Summer break


Not so much inspirations these days. With the dramatic events that occurred in France lately, the atmosphere at work is morose. Anyway, we travelled through the country again this summer, this time we visited another part of South Eastern France which is located just a hundred miles above the city of Montpellier : les Cévennes !

So, what about this national parc ? It’s an area of middle elevation mountains where you can find wild and arid plateaus, we call them “Causse”, in french. On the “Causse Méjean”, people are bringing up a species of horses native from Mongolia : the Przewalski horse. They are helping these particular horses not to disappear by reintroducing them in their natural environment after raising them, here is what the Causse Méjean looks like :


Of course there are numerous areas where you can go for a walk and observe wildlife, especially birds of prey. We had the chance not to be in the open air as a heat storm broke out, some can be redoubtable in this region. Here is a picture of that day (on another Causse) :


There are many other points of interest in the Cévennes, since you can bump on ancient traditional villages every ten miles, Vézénobres is one of them :


Other typical cities are much bigger, here is Uzès and its famous castle, which holds the premier title in the peerage of France :


And, everywhere you go, markets and night markets, farm products are so diverse down there that you can eat different dishes every day and experiment new tastes without limits :

Night Market

Now we’ve already been back to work for a fortnight ; while colleagues from all other the world are attending the IFLA annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, we’re awaiting the next coming “Rentrée Littéraire” ! Lots of books are about to enter the library, just waiting for them :


Studying Chinese (6) – From learning in a class to studying on your own


Five years now. Five years and the interest has not been decreasing, much to the contrary ! It seems that the more I am studying mandarin chinese, the more I am spending time on it, and on and on.

So, what can you tell about these five years ? The most obvious thing for me is that it’s very demanding, but also very rewarding. When you learn chinese, you have the feeling you are approaching not only one language, but three languages at the same time, since by learning one word you are learning :

  • the strokes of the character
  • the pinyin transliteration
  • the tones

And of course you must remember the sense of that word, considering that sometimes one word can have different meanings, depending on the context, like in any other language.  That means that, apart from homophony problems that are the main difficulties when speaking chinese, a written word can have different meanings, for instance 花, which can mean “flower”, or… “spend money”, but sometimes you are lucky when there are only two meanings.


Another thing I learned from that tortuous path, is that you’ve got to take ownership of your learning.

I had fast felt that the exercises that were given to us laborious learners were not enough, should I try to boost my level of understanding. But quite one year ago, I really felt that deeply, noticing that during the last six months attending that weekly course, the progress I was making was mainly due to my own work at home. I think during that time our chinese teacher was less concerned by our learning than by her return back home after her few years in France, but anyway, who will blame her ?

At that time I decided that after four years of group learning, it was high time for me to get a grip on my learning. I already had begun to work on written material, but I’ve been emphasizing that ever since, and I think I made a great leap forward (!) by following that fantastic MOOC I already talked about at the end of a previous post.

Not only did this MOOC make me progress in my understanding of chinese grammar, but it especially encouraged me to find video material that I can follow less harshly than, say, one year ago.


So, what will come next ?

  • Reading, mainly online with the help of dedicated platforms like Decipher Chinese or The Chairman’s Bao.
  • Watching chinese series, for instance you cand find some on YoYo Series Channels, including chinese subtitles, which is essential for understanding.
  • Again & again, reviewing characters on Pleco app, and very soon the Outlier Dictionary of Chinese Characters will be available.
  • Also I’d like to begin to learn traditional characters, at least for the most common. Simplified characters are by far the most widespread, but I am realizing that the traditional form is essential to really have a full approach of the chinese language, I feel I am missing something.




Feel like travelling ? Books are our best companions !

Our taste in reading may change, depending on our mood ; these days I’ve been reading books that took me far away, three books that made me travel on the whole planet :


The first one is from Philippe J. Dubois, french author and ornithologist. Some of his birds guides have been translated in english, but I don’t think this one has.

In this book he recalls his most fantastic expeditions : wandering through Chitwan Park in Nepal, Dubois comes close to a tiger (!), in Myanmar he has to cope with extremely suspicious authorities, in Morocco they have repetitive problems with an old Peugeot car. On another expedition he’s lucky to discover Siberia at the beginning of the 90’s, just after the opening of Russia to foreign visitors, and this time he travels as far as Sakhalin Island and then back to the continent.

Alaska, Georgia (in the Caucasus), Mongolia, Antarctica, Dubois went everywhere on the planet, and the last chapter is set in Ouessant Island, most western point of Brittany (and most western point of mainland France), well-known spot for birdwatchers.

I’ve always been interested in wildlife, as a kid I was devouring books about animals, but it kind of vanished later. From time to time, I find books that rekindle this interest, and here is one that is marvellous.


From fauna to flora, it’s just the distance to the second book : “La route du thé”, from Julie Klein & Philippe Devouassoux, a young french couple who travelled on foot through chinese Sichuan and Yunnan regions.

route du thé

A lot of people know about the ancient silk road, but the tea road is far less known, that’s what they decided to explore : during 5 months, they walked more than 2000 miles and gathered information on a dedicated blog.

The first part is dedicated to Yunnan, from Pu’erh to Deqen, at the gate of Tibet. The second part goes from Ya’an to Xinlong, discovering Sichuan region. Julie & Philippe were autonomous, so they were able to stop anywhere to put up their tiny tent, but they often encountered locals that offered to host them. Travelling on foot, they could testify that language differs a lot from one place to another (especially in Yunnan, where there are a lot of ethnic minorities), and so does the food, they make us discover an incredible variety in tastes. I hope one day this book will be translated, it’s a fantastic testimony about travelling by yourself and meeting local traditions, I highly recommend it !


Le grand marin

This last one is more an adventure novel than a book about travel. Catherine Poulain is an incredible little french woman, she worked in a canning factory in Iceland, she was a barmaid in Hong Kong and she went fishing for ten years in “the last frontier”, yes it is, Alaska, that’s the subject of this book.

“Le grand marin” (“The great sailor”) is one of these books that you cannot drop until you finish it. It carries you along a whirlwind of sounds, smells, encounters, waves and wind. It’s the story of Lili, who will decide on a whim to leave the smoky bars of Manosque in southern France to travel alone as far as Kodiak island. This wild adventure is filled with a lot of sensations : fear, cold, extreme tiredness, intense joy, everything is mixed and the blazing style helps to the pleasure of reading. Just by turning the pages, you can transport yourself over there, sail with her, and that is the magic of reading, it’s all about escaping from the real world and dive in fiction.


Relax and go to Bordeaux


All right now, it has been a long winter, with a great (but reasonable) amount of workload, so when we saw spring vacations coming, we wondered with my wife where to go : Lisbon, Madrid, London, Berlin, Rome, Vienna ? Then we remembered France is the world’s leading tourist destination, with wonderful regions and some of them we didn’t even visit.

On our wishlist is Tourraine with its gorgeous castles, Burgundy with its great wines and gastronomy, and the Bordeaux region, world famous destination for people who like wine, but also home of the “three M” : Montaigne, Montesquieu, and Mauriac (eventually, we only saw one of those residences). The effective argument was that my wife has a cousin living in Bordeaux, and so do I, of course we decided this time to go visit Bordeaux…and our cousins !


Bordeaux is located in the south-western part of France, in the Aquitaine region, along the Garonne river. Of course this is a decisive location for trade, that’s why Bordeaux has been for centuries one of the most important cities in France. For a long time home of a commercial harbour, the north part of the city along the river is now a landmark for trendy boutiques and popular bars. Sometimes you almost think you’re in Paris, sometimes you may believe you’re in New York City !


The town holds many beautiful pieces of architectural heritage, among them the Saint-Michel Basilica, which bell tower is independent from the church, it’s very curious (yes, it’s the one on the second photo from top). Bordeaux is also home of the largest independent bookstore in France : librairie Mollat. Its leader recently published a manifesto defending independent boookstores, here is what the store looks like from the outside :

Outside Mollat

and of course we did hang around its gorgeous shelves :

Inside Mollat


After three days in Bordeaux, we hit the west to drive around the bassin d’Arcachon, a very peculiar natural space just beneath the Atlantic Ocean. Here you have the opportunity to visit tiny typical fishing villages :



You can climb the largest and highest dune in Europe, the great dune of Pyla :



Or you can stroll around Arcachon winter town, which has the outmoded charm of 20th century seaside resorts with its gardens full of flowers and its surprising villas, for instance the Alexander Dumas villa :



Then it was time to go back to Bordeaux’s hinterland, more precisely the Entre-Deux-Mers region, where we were lucky to visit François Mauriac’s historical domain : Malagar. Not so much tourists the day we went (and not so good weather, too), so we quite had a personal visit, with a great presentation of the life of this important literary figure of the 20th century.


And I discovered back in Rennes that a novel around this subject just got published, for a matter of fact the cover photo looks very similar to mine, isn’t it ?



Entre-Deux-Mers is a famous wine producing region, you can visit vineries like Cadillac-Côtes-de-Bordeaux, you’re close to Pessac-Léognan and it’s also the home of the Graves vineyards, we didn’t want to miss the Maison des Vins de Graves where we bought a few red and white wines :



Our last day was a sunny day, so before driving back to Brittany, we had a wonderful time at one of the most famous wine city in the world, Saint-Emilion, it’s on the Unesco World Heritage List :


Why we must support independent editing !


Damn it, it’s been a long time since I haven’t been posting here… Blame it to the end of the winter, less energy with all those rainy days, and also I’ve been spending long hours of steady work to prepare for HSK4, the international standardized exam which tests and rates Chinese language proficiency.

So let’s come back to the library, let’s come back to books, and this time let’s talk about publishers, especially independent publishers. Initially I intended to post about « Les Allusifs » editor, a new « postcard from the shelves » post, but a happy coincidence made me listen to a great radio program this morning, about independent edition.

This is the first episode of a series that will be proposed every day this week. So, if you can understand french language and if you are curious about editing, this is tremendously interesting, and of course the programs will continue to be accessible on France-Culture website for months and months.

The commentator, Florian Delorme, invited in this first program Liana Lévi, who is an editor of Italian origin (on my photo, the first book on top left has been published by Liana Lévi). She has been publishing in France since 1982, so she knows what she is talking about when it comes down to independent edition. Together they call to mind the historical figures of André Schiffrin, and other participants are intervening on the phone : Sandro Veronesi, an italian author, Octavio Kulesz, an argentin publisher, and Tynan Kogane, from New Directions, a NY-based publisher, who claims that the force of independent edition is in its peculiarity ; he’s much more optimistic than Liana Lévi on the future of independent editing.

I was so enthusiastic about the program that the first thing I did afterwards was to pick up books from independent publishers in my living-room, and to take a picture, just to show the diversity of the covers, of the subjects tackled, and how it’s refreshing and different from « big » editors.


Les Allusifs


Oh, I forgot to talk about « Les Allusifs ». Twelve years ago, I remember I used to begin to buy novels for the public library where I was working at the time. Since I had been working previously in a music section, it was all fresh and new for me, and I had to rapidly deepen my knowledge of french publishers.

I remember I thoroughly enjoyed discovering all those little independent publishers. Some new may appear from time to time, but unfortunately, some also disappear. Three years ago, I thought the french publisher “Les Allusifs” was about to disappear : only two publications in 2012…one in 2013, but 2014 was a better year with 8 publications, as well as 2015. And now it seems to be back in the game, we just received this week a new book from “Les Allusifs”, with its recognizable circle around the title of the book.

We must not forget Independent publishers are the salt of contemporary publishing. Aside from often boring big editors, they draw their own path and propose different texts, different voices, different views in the worlds of fiction. You can find a lot of those precious publishers in France : Allia, Minuit, Verdier, Philippe Picquier, Le Mot et le Reste, Zulma, Le Dilettante, etc…but les Allusifs has a special taste for me. I am fond of their graphic editing, they publish authors coming from the five continents, and the translations are often immaculate (which is not always the case with so-called “big” editors”). Fine work, isn’t it ?

As individuals and as librarians, we must continue to support independent edition, it’s truly a breath of fresh air on our shelves !



International Librarians Network : exchange with colleagues around the world

a globe

CC Bailey Cheng


This one is for fellow librarians who consider it’s important to exchange on their job in order to progress and to make other progress : today I will talk about a program I have been involved in for a year and a half, the ILN !

The International Librarians Network is a facilitated peer-mentoring program : you apply, the ILN brings you into contact with another librarian in the world, and a four-month partnership begins, during which you will be able to share ideas and experience internationally, also to build your global network.

3500 participants since 2013, 120 different countries, and 80% want to sign again, so this is a truly international program, the only constraint being you must exchange in english language. There are regular propositions of subjects to be discussed, facilitated online group discussions and twitter chats.

Here is a video promotion of the program :



The ILN uses a model where all participants are treated as equals who have valuable experiences to share. This means that partners are not placed into established mentor/protégé roles, but rather are encouraged to view their partnership as a way to learn from each other ; all are mentors and all are protégés.

So why participate in the ILN peer mentoring program?

Through the ILN program you can:

  1. Rediscover your own valuable skills by sharing your experiences with your partner
  2. Gain new perspectives on your profession
  3. Build your professional network with colleagues around the globe
  4. Find new ideas that you can use in your library
  5. Develop new professional skills

Don’t wait, applications are now open for the next round of the ILN. it’s an amazing opportunity to get your very own international peer-mentor (and be one too) and it’s completely free. But hurry, applications must close on Monday 15 February 2016 !

About MOOCs : experience feedback and perspectives



I first heard about MOOCs quite…two years ago, I guess ? I tested out a few courses on the french dedicated platform, and I came away with mixed impressions. Opportunely, we had an in-house training lately on this topic at the library with my workmates, so I think it’s time for me now to :

  1. make you benefit from what I experienced tooking part in those MOOCs.
  2. review the different kinds of MOOCS, in english and french language.

By the way, what is hiding behind this curious acronym ? MOOC : Massive Open Online Course. It’s about learning things on the internet, at your pace, with many other people…whom you’ll never meet. Said something like that, it’s quite seductive, but reality doesn’t match the promise, we’ll see why.



1. Experiencing MOOCs : how you must be determined and motivated

Up to now, I’ve tried five MOOCS, let’s see how I went through each one of them :

  • “Introduction à HTML5 – Animations et jeux – session 1”, that was an introduction to the HTML5 web language. This MOOC stretched out on 7 weeks, I went through….two and a half. Not that I wasn’t motivated, but I guess I was short of time.
  • Python : des fondamentaux à l’utilisation du langage. That one was about Python language, much harder than the previous. Despite having practiced programming in my school years, I did not go that far. Again 7 weeks for this one, I only went through three. I tried to be the most serious I could, but I think this time the content was too abstract for me, I lacked prerequisites in coding.
  • Web sémantique et Web de données – session 1. This was about semantic web and linked data, so it’s definitely connected with the librarian’s skills. Yet again, it was displayed through 7 weeks, I only went through two.
  • Découper le temps : les périodes de l’histoire ; I subscribed to this course because I was interested in the subject : “divide time, the periods in history”. I am a complete moron since I…didn’t even have the time to start this one. But because I have joined this course, I am able to access its content, even if it’s over now.
  • Last but not least Open Wine University – Université de la vigne et du vin pour tous (!). You’ve understood this one is about wine, yes 5 weeks to know more about wines ! From growing the vines to tasting the wines, this one was exciting, but during the third week you had to buy different wines to taste and compare your impressions, so I quited.

Well, what can I say about all this ? I enrolled on 5 MOOCS, I didn’t even finish one. Ok, studies show that few people bring the MOOCs they choose to an end, but actually, I reached half the journey only for one MOOC among the five I tried : the one concerning the wine, well I guess…I’m definitely French (!).



More seriously, if you are interested in a MOOC, don’t hesitate to register : on at least two occasions, I know I didn’t have the time to start the MOOC on the week of its beginning. Anyway, I started it one or two weeks later, and it’s not a problem, a lot of people do that, because you do things at your pace, and that is really fantastic.

Secondly, you have to be careful about the prerequisites. Some MOOCs are for beginners, some others for intermediate, some apply to professionals. If you are not sure of your level, you’d better chose the lower one, I assure you.

Finally, attending a MOOC requires time, you’ve got be aware of that. It sure depends on your agenda, but you’ve got to have a serious motivation if you plan to reach the end of the road.



2. A (very) brief panorama

If we try to have an overall view on MOOCs, we must not forget that we’ll have a look at the current situation, as for January 2016. There are many economic players in this sector, they tend to gather to have more weight, so there may be less players in one or two years from now. We’ll only mention the main platforms, first in english language, then in french :


a. in english :

If you’re looking for a MOOC directory, such a tool exists, it’s called MOOC-LIST. Among the abundance of propositions, you can say there are two main platforms in the Anglo-Saxon world. The first is a paying one, it’s called Coursera, prices depend on the MOOC you choose.

The second is based on a freemium model and it’s called Edx. The courses are free but you can support the initiative on a dedicated page. Last month I discovered on Edx a fantastic MOOC about chinese grammar.  So yes…I enrolled for my sixth MOOC. I am completing the second week these days, it’s an excellent tool when you’re around HSK3-HSK4 level :




Not only does it present key points in chinese grammar in a very clear manner, but it also makes you learn phrase patterns, revise your vocabulary and learn some more. What is very useful is that all the course is subtitled in characters. Without that, I would even have begun, this is of great help : you can pause the course anytime to search the meaning of the character(s) you don’t understand. It’s better to watch it on a tablet : the subtitles come along at the bottom of the screen. On a laptop they are at the right side of the screen and it’s less convenient. So, it’s a great way to practise your chinese and learn essential grammar rules, I highly recommend it !


b. en français :

This may be unique in the whole world : the french Ministry of Education is subsidizing the FUN platform, that’s a great chance we have to access a lot of MOOCs totally free of charge.

A similar platform is providing courses in Canada, it’s called Edulib, and it’s highly advisable.

All in all, MOOCs are one of the best new tools education has to offer to everyone. Just pick up the right one for you, prepare to devote time and time again (but as you should if you had to attend a live course, anyway), and…walk the road to learning and beware the traps !





Studying Chinese (5) – new free resources


Today I will try to make chinese learners discover useful resources. Those may not be new to everyone but I found them relevant this year. We will focus on three resources, according to the level of the learner they address to :


1. CHINESE SKILL, elementary level

This one is designed for primary learners, around HSK2. It allows you to review your vocabulary, and to learn new words and phrases. You make our way through separate lessons, and you can access the next block of lessons only if you succeeded in finishing the previous one :

chinese skill


In each lesson, you encounter various exercises : you can be asked to recognize a word, or to put together its separate parts :


chinese skill


There are multiple-choice questions, and you must find the correct order for words in simple phrases :


chinese skill


It may appear very simple in the examples above, but as you progress through the levels, it becomes harder and harder. It’s a good app to help you remember your chinese vocabulary, and it’s much less boring than flashcards ! It also makes you study your oral understanding, since some exercises require listening comprehension. The themes are numerous and varied, it’s a lot of fun, so this is definitely helpful for “upper-beginners”.

You can download the app right here.



2. DECIPHER CHINESE, intermediate level

God, how long did I wait for such an app ? One of the many difficulties to tackle with when you learn chinese is to find some correct reading material. I found some through the years, I described that previously, but I lacked some fresh material. You know….those damned stories talking about legends or pandas, it’s so boring sometimes.

So I must say it was a huge breath of fresh air when I stumbled upon Decipher Chinese lately :


decipher chinese


Not only does this app offer recent press articles in chinese, but it also suggests the audio transcriptions of the phrases of the article. Ok, it’s voice synthesis, but it’s better than nothing. Words or expressions that are hard to understand are explained when you highlight the “book” icons. :


decipher chinese


Under each word, you will find a colored line corresponding to the HSK level of the word, it’s just fantastic. For a better understanding, you can also highlight each character to disclose its english translation :


decipher chinese


This is a must-have, nearly the app of the year in my humble opinion, and a major step for chinese learners.

You can grab it here !



3. 电视家, advanced level

It’s the most performing app on Android platforms to watch chinese televisions.

I might already have mentioned this app on polybri, and I use it steadily, even if sometimes I can only decipher a few characters in the subtitles. Anyway it’s important to listen to the language you are learning, to absorb the pronunciation, even if you don’t understand every thing that happens on the screen. It now comes in 2.7 version :




Browsing through the app is relatively intuitive. There are more than 200 channels, some of them in high-definition, great quality indeed :




Available on the playstore here, go for it !

Photography : from compact to mirrorless camera


In my last post, I talked about how the conservation of your photos is a sensible topic in the digital age. Now let’s talk more precisely about photography, and how you can change your point of view, from being a total amateur to trying to better understand what you are actually doing.

I’ve always considered photography as a pure leisure. Despite having briefly studied analog photography as a complementary course at the college, I never engaged in practicing it seriously. Nonetheless, I’ve always been fascinated by the power of image and I tried to take full advantage of my poor material. Last spring, we traveled a few days in Porto, and my camera showed moments of weakness :




I understood it was time for a change. I’ve never used my camera very often, it was more of a practical object I could carry along, most of the time when I’m travelling. Thus, I never put much money in it, I’ve used three different compact cameras in 12 years of photo(graphy). But this time I wanted something better. I wanted to be able to have more control on my photos, and I could afford it.

So I paced up and down magazines, blogs, forums and friends for a whole month to find out what could fit to my desires…and to my bank account (!). I found out there are three main types of cameras nowadays : compact cameras, bridges cameras, and DSLRs. But, but but, a new type emerged two years ago : mirrorless cameras. They combine the variety of adjustement you can find in DSLRs with the low bulk of compact cameras. And…you can change the lens !

During the June sales, I was lucky to grab a bargain : an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, with…three lenses : a short-range zoom lens, a wide-range zoom lens and a fixed lens :


om-d e-m5


Lucky man, now I can test out a large range of focal lenghts and I must say that I am just beginning to understand what photography really is, a world of patience, precision, attention and open-mindedness. I will not tackle technical details since this is a brand new territory for me and I am kind of a newbie, but what I can say is that now I can photograph things like I never did before, especially with the fixed lens. This is the kind of image I could never have taken with my old Samsung compact camera :




Sometimes you feel you got to go one stage further in your learning or your understanding of a technical field. It can take some time, some training, some money, but it’s always worth the price. Like I read lately on twitter : “If you are not constantly learning, you’re not staying ahead of the game”.

This last photo is for the memory of the victims of the 11/13 Paris attacks :



What is your numeric weight ?

“No space left on hard drive”, how many times did you encounter this message ?



Since I am a librarian, not so many times, because I do carefully and regularly monitor how much free space I can rely on on my devices. But the more the years pass, the more you pile stacks and stacks of data, it’s ineluctable.

At the beginning of this year, my good old MacPro 1.1 let go, after seven years of hard and steady work. Even if I could not upgrade it beyond OS 10.7, it fulfilled my needs more than enough and it was a surprise to have to consider a new environment. I didn’t need as much power anymore, yet  I am accustomed to the mac system environment, so I decided to stick to it and to go for a mac mini. The crash of the main drive of my mac pro (the SSD drive) was sudden, probably due to an overvoltage release. Fortunately, the main data were not on the system drive, I had them on two internal IDE drives, but it was hard work to sort all those files and reorganize them onto the mac mini. So came the problem of the weight of all those data and how you protect it from threats.

After all those years, my personal data add up to approximately 600 Go of files, split up onto two partitions on my mac mini. Eventually, after almost 20 years of unprotected power supplies, I’ve bought a UPS, I don’t want this winter misadventure to recur. I also bought a second-hand 2 To Time Capsule on ebay, just in case the main drive of my mac mini crashes :

Time Capsule

In addition, every month, I make a full copy of the main drive of my mac mini on an external USB hard drive, because you never know what could happen. The best example is this story I read online recently from a french blogger : she was burglarized, and the thieves stole his computer. Outcome : 15 years of personal photos volatilized ! This happens everyday, in a few seconds I just found another example.

The question of photos is highly sensitive. All in all, I don’t care a lot if my MP3s, my ebooks, my videos disappear in outer space. BUT NOT MY PHOTOS. Twelve years of photos, that’s the most precious digital data I have, I don’t want to lose it, at no cost. Ultimately, cloud storage is an additionnal protection from loss. There are not so many solutions if you don’t want to pay for that, I had the chance a couple of months ago to grab a 50 Go free cloud storage from BOX, that’s where I put down copies of all my photos now.

But there is much more to say about photography, that will be the subject of the next post !