Friday, April 5, 2013

Interview: Alex Perrin, fondatrice de La Petite Bibliothèque

It is with immense pride and excitement that we chat to Alexandra Perrin, who last year launched La Petite Bibliothèque, La Trobe French Club’s very own French library! Although still only in its infancy, La Petite Biblio has already grown enormously and is a unique resource available to all La Trobe French students.

How did La Petite Biblio get started?

I don’t remember exactly. I came to Australia with some books, and I didn’t know what to do of them after reading, so I put them in the office. It started with ten books on a shelf.

La Petite Biblio has grown enormously over the past year! How has this happened?

I gave a lot of my books. But I’m a huge reader of sci-fi, fantasy, young adult and manga. I wanted opinions from other people, so I contact  friends and community members from a big French forum to see if some wanted to get involved, help and give some books. I am still surprised that over 500 books has been donated to this project.

Which are your favourite books in the collection and why?

That’s a very big question you ask me now. It’s gonna be really hard to answer. Let’s try. I will focus on French authors (because you can find lots of translations here) and not on classics.
  • The Biggest one, of course: Le Petit Prince de St Exupéry
  • For Poetry: Les Fleurs du Mal de Baudelaire
  • For Contemporary: Exercices de Style de Raymond Queneau
  • For Thriller: Non Stop de Frédéric Mars
  • For Fantasy: A l’image du Dragon de Serge Brussolo
  • For Young Adult: Fedeylins de Nadia Coste

Which books would you recommend for beginning students?

La Petite Biblio contains comics and magna
It’s really hard to recommend books for beginners students. I should say comics (bandes dessinées in French, or BDs). I have some in La Petite Bibliothèque, but not enough. The only issue with with classic French BDs like Astérix is not the meaning of the plot, but there are so many play on words with Latin language and some cultural references. It’s definitely not as simple as it seems. Reading the news as well is a good exercise.

In my opinion, the best way to start reading in another language is with small things: children’s books could be a good beginning. That’s the way I start! My first English book was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. It was five years ago now. I only read my first novel in English three months ago. Before, I have already read some extract of English classics of course, and scientific articles as well, but it was for studies, and not for pleasure.

Astérix, a classic French BD,
but a deceptively tricky read
It is really hard to start reading in another language for pleasure, because it is asking a huge effort. So my advice is to start the quickest as possible to get used to the language, with small things, and go bigger and bigger. And when you start with children’s books and comics, pictures can guide you.

A second advice I can give is: don’t worry if you don’t understand every piece of word when you start! That’s normal. You’re not Superman. At the beginning, you don’t read as you read in your native language. You don’t read a magazine as you read a novel, or newspapers. Learning reading is a long process. Don’t give up! Choose the good book to start. Think about what you like to read in English, what are you interests.

What about for intermediate students?

Harry Potter, recommended reading
for intermediate students
Well, for intermediate students, if they haven’t start reading yet, the only thing I can say is the same than for beginners.

It really depends of your level and your investment in the language learning. On one hand, you can be a good intermediate in understanding and speaking, in the other, you can be terrible with reading or writing.

The best way to start is to read in French something you have already read (or seen if the book has been adapted in movie) in English. And maybe choose Young Adult references. Why? Because the writing is supposed to be less stylish than classics.

My recommendations for this part: Harry Potter, La Croisée des Mondes, Narnia and Hunger Games.

How can students borrow from La Petite Biblio?

They just need to knock on HU3 218 and ask for a book, it’s that simple. If they don’t know what they want, they can just have a look on the small Library website and check what is available.

I’d like to develop a software making who’s borrowing books clear. For now, we just have a list with names and books title.

The French Club is so excited about the future of La Petite Biblio! Anything new planned for 2013?

I’d like students to give opinions on the books they read. They can leave comments on the blog, or even write a review (English or French) for the French Club maybe. I will add new entries soon, but less than last year of course.

Tintin and Snowy,
coming soon to La Petite Biblio!
This year, I’d like to organise a fund rising to be able to buy new books. And I want to offer new books. Lots of students ask me for Astérix and Tintin! They have to be in this Bibliothèque. Lucky Luke too. More classics as well, and poetry.

Another thing is that I would like to add is audio books. It could be great and useful for people who don’t have time to read, and it would be perfect to help students to develop their listening skills. Also having some magazines or newspapers. In that case, students will be able to cover French news and French culture.

Let’s see what’s happening next!

Merci Alex!

Thank you Mia! It was a pleasure!


  1. have you considered donating these books to the la trobe library (bu campus). as far as i know they have nothing and would give them public access.

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