Alexander Vattemare: Father of Interlibrary Loan

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Government and Heritage Library (GHL) has a new exhibit in our reading room containing some of our rarely displayed books. The new exhibit, Alexandre Vattemare: Father of Interlibrary Loan, helps celebrate Library Card Sign-up Month by exploring how many of our rare and unique books made their way into our collection. 

Alexander Vattemare: Father of Interlibrary Loan exhibit in the State Library reading room.

Alexandre Vattemare: Father of Interlibrary Loan

Frenchman Alexandre Vattemare, a ventriloquist by trade, was also a visionary philanthropist. Concerned with lack of public access to library resources, he devoted his time to creating a systeme d’exchange international of books. His book exchange was implemented throughout the world, but particularly in Europe and the United States. Today, books and other documents exchanged through Vattemare's system can be found in libraries worldwide, including the State Library of North Carolina.

North Carolina’s Participation

Vattemare’s efforts roused support of the progressive 1848-1849 General Assembly of North Carolina. In the Proceedings of the General Assembly of North Carolina on the subject of International Changes: sessions 1848-1849, the Assembly regarded the systeme d’exchange international as a “wise and feasible means of disseminating knowledge and preserving the relations of peace among the nations of the earth.” Consequently, the State Library of North Carolina became a participant in the exchange. 

During North Carolina’s brief association with Vattemare, the State Library of North Carolina acquired approximately 164 volumes, ranging in date from 1526-1850. Subjects range from agriculture, criminology, geography, history, and religion. Catalogue of Books Belonging to the North Carolina State Library contains a listing of the books the State Library of North Carolina acquired through the systeme d’exchange international

Look for the Stamp

One of the gifts of Vattemare, M. Fabii Quintiliani, oratoris eloquentissimi, Institutionum oratoriarum libri XII, is currently on display. This volume dates to 1538 and is one of the oldest books in the State Library’s collection. We know this is a gift from Vattemare because it contains a stamp, visible on the displayed title page, with the name of the program. Congress required Vattemare to stamp the exchanges with the name of the program. 

Official Systeme D’Exchange International stamp

Come in today and see this and other rarely displayed books from our rare book collection. 

Get a Library Card!

While viewing the display, sign up for a library card with the Government and Heritage Library (GHL). With a GHL library card, patrons can participate in the modern version of systeme d’exchange international, known as Interlibrary Loan, to access books in the North Carolina Cardinal Consortium.

Can’t make it to the library? Find the application on our “Library Card” webpage and email the form to

Jennifer Blomberg, Collections Manager