Discoveries A bit of history

The Municipal Library of Lyon

Virginie Billy
By Virginie
Published on 10/01/2024

Located in the Part-Dieu district, the Municipal Library (BML) has been a bastion of culture in Lyon for more than half a century.

Until the beginning of the 1970s in Lyon, readers and books were crammed into the old general library located in the city’s 5th district. Conservation conditions there were obsolete to the point that they endangered the collection of ancient works, dating as far back as the Merovingian period! On the 18th of July 1966, Louis Pradel, the city mayor, announced the construction of a new library on a 5000 m² site located in the heart of a district being redeveloped: Part-Dieu. Designed by architect Jacques Perrin-Fayolle, the project was gargantuan and, according to critics, inordinately ambitious. Inaugurated with great pomp on the 6th of December 1972, the building was representative of the “brutalist” style, minimalist and austere, and organised in keeping with the district’s redevelopment project. Its opening even made the television news headlines. Journalist Jean-Marie Cavada presented it in these words: “if it is only the second largest library in the world, after that of New York, it is at least the largest in Europe!”

In terms of dimensions, Lyon’s municipal library (BmL) has a whopping surface area of 27 700 m² spread over 17 floors, rising to the peak of the Silo’s tall tower. As both a guardian of memory and an innovative institution, the library embraced digitisation as early as 1993, whereas the French state did not turn its attention to the conservation of library collections until 1996! Driven by a desire to attract people from all backgrounds, the library has expanded its collections and services over the years. Today, its offering is eclectic. From musical instrument loans to themed exhibitions and the seed library, the BmL is brimming with activities to rediscover all year round.