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Library booksOne of the best kept secrets in Geneva is the public library system. For greedy reasons, I’m not sure I should share this but Geneva’s seven libraries and four Bibliobuses have English books (as well as German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese).

At first glance one might be intimidated trying to find a book to read. I recall standing in front of the shelves seeing typical authors such as Agatha Christie, Robert Ludlum and Donna Leon. Been there. Read those. Then I started using the on-line catalogue search. Surprisingly several of my book club books – “The Stars’ Tennis Balls,” “Watching the Door,” and “The Children Act” – were actually available in at least one of the libraries; as well as two books by my favorite American author Tony Hillerman. In fact, a book club mate recently snatched up “The Paris Wife” from the Bibliobus before I could get there; thus forcing me to buy the book.


Voice, my Service Dog in-training, at the Eaux-Vives library.

Registration is free to Geneva residents and is possible for neighboring residents of Vaud and France. Geneva residents can go to any of the libraries with their “permis” and complete the paperwork. Within days -maybe a week- your library card will be mailed to your home along with instructions about how to log onto the website. Vaud and neighboring France residents first need to register at a bibliotheque near them that has a cooperative agreement with Geneva. You can find that information and the list of organizations here.

The library homepage website provides a lot of information that you probably aren’t interested in so you can just skip to the relevant pages: Library locations and opening hours and Library catalogue.

Bibliobus bibliobusWhat is a Bibliobus? It is a library on wheels that travels to the suburbs; usually stopping in a school parking lot for several hours. The Bibliobus is managed slightly different from the libraries. You may inscribe directly with your local bus (bring I.D.) and while you can search on-line if a book is available, you must leave a message on the answering machine (or at the bus) to reserve a book, request a book or extend your borrowing time.

A Few Hints

  1. Be aware that the opening times of the smaller libraries can be odd and inconsistent. Always check the website before you go. I have lost count of how many Mondays, lunches or mornings I have shown up and the front door is locked.
  2. If you reserve a book on-line, the first book available will be allocated to you. This means you could have to go to the library in Jonction when you’d rather go to Eaux-Vives.
  3. You can always reserve a book in person at the location you would like to pick it up if your book is in that library’s catalogue.
  4. When you return a book, make sure that it has been registered ‘returned.’ Mistakes can happen with today’s technology. I always ask nicely if there are any other books that are still due.
  5. Useful words are : Carte d’emprunter = Library card. Emprunter = Borrow. Prolonger = Renew (extend). Reserver=Reserve.

I realize I am taking a risk that the next book I want to read has been checked out by you. However, I am also hoping that as more people borrow books in English, the library will buy more books like…blessing-way-tony-hillerman-book-cover-art

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/