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For Research and Culture

The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

As the largest scientific universal library in Germany, the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin State Library – Prussian Cultural Heritage) is a central supplier of national and international literature.

More than 11 million volumes of printed material alone have accumulated since the library was founded in 1661. The collection comprises over 2.2 million additional printed works and other, often unique, materials in the special collections – these include western and oriental manuscripts, music autographs, estates and deposits, personal collections, maps, and historic newspapers. The library’s collection also contains more than 10 million microforms and, in the picture library, over 12 million motifs. Furthermore, a constantly increasing number of databases and other electronic resources complement the collection. The quality of its collections and its diverse services characterise the special prestige of the library worldwide.

The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (SBB-PK) is part of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK) (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), which is funded by all the Länder (Federal States) and the Federal Government. The library’s historic collections are closely related to the collections of other SPK institutions; they cover all specialist areas and are continually being expanded. For the modern collections, with emphasis on humanities and social sciences, scientifically relevant literature of various depths of content is acquired. The library continuously acquires and preserves literature from all periods, all countries, in all languages, as well as in every form. Moreover, the central task of the library is to index this literature and make it available.

The operation, maintenance, continued expansion and modernisation of the buildings and locations, along with their stacks, reading rooms and offices facilitate the fulfilment of the library’s national and international tasks. The wide range of the library staff’s qualifications further assists in successfully carrying out these tasks.

The library’s services are designed to assist users with their research in the holdings of the Staatsbibliothek, in databases, and in worldwide accessible information resources and to make them beneficial for their scientific research purposes.

The Staatsbibliothek keeps the largest part of its collection in closed stacks; therefore it is of great importance that the collection, which is unique in its composition, is comprehensively searchable and made readily available. Precise indexing of the holdings, their electronic catalogue records and efficient user services guarantee that this is possible.

As an archive library with the mission to collect and preserve national and world cultural heritage, the Staatsbibliothek and its funding bodies attach great importance to the protection and preservation of the library’s holdings. Selected items are kept under the best conservational conditions by means of modern vault and corresponding security technology. In technically well-equipped workshops, experts for book conservation and restoration ensure the preservation of cultural heritage.

A library with two locations

The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin is located in two notable listed buildings (cultural heritage) in the centre of the German capital: one at the boulevard Unter den Linden and the other at the Kulturforum/Potsdamer Straße. The distribution of the library’s holdings between these two sites means that the placement of the collections, as well as the offered services have to be well thought out in relation to the respective site. It is our aim that – despite the physical separation of the institution – our readers can rely on a compact and modern service. For this purpose, the two locations have been given a clear outline and profile for the coming years:

Historical Research Library Unter den Linden

The location Haus Unter den Linden has been developed into the Historical Research Library. On this site the unique historical stock, which focuses primarily on items published before 1945, is kept in stacks and is being expanded retroactively. The open-access shelves in the general reading room and in the Information Centre offer literature of all periods of the pre-modern era, whose end was marked by the turn of the 19th to 20th century. After the end of the general refurbishment of the building, the material-related special departments for manuscripts, music, maps, children’s and young people’s books, as well as newspapers, will be situated in the Haus Unter den Linden.

Modern Research Library Potsdamer Straße

The Haus Potsdamer Straße 33 has been developed into the Modern Research Library. The modern holdings, with items published from 1946 onwards, will be further expanded and stored in stacks. Thematically, the general reading room will reflect that of Haus Unter den Linden, continuing the timeline, it will present literature relating to the Modern Era up to the present day; universal reference material to all eras complement this literature which is available on open access shelves. The regionally-specific special departments for literature and other materials from Eastern Europe, East Asia and the Orient will remain at this location.

Building for Research and Culture

In order for the library to achieve these goals, extensive building work has been carried out on Haus Unter den Linden since the mid-1990s. Additionally the library has opened an off-site storage facility in Friedrichshagen.  

National and international tasks

The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

•    manages and supervises Special Subject Collections and Specialist Information Services for the Sciences;

•    is home to the Koordinierungsstelle für die Erhaltung des schriftlichen Kulturguts (Coordination Office for the Preservation of the Written Cultural Heritage), KEK;

•    conducts the editorial supervision of the Gemeinsame Körperschaftsdatei (Corporate Bodies Authority File), GKD;

•    operates and develops the national library network ZeitschriftenDatenBank (periodicals database), ZDB;

•    runs the ISIL-Agentur (ISIL agency, International Standard Identifier for Libraries and Related Organizations) in cooperation with other German libraries; as well as the Sigelstelle (Library code agency)

•    maintains the Kompetenzzentrum für die Lizensierung elektronischer Ressourcen (Competence Centre for the Licensing of Electronic Resources), which is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation), DFG;

•    continues to carry out numerous projects with national and international impact and presence, including the Europeana-Project designed by the SBB-PK or the restoration of Johann Sebastian Bach’s autographs.

Overcoming the Consequences of War and Division

Like no other library in Germany, the Staatsbibliothek still has to overcome the consequences of the Second World War and the division of Germany. The initial building at Unter den Linden in the Eastern part of Berlin and the Haus Potsdamer Straße, which opened in the Western part of the city in 1978, had been institutionally and physically separated for over forty years. In January 1992 they were merged under the auspices of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.  

Initially the merging of the staff and services of both locations was in the forefront. Since the mid-2000s, the focus has been on the intensive modernization and expansion of the buildings, the further development of services as well on setting clear profiles for the holdings of each of the locations.  

It should be noted that some of the holdings evacuated during the war are still in libraries in Eastern Europe; that which had grown historically remains broken up, that which belongs together, separated. An illustrative example of this is the original score of Beethoven’s 8th Symphony: although the first, second and fourth movements are in Berlin, the third is in Krakow.
Concurrently the Staatsbibliothek is making intensive efforts to identify NS-looted books, which found its way into the holdings during the National Socialist Era, and to restore these items to their rightful owners as quickly as possible.