Preserving the author’s spirit: collections of literature in libraries and writers’ museums

The central multimedia library in the Montpellier urban area, named after Émile Zola, holds a number of interesting literary collections relating to authors including Abbé Fabre (1717–1783), Vittorio Alfieri (1749–1803), Valery Larbaud (1881–1957), Joseph Delteil (1894–1978), Max Rouquette (1908–2005), Léo Malet (1909–1996), and Frédéric Jacques Temple (1921–). How does the library make the most of these special collections? Should they be managed like writers’ museums? The present article explores such questions, drawing on examples from Montpellier, Rennes, Grenoble, Rouen, Nantes, Amiens, Bordeaux, and Dijon. The collections should incorporate more than just manuscripts and books. To make the most of their special collections, libraries should hold temporary exhibitions in specific rooms that stage the writer’s home as many writers’ museums do. They should also use the internet to increase the space devoted to the collection and bring it to the attention of a wider audience.