Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Different National Library

The Bibliotheque Générale is located about two hundred meters outside of the city walls. After crossing what must be the world's worst intersection (um, it's set up so that you can only get halfway across at any given moment) and walking through the shadeless area right before the library, I can never decide which of the library doors to go into. Last time I was here, I didn't have a manual of any sort and seemed to find a few things. This time, I am armed with a manual: the Fulbright manual promises that the National Library has over 900,000 books and 30,000 manuscripts. The thing is, any given room I happen to go into happens to have, oh, say, maybe two or three hundred books (okay, maybe a thousand books.) The Fulbright manual also promises that there are a lot of different rooms (the Salle du Maroc, the Colonial Archives, and the Manuscripts rooms.)

I've asked the door people and the check-in desk people as to _where_ the Salle du Maroc actually is, and nobody actually seems to know. I'll find it eventually, I suppose. So far, I've been going to what I can only imagine must be the Colonial Archives (the manual says they're open from three to six; they're actually open from nine to four.)

They've re-arranged everything since the last time I was here. In 2003, there were two computers serving card catalog functions in one of the entry rooms, and the physical card catalogs (arranged alphabetically by author's name and by the title of the work) were in the hallways.

These two computers and the card catalog have been moved, and so now they're found in the same room. The card catalog room smells not unlike a kindergarten classroom: even though I imagine it gets cleaned on a regular basis, there are decades of grubby patina on the catalog cards. In short, I hope that I find the references for what I need soon, and can then spend my time actually reading things instead of using the catalogs.

The general holdings of the library are also in the computer-based catalog, but you need to know the author or the title; there's no way to do a subject search. Fortunately, I'm working on Morocco, and there's a Morocco computer-based catalog that does allow a subject search.

Apparently, the Bilbilotheque Générale has gotten _much_ better in the last nine years. I can't begin to imagine what it was like beforehand.

These are the things I've looked at so far that have been of any interest: a partial manuscript of the history of Tetouan, and a bunch of maps. These aren't things that I found on my own: instead, a library employee in the archival section who I'd told what it was that I needed found them for me. It's really frustrating to not be able to find what you need by yourself, and to have to depend on the mood and/or knowledge of a particular library employee to dig something up out of an unlabeled box. Alas.

Where I really need to go is to the Hasaniyya library, which is in the palace compound, and which apparently has a lot of things that are relevant to what I'm looking for, specifically, official correspondence having to do with granting/denying permission to the moriscos to live in specific places, and building documentation/building permits/property transfers. I've only been in the Hasaniyya once before. Um, it's a bit of a hike, and the palace compound intimidates me as, I imagine, it's supposed to do.


Blogger Josie said...

Last spring, I came to the conlcusion that the Salle du Maroc does not exist. The Fulbright manual has a lot of problems, some of which I wrote up and gave to them -- but I imagine they didn't all get integrated into a new manual yet. I think that where you go down steps and it says "al-baahithuun" above is what is being referred to as Salle du Maroc. But I only got blanks when I asked about it. I made it out of there with one book I couldn't get anywhere else, nicely copied by the copy girls in there, but that's it...glad I didn't need anything else. I spent most of my time in the manuscript room. They are nice.

8:29 PM  

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