Librarians and Priests

Public libraries in France have by and large dealt with the issue of religion by taking their cue from the 1905 law separating Church and State, adopting a stance of neutrality, tolerance, and pluralism in their acquisitions in the field of religion. In terms of conserving the written record, the facts of France’s Judeo-Christian heritage have rendered this unnecessary. The historical collections in libraries that inherited works confiscated during the Revolution overwhelmingly consist of works of a religious – mostly Roman Catholic – nature. The provision of access to these collections, taken together with the ever more diverse profile of library users, means that they are increasingly being requested for purposes other than scholarly research, including proselytising. Honouring diversity of opinion means that such requests must be met, but, as representatives of a secular public service, librarians must be careful not to engage in or encourage ideological or religious squabbles. Rather than a refusal to engage in debate, such a stance is an act of tolerance.