BnF’s five public sites
The Bibliothèque nationale de France is currently organized into collection-based departments.
In the course of its history, it has grown from around a thousand precious manuscripts held by the Royal Library of Charles V (1338-1380) to tens of millions of documents of all types (manuscripts, printed materials, graphic materials, recorded materials, cartographic documents, etc.) on all types of media (parchment, paper, objects, multimedia, electronic, etc.).
The first departments were organized in the 18th century according to media, with printed books kept separate from handwritten documents, and images and objects held independently.
Collectors of prints, music, and theater (e.g. Michel de Marolles, Sébastien de Brossard and Auguste Rondel), librarians (e.g. Edmé-François Jomard and Joseph Van Praet), and specialists in new media (e.g. Ferdinand Brunot for sound) enabled specialized collections to be built up with their own structure (e.g. images, music, and the performing arts), thus anticipating – sometimes very many years in advance – the creation of specialist services, and later of true departments that would be born out of this approach.
The installation of collections of printed and audiovisual materials at the François Mitterrand Library (Site François-Mitterrand) in the late 1990s was an opportunity to reorganize the library’s collections by topic and specific nature.
The library’s 14 departments are spread across five sites:
- The François Mitterrand Library (Site François-Mitterrand)
- The Richelieu Library (Site Richelieu-Louvois)
- The Arsenal Library (Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal)
- The Opera Library (Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra)
- Maison Jean Vilar
The François Mitterrand Library offers two additional reading areas:
- the generalist and encyclopedic Reference library, all of whose collections are directly accessible within the reading rooms
- the Research library, which holds French printed output from the origins of publishing, as well as recorded, audiovisual, and multimedia materials from the early 20th century onwards.