Visit to the Bibliothèque National de France

Excellent news!  I am now the proud holder of a readers card for the BNF!!

I was kind of dreading my first visit.  I've held readers cards for the British Library (fondly known as the BL) for years and remember some nerve wracking interviews trying to renew them.  Understandably these places try to weed out applicants who really ought not to be there.  There are so many researchers who badly need access to these resources and it makes sense that those whose needs could be equally (or better?) served elsewhere use other libraries as their first port of call.  Also, as I'm not really affiliated with any institution as a researcher I tend not to have the right bits of paper.  As with a lot of things, musicians tend to fall between the gaps - many of us are actively researching various things but we don't have an ID card with a university logo on it.  So going when you're applying for admission you always fear that they're going to turn you down for one reason or another and when you're trying to get access to maybe the sole manuscript of a piece this can be more than disappointing.

Luckily the BNF seemed to accept a mixture of me spluttering away in terrible French (though I managed it!  I MUST be getting better!), the letter from the Finzi Trust offering me the scholarship and finally my ID card from Junior Trinity.  The combination of the three seemed to do it.  However I sort of suspect that the woman interviewing me might have taken pity on me and my poor French!  I rather stupidly ended up buying a 15 day card which works out more expensive than repeatedly buying a 3 day card - I just assumed that it would be cheaper and it's strangely more expensive.  Ah well.  I've got the damn thing now so that's the main thing.  It's interesting to contrast the BNF approach which is to charge for readership (€45 euros for 15 days within a year or €8 for 3 days) to the BL which is free.  I'm a huge fan of the BL and am intrigued as to how it manages to offer all it does for free - I wonder whether this will continue in the next few years bearing in mind many of the current cuts in education and arts...  Actually ought not to say things like that out loud as it might give some people ideas.

So that was the challenge of the day.  I thought I'd leave actually visiting the reading room for another day - libraries always seem to be totally idiosyncratic and full of strange rituals which you're somehow expected to know.  I thought actually getting the card was enough stress for one day so am leaving grappling with the system for another.

I'm very much enjoying being here - though slightly alarmed that I'm quickly approaching the end of the first week!