The missions of the BnF

The missions of the BnF are to collect, preserve, enrich and make available the national documentary heritage, as stated in the decree of creation n°94-3 of January the 3rd, 1994.


Collecting, preserving and cataloguing collections

The legal deposit

Arrivée de livres au Dépôt légal

The BnF has various possibilities to enrich its collections; the major one is the legal deposit established by François 1st in 1537.

Today, the legal deposit is governed by the Heritage Code (articles L131-1 to L133-1 and R131-1 to 133-1) which included the provisions relating to the DADVSI law of August 1st, 2006 creating the legal deposit of the Internet.

The legal deposit makes it possible to draw up the Bibliographie nationale française which registers all the documents listed above (except for the Internet), printed, published or disseminated in France.

Enrichment of collections

The BnF’s collections are also enriched thanks to acquisitions. A major part of the institution’s budget is dedicated to these acquisitions, either regular - mainly to work out a reference collection in the field of foreign works - or prestigious and heritage acquisitions for which sponsorship may be necessary.
Donations and bequests or more rarely, private deposits, also contribute to enriching the collections. Eventually, there are invaluable exchanges with other libraries.

The framework of our policy on enriching collections is formalised by the library charter.


The BnF draws up catalogues that list all these resources. Actually, as the National Bibliographic Agency, it has to produce a reference catalogue that can be used to locate documents printed or disseminated in France. Bibliographic records and authority files for authors and groups, textual or musical titles, business items or references, are standardized as bibliographic products made available for other libraries that will then feed their own catalogues.

preserving collection

Over the centuries, the BnF has developed appropriate techniques for its preservation (both preventive and curative) mission: attention paid to the state of collections and protection of collections, environmental conditions of stacks… Several workshops appropriate to the various types of documents and preservation techniques and a laboratory are available at the BnF.

Dans l’atelier de restauration du département des Cartes et plans

Making collections available to all

Digitizing collections to make them available to a wider public

Documents, threatened by handling, are naturally short-lived things. To keep them available for readers as long as possible, preservation measures have been taken for several centuries by the institutions housing them. To preserve collections from improper handling, accreditation rules have been established and readers wishing to consult standard documents are redirected towards other institutions.


Today, microfilming and above all, digitization programmes are set up to replace too much consulted originals by backup documents. As a result of this ambitious digitization policy, Gallica digital library is a useful way to allow wider access to collections. 3 000 readers go to the BnF’s reading rooms each day; and there are ten times as much persons who consult Gallica, its digital library.

Vue de la salle B, site François-Mitterrand ©Thierry Ardouin/Tendance Floue - BnF

Research and cooperation

It is also to improve access to its resources that the BnF has to lead research programmes (particularly in the field of library science) in relationship with the heritage collections that it holds. It also works in collaboration with other libraries and French or foreign research and documentation centres. It can rely on its network of associated centres or other partners with whom it draws up the Catalogue collectif de France (CCFr). The digital collections from these institutions are available via Gallica.