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UMaine’s Franco-American Centre to Distribute Thousands of French Language Books to Maine Communities

March 13th, 2003

March 13, 2003 by Susan Young for UMaine Press

Thousands of books in French will be distributed to communities throughout Maine by the Franco-American Centre at the University of Maine. The books were donated by schools, businesses and individuals in Quebec to strengthen ties between people of French heritage in the United States and Canada, and to help Franco-Americans maintain their culture and language.

The book distribution program was organized by the le Conseil de la Vie Française en Amérique (the Council on French Life in America), a Quebec group that aims to help people of French heritage in North America better understand and maintain their culture and language. The distribution of books will officially be announced by the council in the Hall of Flags in the State House in Augusta at 11 a.m. on March 19. That day has been designated as Franco-American Day by the Maine Legislature.

The donated books, which number between 7,000 and 10,000, arrived at the university’s Franco-American Centre on March 12. They include children’s books, dictionaries, novels and biographies and have an estimated value of $75,000. They will be made available to the public through a distribution planning group from Maine Franco-American communities in the regions of Biddeford-Sanford, Augusta-Waterville, Lewiston-Auburn, Bangor-Old Town, and the St. John Valley. “This firms up further the relationship – through culture and language – that exists between the two regions,” says Yvon Labbé, the director of the Franco-American Centre and a member of the council. “It is nice to be able to give something free to the community,” he adds.

The council was founded in 1937 but was in decline in the 1980s. It was rejuvenated in the late 1990s with a mandate to do more work for Franco-Americans who live in the United States. Thus, the idea for the book collection project was born. Books have previously been collected for distribution in Louisiana. More than 30,000 books were given away there. Labbé says he hopes that more books can be collected and given to other communities in Maine and other New England states.

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Franco American Studies
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Orono, Maine 04469-5742
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The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469