Knowledge, techniques and powers: the past history of French provincial university libraries

In spite of the revival of studies on the history of French libraries, the past history of university libraries, especially those in the provinces, remains little known, and has rarely been considered in its entirety. The author's doctoral thesis, several conclusions from which are presented in this article, concentrates on the period 1855-1985 and particularly on the question of decentralisation of collections and services. This study has revealed several structural characteristics of French provincial university libraries: a frequent appearance of disassociation from other institutions of the university, and of little relation to the subject specialisms of the universities, and a long-standing existence, alongside "official" libraries, of specialised libraries controlled by teaching staff and researchers. These characteristics, which are largely due to the origins of French university libraries, can still be seen in the situation today as regards information services in general.