Official Publications

About the Collection of Official Publications and the International Exchange of Publications at Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin is an official collection depot for documents published by government bodies and other institutions under public law in Germany, and the national centre for the exchange of official documents between states. It procures German documents for exchange and collects the official documents put up for exchange by foreign countries, with a key focus on the publications of national authorities and parliaments. The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin receives a full set of documents published by authorities in the United States, Canada and Japan. It is the deposit library for publications by international organisations, primarily the United Nations (UNO since 1956) and the European Union (formerly European Communities, since 1963). Other organisations of international political significance that submit their publications to the Staatsbibliothek free of charge are UNESCO, the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Collection Development and Metadata curates the collection of official documents; it procures the official documents, logs them in library databases and adds them to the general inventory. One exception is US federal government and congress documents, 95% of which have been delivered in microfiche form since 1982. Rather than being logged in a database, these microfiches are generally assembled as a special collection within the department, and can be borrowed from the General Reading Room.

Historical Overview

Following an administrative agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and the state of Hessen, the department was established in 1956 as a national exchange centre at the former Westdeutsche Bibliothek (West German Library) in Marburg. In July 1958, the federal government issued a decree regulating the delivery of publications required by the department for exchange purposes. Similar regulations were introduced in the individual states. This function was reaffirmed in 1969 when Germany signed up to the 1958 UNESCO convention on the exchange of official publications and government documents between states. The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin is responsible for implementing the terms of this agreement. From an organisational point of view, the department’s predecessor was the Reichstauschstelle (German Reich Exchange Centre, 1926-1945), which was administratively affiliated to the Preußische Staatsbibliothek (Prussian State Library).

After the federal government issued its decree regulating the submission of official publications to public libraries in May 1958, collecting free copies of official publications by government authorities and other associated public institutions also became the department’s responsibility. It was also charged with administering the collection of parliamentary documents - a main acquisition focus since 1953 - and the library’s function as a repository for publications issued by international organizations. To reflect these developments, the department was renamed the Department Official Publications and International Exchanges in 1961.

The tradition of collecting official publications from both home and abroad in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin goes back to the time when it served as the Königliche Bibliothek (Royal Library, 1701-1918). Germany’s most comprehensive collection of parliamentary documents contains holdings from the 18th and 19th centuries. In a ruling comparable to contemporary regulations, an 1862 decree required Prussian authorities to submit their publications to the Königliche Bibliothek. A similar decree from the years 1927/29 obliged all Reich authorities to submit copies of all their documents to the Preußische Staatsbibliothek. After 1958, the Westdeutsche Bibliothek (renamed Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz, or State Library - Prussian Cultural Foundation in 1962) resumed the systematic collection of German official publications. It was one of four main collection centres in the Federal Republic of Germany. In the GDR, the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek (German State Library) fulfilled a similar function until 1990. Since the merging of the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek and the Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz, this work had been continued by the Department Official Publications and International Exchanges and is now administered by the Collection Building Department.