopération internationale dans les postes et les télécommunications (années 1850-années 1950) (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2010); Waqar Zaidi, “‘A Blessing in Disguise’: Reconstructing International Relations Through Atomic Energy, 1945–1948,” Past and Present 210 Supplement 6 (2011): 309-331; John Krige, American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008).
This push is visible, for example, in the early postwar work of the United Nations, especially in its 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in the Atoms for Peace movement of the early 1950s, among others. See Richard Jolly et.al., UN Ideas That Changed the World (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009).
Luther H. Evans, “UNESCO Work and Method Illustrated by the Library Programs” in Leon Carnovsky, ed., International Aspects of Librarianship: Papers Presented before the Eighteenth Annual Conference of the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 1954), 12.
It is not clear which trois contes by Merimée, as no such title is held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, nor has been identified elsewhere. Guy Dorget, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Direction Générale des Relations Culturelles, Service Français de l’Unesco, to Director-General, Unesco, 12 July 1947. UA, Reconstruction Libraries.
This concern developed early during the war years: “Towards the end of 1942 a writer in the Gaullist newspaper La Marseillaise listed all the Anglo-Americans who had recently made speeches about post-war reconstruction: the list included virtually every prominent political figure [...] It seemed crucial to keep abreast of these preparations and, wherever possible, ensure that a French contribution was made.” Shennan, Rethinking France, 8.
Allocation ultimately extended beyond the UNESCO member nations of Belgium, China, Denmark, Greece, Norway, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, the UK and Czechoslovakia, to also include Austria, Bulgaria, Burma, Finland, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus and Yugoslavia. Distribution Définitive de chacun des 5.000 ouvrages suivants offerts par le gouvernement français, 19 August 1947. UA, Reconstruction Libraries.
Note sur les destructions des livres dans les bibliothèques publiques de province de 1939 à 1945, undated. Archives nationales Fontainebleau (hereafter ANF), cote 19780678/12, Rapports d’expertise, 1951-1958.
See Alain Girard, Catalogues Régionaux des Incunables des Bibliothèques Publiques de France, vol. IV Bibliothèques de la Région Basse-Normandie (Bordeaux: Société des Bibliophiles de Guyenne, 1984), 167-171.
David Leff, “Tales of Three Cities in Normandy, Part I: Buried Treasure awaits discovery in abandoned library of bombed Valognes,” Impetus: A Monthly Review of Reconstruction in Education, Science and Culture IV:5 (May 1950): 17.
The French libraries of Douai, Strasbourg and Dunkirk benefited from similar arrangements. On Dunkirk, see “British Students Reconstruct French Damaged Libraries,” UNESCO Press Release No. 549, Paris, 14 August 1951. National Library of Poland, Library and Information Science Section, sygnatura TD-162 UNESCO 1946-1952.
Within the program’s first months both countries had seen book sales “in thousands of dollars” whereas the UK, despite being the other key provider of publications, had only seen about $150, a difference that was attributed to problems of publicity. Edward J. Carter to W.D. Pile, 7 May 1949. UA, 332.55: 02 Book Coupons-General Part II. Here it is important to note the fact that initially participants could purchase publications using the coupons in a very limited number of countries, skewing the statistics in favor of the relative few who were both participating and whose publishing industries were active and had significant stock available. For further analysis see Céline Giton, “L’Unesco et le livre de 1945 à 1975,” in Essais d’histoire globale, ed. Chloé Maurel (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2013), 121-136.
To put this amount into some perspective, US book exports to France from January to October 1947 amounted to $295,867. Book Export Figures from the Department of Commerce extract from Publishers’ Weekly 153:4 (January 24, 1948). Based on the context, the awkward wording or more likely poor translation of the phrase, “mean instrument,” implies that UNESCO was a powerful instrument for international cooperation.
To give just one example, Mlle Mallein of France’s Service des Bibliothèques wrote to Mme Yvonne Duhamel of the Bibliothèque municipale of Douai on 15 December 1949, recommending, “for the two collections : ‘Oxford History of England’ and ‘The Cambridge Medieval History,’ we find them used very rarely in France, and always at a very high price. It would be better for you to buy them yourself directly from the publishers using UNESCO book coupons.” ANF, cote 19780678/10, Bibliothèques sinistrées.