This month, the English-language Library in Angers (www.ellia.org) in the Maine-et-Loire is hosting one of its biggest fundraising events of the year, the BBBB – also known as the Big, Big Booksale and Bakesale – under its “The library. The place to be” slogan.
During the event, held on Saturday, March 25th from 10am until 6pm, visitors can buy a range of books, all priced at €1.50, and sample a selection of home-baked goods made by the more than 100 volunteers. They can also discover the library’s collection of 27,000 English-language books and 100 e-books, as well as register as a member, at €45 a year for adults, with reductions available for students, families, teachers or retirees.
The library was opened in 1993 after a professor at Angers University heard about the closure of the American Library in Nantes, leaving 20,000 books with no home. They were swiftly brought to Angers, where a new library was set up, thanks to help from the Conseil Général, universities and the local town, and became part of the American Library in Paris.
Despite attracting increasing numbers of people, including university staff and students, in 2002, the American Library decided all branches should be independent, prompting the Angers library to adopt a new name, reflecting the influx of English-speaking people moving into the area who were using the facility. Thus, it became the English-Language Library in Angers.
There’s more to the place than somewhere to read or borrow a blockbuster. Visitors can join a club to discuss a preselected novel, there’s a group in which readers can take along a book they have enjoyed, discuss it and pass it on, while every Friday, members can gather for a hot drink and chat. The library hosts conversation groups in English and French, as well as a film club, a garden club, a luncheon club, knit-and-natter sessions, pizza and board games once a month, and a group meeting during which a Shakespeare play is read. Not to mention the countless activities for children and students.
Volunteers at the library are enthusiastic about its services. Aline Montgomery said: “We moved to Angers because we knew there was an English-language library. For the past 15 years, the library has provided a framework for our activities. It is amazingly vibrant and we are very grateful to the staff for their wonderful dedication.”
Gordon Cooke, who co-manages an English conversation group for the library in a town about an hour from Angers, said: “It is a commitment, but it has really helped with our integration into the community. My wife has been attending the library’s book club for almost 16 years. Discussion is usually lively and the French members all show a very high level of English.”
For Gaëlle Delarboulas, the library represents more than somewhere to borrow books: “From its core, there are many arms leading to theatre, music, cinema, travels, endless talks around a cup of coffee and above all, great friendship.”
Director Phoebe Marshall-Raimbeau said the library is bursting with ideas, events and books, and she hopes lots of people will come along on to The BBBB. “This is the ultimate win-win situation” she said, “support community services while finding great books - definitely worth the drive from afar!”