25th birthday for ‘ultimate meeting place’ library

Members of the English Language Library in Angers celebrate its 25th birthday

An English-language library in deepest France has celebrated its 25th anniversary – and is proud to have developed into an active association offering much more than simply books to borrow.

The library in Angers, Maine-et-Loire, has around 1,800 members.

Many have belonged for several years and enjoy visiting a place where people of all nationalities can get together and take part in a wide range of events and activities.

Kenneth Thomas, a member for 20 years, describes it as “lively, a hub. It’s a place where I can always come and feel at home”.

Liz Hanaway, who has been a member for 23 years, said it was “the ultimate meeting place”. Jacqueline Guillocheau, a member for 18 years, said: “It is a place with a strong feeling of community and sharing.”

Visitors browsing at a recent sale

The library has the biggest collection of English-language literature in western France, with around 30,000 books available to borrow.

Director Phoebe Marshall-Raimbeau said: “We are proud as an institution to offer so much, including French conversation.

“We would love to welcome yet more people to our events, more members and more volunteers.”

On March 3 there is a Big Quiz, and on April 27 the annual book, bake and plant sale. Mrs Marshall-Raimbeau said it “is a wonderful opportunity to get to know the library and pick up second-hand English-language books at great prices”.

The library opened in 1993 after a professor at Angers University heard that an American library in Nantes was closing down so there would be around 20,000 books with no home.  

The books were taken to Angers, where the new library was set up with help from the Conseil Général, the universities and the town, and became part of the American Library in Paris.

In 2002, the American Library decided all branches should be independent, prompting the branch in Angers to adopt a new name which reflected the fact that more English-speaking people were moving into the area and using the facility.

It became the English-language Library (ellia.org).

Members can join a book club, drama club, luncheon club, pizza and board games group, English musical heritage sessions, walk and talk, textile arts and crafts group, knit and natter... the list goes on.

It is even possible to take a TOEIC English language test, as it is an accredited centre.

There is an activity nearly every day. Membership costs €45 a year, with reductions for families, students and teachers. Some activities are free and others have a small fee to cover costs.

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