It’s no secret there are European-inspired gems all over. It’s a pleasant surprise, however, when spaces are developed with the intention of bridging cultural gaps and what results is authentic and fresh. We’ve discovered the je ne sais quoi is not just in the architecture, decor and goods, but in the founders and their pain points.
After seeing our own children experience the The French Library with sheer delight, we had to share this French-American gem. A dynamic concept that specializes in French children’s books, it also houses a charming cafe, produces events, and offers French lessons.
The French Library was opened in Uptown New Orleans by Katrina Greer. With a family history rooted in the French language, it was important for Katrina to pass that along to her children. She wanted to create a space for families to spend time together and a place for children learning the French language to buy books that will encourage their pursuits. We were lucky enough to sit down on that beautiful swing sofa to chat more with Katrina.
Why a French Library? Why was it important for it to be rooted with the French language?
I was a really awkward child who lived and dreamed in libraries growing up. I developed a fondness for research and studying at libraries, and as I have grown and established homes for my family, books have always been a huge part of making our house a home.
With a history rooted in the French language, my father attending McGill University in Montréal, and our family spending time in Canada, it was important for me to pass on the French language and other cultures onto my children.
Attending French Immersion schools and nursery, when my eldest child started reading, I found that I had to get French books outside of the country. There was nothing current and available for the kids locally. And with Louisiana having such a rich Cajun and Creole culture, and so many of our traditions based off of French heritage, I thought it would be great to be a part of keeping it alive and promoting literacy. New Orleans is so special and unique. The French Library takes pleasure in supporting that.
We can identify with being awkward bookworms! Love that it sparked the idea of opening the store. What do you hope it will grow into?
As a mum of young children, I wanted to create a space for families to hang out and/or find a cozy nook to cuddle and read together. A library for children, where a little noise and play is met with a smile. Of course, making French books available, and bringing in much of our inventory from France, is a big part of what we do. But who we are is very important to the culture of The French Library. We are family-oriented and believe that every child is someone special. I would love for children to grow up feeling at home around books and nurtured into becoming their authentic selves. Promoting French culture and traditions from around the world and right here in Louisiana, we hope to open doors and minds for our patrons.
Do you employ French parenting techniques in store? At home?
I had to laugh at this one. There is a book, Say Bonjour to The Lady, which compares French versus American parenting. Florence Mars will actually be at our shop for a signing on December 7th. Our staff, most native French speakers, and some of us having learned French through school, vary in our parenting styles. I am admittedly an “American” mum, yet having been raised in the West Indies and Canada, I can be more conservative about certain things, such as etiquette.
Many parents say that the atmosphere in the shop lends to their children behaving with more sophistication when they enter our doors. As I wanted the shop to feel like a home, the design is French traditional and comfortable. Would it be French or American to give a bon bon to the children before they leave the shop?
What would you say the stores mission is? Upcoming plans for the French Library?
The French Library, having been open for a year now, is expanding to retail online, as well as create a subscription package. We continue to strive to be a children’s wonderland locally and via the web, and now with a stable footing, are looking into how we can provide for our community and others. Social responsibility is a big part of who we are. We are currently creating a program in which we can support our French community here, as well as go into other French speaking countries and aid libraries and book shops there.
We are a young brand and a developing concept; but, I would say that building libraries around the World is our philanthropic mission. Our mission overall as a brand is to make sure every child knows that they are special.
Written & Interviewed by: Jillian Greenberg
Photography: Juley Le