Nestled away on a picturesque street in the 7th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower, the American Library in Paris has over the years become an integral feature of the capital city’s cultural landscape. Boasting over 120,000 books and 500 periodicals, it is the largest English-language lending library in mainland Europe. It has patronized American cultural icons including Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein, and is a vital home away from home for thousands of English-speaking expatriates living in the city. And as the institution nears its 100th anniversary it continues to be a beacon for families, students, and lovers of literature.
Like many Parisian institutions that existed throughout the 20th century, the story of the American Library is unfortunately and intrinsically tied in to the story of two world wars. Indeed, Dorothy Reeder — the library’s director up until 1940 — described the institution as a “war baby” due to the fact that the majority of the library’s original collection had been donated by the