| December 2021, Por Julie Imbert


Part of the Médiathèque ‘José Cabanis de Toulouse’ —located in the south of France — is being refurbished. As from now, its employees are going to carry out functions other than personally receiving the books that people return, a task that will instead be handled by a machine. In this photo feature Julie Imbert stops time, capturing snippets of thosehands.

It is said you will never know the value of something until you lose it. Lucette’s hands will never brush Vanessa’s hands again, nor those of Philippe’s, or Barbara’s, or Jean-François’, or Négib’s.

Several hands will be replaced by a metallic device which will swallow those books without a single word being exchanged.

A device. Like the one set up in the boulangerie of Place Saint Pierre to take payments from clients.

Have we ever noticed the care with which these hands receive naked books, covering them, and recording their date of birth? Have we ever stopped to think about how they sometimes even heal their wounds using needles and threads?

Libraries make culture accessible to everybody, even to those who do not have a single penny, those who sleep in a tent and have concrete and fog for breakfast.

Those “small hands” are nearly invisible yet essential to the life of the libraries of Toulouse.

They foster the exchange of seeds (authors, bushes, and flowers), which together sow hope.

The project to photograph hands sprouted in my heart towards the end of 2018, after working for several months along with the employees of the Médiathèque.

They taught me how to take care of books —my precious childhood friends— and I was fascinated at their dexterity.

The first photo I took was that of Kathy while she was sewing a comic book that was exhausted after so much traveling, being passed from hand to hand.

Then, I drove around together with bus drivers in charge of giving out collections, and little by little, I got to know the employees of 21 otherlibraries in the city, including those of the bookmobile.

I have absolute certainty that the same way these hands create a loving network towards books, books express their gratitude by weaving stories among individuals in return.


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