1936: The American Library in Paris moves to 9 rue de Teheran, Paris

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9 rue de Teheran
75008 Paris
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1936The American Library In Paris moves its 60,000 books collection from 10 rue de l’Elysée to 9 rue de Teheran, Paris.

is named Director of the Library.

1939 – France and Britain declare war on Germany on September 3, 1939.

This only motivates Library Director Dorothy Reeder and the staff to continue their mission.

As is about to begin, The Soldiers’ Service is launched, providing english lessons for French soldiers and books for British troops.

The library delivers free membership cards to French and British soldiers, featuring red, white and blue stripes.

1940 – As France is being invaded by Hitler’s troops, all Library employees are evacuated in June 1940.

Director Dorothy Reeder stays, offering her help to the American Embassy in the requisitioned Hotel Bristol, where she brings books to residents.

A handful of staff members come back on July 1940, helping Dorothy to pack and send packets of books for internment camp prisoners in France.

The Soldiers’ Service is closed.

The library reopens in September, Board Member returns.

As the Nazi police strictly forbids Jews to enter in the Library, an underground lending service for Jewish members is launched: Countess Clara de Chambrun and staff members deliver books directly to the subscribers’ homes.

1941Sylvia Beach, founder of the original Shakespeare and Company bookstore, donates the circulating collection of the former bookshop to the American Library.

The american staff is evacuated to the United States in February 1941.

As America is about to enter into the war, Dorothy Reeder, despite her courage and reluctance, leaves France in April 1941.

Countess Clara de Chambrun, then 68, takes over the directorship, and hires french librarians.

In a surprising turn of events, the Countess’ son married the daughter of Premier of France and Vichy frontman Pierre Laval a few years before, helping the Countess to keep the Library open.

The American Library, still under American control, operates under the Countess son’s Office Français de Renseignements (French Information Center), as Germany has a strict noninterference policy with french institutions.

As the United States of America declares war on Germany, cutting american aid to France in late 1941, the Rockefeller Foundation stop supporting the library.

The Countess and her staff carry on their mission to make the American Library “an open window on the free world”, as would later state French Ambassador in The United States Georges Bonnet.

1945Frederick Stewart becomes director of the Library, as the Countess returns to her work on Shakespeare and pens her autobiography, Shadow Lengthen.

1947Dr. Ian Forbes Fraser, former Commandant of the U. S. Army University Center in France, is appointed Director of the Library.

Twenty-nine years old Idaho librarian Ruth McBiney leaves her position at the New York Public Library and joins the American Library in Paris as a reference librarian.

For a year, she forges close bonds and rents a house with her young colleagues Ian Forbes Fraser and librarian William Harrison, both freshly arrived in France.

1949Ruth McBiney becomes a full-fledged librarian.
She supervises an ambitious project: the creation of regional branches of the American Library across France.
From the Boulevard St. Germain through Rennes, Roubaix, Grenoble, Montpellier, Nantes and Toulouse eleven bookish outposts of american culture will be developed.

1952Ruth prepares her return to the United States and tackles one last undertaking.
As the bank neighboring the Library offers to buy its current building and cover the relocation’s purchases, she overseers the move.
The Library settles on 133 Avenue des Champs-Elysées, close to the United States Information Service Library.

The story continues…


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© LibrAdventures, Fabien Hurelle

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