Preservation at BnF: policy, laboratory, and sites

Throughout its history, the Library has developed techniques appropriate to its preservation responsibilities. Alongside traditional curative care and binding, new activities have been added: prevention and preservation, staff training and awareness-raising, digitization, research, and technology monitoring.
BnF’s laboratory enables a truly scientific approach by developing methods for analyzing materials and the ways in which they age and degrade.
Activities are spread across four distinct sites, coordinated within the Preservation Services Department by a central team based at the François Mitterrand Library (Site François-Mitterrand).

The Joël-le-Theule Technical Preservation Center (Sablé-sur-Sarthe)

Preservation activities at the Joël‑Le‑Theule Technical Center consist of the following:

Joël-le-Theule Technical Preservation Center
  • restoration workshops
  • reproduction/digitization workshops 
  • training activities (emergency plan) 
  • a mass deacidification unit
The Joël-le-Theule Technical Center, which is housed in an 18th century château, was set up to create backups of printed materials. Printed materials published from the 1870s onwards were printed on acidic paper and are deteriorating over time. The first priority is therefore to preserve the content of documents by means of a mass reproduction policy, as well as potentially treating the paper in order to slow the degradation process.

When workshops were established at the François Mitterrand Library (Site François-Mitterrand) and the Bussy-Saint-Georges site, the Sablé center focused more on backing up documents from collections held at the Richelieu Library (Site Richelieu), the Opera Library and the Arsenal Library (Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal) while continuing to work for subject departments based at the François Mitterrand Library.

Various types of process, often complementary, are used:

  • micrography
  • digitization 
  • restoration of sheet-type documents, bound documents and oversize posters 
  • mass deacidification: the center houses France’s only existing facility, which handles almost 10,000 volumes a year without unbinding

Specific to this site: the deacidification unit

In conjunction with the Research Center for the Preservation of Graphic Materials (Centre de Recherches sur la Conservation des Documents Graphiques/CRCDG), now known as the Collection Conservation Research Center (Centre de Recherche sur la Conservation des Collections/CRCC), the center has created a fungistatic wax which is very useful to libraries for maintaining leather bindings: Cire 213. Used in small quantities, this wax helps leather to retain its mechanical suppleness and prevents the development of mold. It is distributed by BnF’s sales department.

Monday, April 4, 2011


  • Joël-le-Theule Technical Preservation Center
    Annie Bonnaud
    Le Château
    72300 Sablé-sur-Sarthe
    Phone : 02 43 95 19 92
    Fax : 02 43 62 23 90
    Email :