Paris’ mairie has received 71 applications for the 18 ‘bouquiniste’ vacancies it advertised as part of a regular recruitment drive, the highest number of candidates in the past decade.
There are currently 241 bouquiniste stalls operating along the Seine between the Tuileries gardens and the Institut du monde arabe. Each bouquiniste can have up to four stalls, from which they can sell second-hand books, paintings and other Parisian souvenirs.
“This is the highest number of candidates in ten years,” said the mairie’s Olivia Polski, who launched the recruitment campaign, calling for “book specialists to keep the biggest open-air bookshop alive.”
She added that among the applicants were brocanteurs (bric-a-brac and antiques traders), book lovers and artists.”
This news comes after years of societal shifts arising from the growth of the internet and mobile phones, causing interest in traditional literary culture to decline and making it difficult for some bouquinistes to attract customers.
This issue has only been accentuated by the Covid and gilets jaunes crises which have rocked the French capital over the past few years.
To breathe life back into their trade, the bouquinistes applied for a place on Unesco’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of France in 2019, although they have already constituted a World Heritage Site since 1991.
The successful candidates will be announced on March 11.They will have to buy the boxes from their current owners but will not have to pay a licence fee, the mairie has decided.
This should leave them free to begin work by the summer.