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Service point of the University Library Greifswald (2016)
Book store of the library of the Volkskundemuseum in Vienna
First software library of the GDR in the city ​​and district library of Dresden (1989)

A library or library is a service facility that gives its users access to information . In view of the variety of content that libraries collect, a library can be broadly defined as a collection of published information. Libraries collect, develop, preserve and make information available. This is mostly done through the provision of media , digital content and services.

Current library card of the Bavarian State Library

Access and use are mostly free and free of charge; in some cases, loans are required for a fee. Most libraries are financed with taxpayers' money; as well as ecclesiastical , public and private organizations and companies maintain libraries.

A central service of the libraries is to make media available for use. In many cases, users can borrow them and take them with them from the library for a set period of time. Reference libraries only offer the use of media within the library's own rooms without lending facilities. Some libraries also offer assistance in the publication of your own texts or teaching materials to (for example, as a publisher of a university or provision of infrastructure for the e-learning ), the teaching of information literacy (mostly in academic libraries ) or promotion of reading skills (mostly on public Libraries ). The central work processes are the acquisition and sorting of media as well as the cataloging of media, the activities in the library magazine and the lending desk .

In addition to printed media (such as books and magazines), more and more libraries now also offer digital media (such as e-books , DVDs or electronic magazines ) and have digital libraries accessible on the Internet . Here there are often restrictions with regard to the group of users who are authorized to access, which can be attributed to licensing regulations of the electronic media publishers.

Libraries are considered part of cultural heritage and are a primary target in many state and domestic conflicts, threatened by destruction, looting and robbery to finance the conflicts. Blue Shield International operates national and international coordination with regard to military and civil structures for the protection of libraries . From an international perspective, despite the partial dissolution of state structures and very unclear security situations as a result of the wars and unrest, robust undertakings are being carried out to protect the libraries. This also applies to the creation of "no-strike lists" in which the coordinates of important cultural monuments such as libraries are preserved.

Word origin and definition

With moving mobile shelving as here in the magazine of the Library of the University of British Columbia space is saved, the 2012th

The word "library" was taken from the Greek . Already in ancient times the word βιβλιοθήκη biblio-thḗkē referred to a "book container". This can be a room with shelves, a box or a box, called "scrinium" or "capsa" by the Romans. "Bücherei" is a loan translation from Dutch introduced in 1658 by Johann Amos Comenius . The solitary building was only identified with the term “library” in the 18th century.

The term “library” has been defined often and in different ways in the literature on library science. A frequently quoted modern definition comes from Gisela Ewert and Walther Umstätter : "The library is a facility that collects , organizes and makes available information for users from an archival, economic and synoptic point of view ."

Library types

The classification of libraries can be done on the basis of various criteria. The most common division is that of public libraries (ÖB) for the general public and academic libraries (WB), which are also publicly accessible, but are specifically geared towards the needs of academics and students.

Further criteria for differentiating between libraries are, for example, the size of the library (for example one speaks of one-person libraries ) or the respective focus of collection ( e.g. music libraries ). Other criteria are the maintenance support (about company libraries , pen libraries ) and the function of a library belongs (about national libraries , cantonal libraries , municipal libraries ).


Today almost all libraries are freely accessible, with the exception of private company libraries, but also special libraries from other institutions. Some university libraries also charge flat-rate usage fees to users who are not members of the respective universities. You only have to pay when you borrow a medium for the first time. Also, the user almost always has to have a library card issued before borrowing for the first time.

Magazine stocks

The media in a library can be wholly or partially located in magazines that are only allowed to be entered by library staff. This is known as the magazine inventory. Such media must be ordered for viewing and loan. The channels used today mainly for ordering magazines are the online catalogs ( OPACs ) of the libraries , which are freely accessible via the Internet . All media are listed in these catalogs, including their location in the library, and can be found and ordered by the user using search terms. In other cases, orders for magazine stocks are made using forms that are filled out and submitted on paper. Based on the order, employees of the library then remove the book from its location in the magazine and place it ready for the user to pick up. This process is known as digging.

Reference holdings

In addition to the magazine portfolio, there is almost always one accessible to the user area, used in the media and can be seen ( open access ). Some of these freely displayed stocks are often used (such as reference works or daily newspapers ) and can therefore not be borrowed, but only intended for brief use on site ( reference stock ). The non-loanable inventory also includes particularly old and valuable media. Media not available in the respective library can be suggested for purchase or ordered from other libraries via interlibrary loan .

Reading rooms are generally available to users, often computer workstations with Internet access or even their own cubicles . In addition, there are almost always copiers and book scanners , as well as playback devices for music CDs and DVDs in public libraries .

As a rule, media have their own library number ( signature ), by means of which the location of the item can be easily found. The stocks accessible to users are usually arranged in a certain order .

British Museum reading room (2006)

Digital holdings

Digital collections and repositories for electronic publications and research data are part of the digital holdings in libraries.

New forms of use

In recent times the forms of use of libraries have been changed or expanded. The non-text-based transfer of knowledge is in the foreground , for example in makerspaces . The various functions of libraries (e.g. "third place" for encounters) are subjects of discussion in the library industry. The new forms of use also include gaming offers.


Income, expenses and support

Libraries spend a multiple of what they can earn through user fees, dunning fees , the provision of technical infrastructure (such as copiers ) and smaller services. Personnel expenses are by far the largest item of expenditure, followed by the acquisition of new media. Libraries are financed by the maintenance provider. The most important source of support is the public sector, with the federal government , the states and municipalities financing libraries. There are also bodies such as foundations under public law and corporations under public law . The church is also an important library in German-speaking countries; others are: associations , companies, foundations under civil law and individuals.


The most important work processes
in libraries:

The central work processes of a library include the acquisition and disposal of media, the cataloging of media and the lending of media. In addition, there is the retro-digitization of the existing media and the promotion of reading and information skills .

The acquisition (accession) serves to acquire new media. In 2012, German libraries spent around 399 million euros on acquisitions. In smaller libraries, acquisitions are often carried out by a single librarian or only assisted on the side, while larger libraries usually have their own acquisitions department. After the acquisition, the new additions are made accessible , i. H. entered in a searchable library catalog . The opposite process to acquisition, in which superfluous media are discarded, is deacession . Acquisition and de-assignment together are sometimes referred to as inventory building, inventory management, or inventory development. In the context of acquisitions, the library inventory is not only increased through purchases, but also through deposit copies , donations , exchanges and licensing. In order to make rare books available once per country, libraries work together in acquisition cooperations.

Structure and process organization

With the exception of the very smallest, libraries - like other businesses - have an organizational structure that can be illustrated in an organizational chart . Even if this structure is no longer the only one, many libraries below the library management are roughly divided into three traditional main departments:

Library management
Central departments
and staff units
Acquisitions Department
Cataloging Department
Usage department

There are also overarching central departments such as the IT department and the staff units that report directly to the library management . Staff units can be set up temporarily (e.g. to hold an exhibition or introduce new software) or exist permanently (e.g. for public relations or provenance research ). Users usually only come into direct contact with the user department. In addition to the so-called “functional” structure, a “technical” subdivision is also possible, which is not based on which function a department fulfills, but on the subject areas a department deals with. There are often separate departments, for example for humanities or natural science literature, which handle all work processes (acquisition, cataloging) themselves within these areas.

The process organization of a company determines the order of the individual work steps, in libraries one speaks of the so-called business process. A frequently found process is the migration of the new media through the following work steps (from top to bottom):

  • Acquisition (with the steps of selection, ordering, delivery control, accounting and inventory)
  • Cataloging (with the steps of formal cataloging and subject cataloging)
  • Technical processing (with the steps of binding, maintenance and labeling)
  • Lineup


In Germany, legislation is exercised by the federal and state governments. For the case-law , countries are primarily responsible, only the highest courts are federal institutions. In Austria and Germany the municipalities are not legally obliged to maintain a library, whereas in Finland, Denmark and Great Britain they are. In Germany, the community libraries are mostly part of the city ​​administration , but the legal forms Eigenbetrieb , Gemeinnützige GmbH and GmbH have also been used in isolated cases since the 1980s . These are constituted under private law , but are financed by the municipalities. In contrast to Germany and Austria, the USA has a library funding law, the Library Services and Construction Act .


The totality of all libraries forms the library system. The people working in a library are librarians and specialists for media and information services and the scientific discipline for the organization and function of libraries and other information facilities. The corresponding course is library science . The course of business in a library is called library management and internal and external optimizing activities are called “library management”.

In 2015, according to the German library statistics , there were 7,623 public libraries in Germany with a total of 9,117 locations. In the same reporting period, there were 254 academic libraries with 741 locations.


State Hall in the Vatican Apostolic Library , 2005

In ancient times, the Egyptians already had collections of books, from which we can find the books up to 1866 BC. Dated papyrus rolls are known. At the time of the Greek democracy there are isolated traces in private libraries , there are doubts about the first public book collection, which was created by Peisistratos in Athens. After the fall of democracy, Greek culture was transferred to other countries in the course of Hellenism , as a result of which libraries were founded, the largest being the Alexandrian library donated by the Ptolemies . In the course of the migration of peoples, many of the old libraries were destroyed, and knowledge that had often accumulated over thousands of years was greatly reduced. In the Middle Ages , monks mostly ensured the transmission of ancient writings by copying them, which means that they have been preserved in the monastery libraries .

In the course of humanism, the secular library experienced a renaissance, with the Reformation north of the Alps a real revival. With the invention of the printing press in 1440, book production was made easier, but significant cost savings for the library only occurred with the construction of the paper machine in 1799. The first libraries to open their reading rooms to the general public were the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan in the early 17th century . During the Thirty Years' War , many monastery libraries were moved to princely courts or they formed the basis of newly founded university libraries. With the fall of Napoléon Bonaparte , most of the looted library holdings were returned to their original locations.

At the beginning of the 19th century, more and more public libraries were built. The first public library in Germany was founded in 1828 by Karl Benjamin Preusker as the patriotic citizen library in Großenhain . The Association of German Librarians was founded for the first time in 1900, and the first German Librarian's Day took place in Marburg in the same year . The Deutsche Bücherei was founded in Leipzig on October 3, 1912 .

After the founding of the GDR , for political reasons, the Western powers no longer relied on the Deutsche Bücherei in Leipzig to collect all German written material. That is why the German Library was founded in Frankfurt am Main in 1949 . After reunification, the two merged with the German Music Archive in Berlin to form the German National Library (DNB) .

Library lists

German-speaking libraries

Library associations

Librarian journals

See also



reference books

  • Dietmar Strauch , Margarete Rehm: Lexicon book, library, new media , 2nd, updated and expanded edition, Saur, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-598-11757-2 .
  • Severin Corsten u. a. (Ed.): Lexicon of the entire book system , so far 8 volumes, 2nd, completely revised edition, Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1987–2008.


  • Tanja Heber: The library as a storage system for cultural memory , Tectum, Marburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-8288-2049-4 .
  • Engelbert Plassmann u. a .: Libraries and the information society in Germany. An introduction , 2nd revised and expanded edition, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2011, ISBN 978-3-447-06474-3 .
  • Jürgen Seefeld, Ludger Syré: Portals to the past and future. Libraries in Germany . 5th, revised and expanded edition. Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim / Zurich / New York 2017, ISBN 978-3-487-15562-3 ( [PDF] with a foreword by Heinz-Jürgen Lorenzen).


  • Gerald Leitner, Franz Pascher: Public Libraries in Austria. Addresses. Data. Analyzes. Büchereiverband Österreichs, Vienna 1998 (= BVÖ materials. Volume 5), ISBN 3-901639-04-7 .
  • Franz Unterkircher, Rudolf Fiedler, Michael Stickler: Austria's libraries in the past and present. Reichert, Wiesbaden 1980, (= elements of the book and library system. Volume 7), ISBN 3-88226-105-6 .

Web links

Portal: Library  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of the library
Wikisource: Libraries  - Sources and Full Texts
Wikiquote: Library  - Citations
Wiktionary: Library  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Library  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Barbara Lison : The Role of Libraries in the Internet Age. In: UNESCO heute 1/2008, pp. 37–40 ( online )
  2. Achim Bonte: What is a library? Physical libraries in the digital age. In: ABI technology. 2015, Volume 35, H. 2, pp. 95-104, ISSN  2191-4664 (online), ISSN  0720-6763 (print), doi: 10.1515 / abitech-2015-0019 .
  3. Basic librarianship . De Gruyter / KG Saur, Berlin / Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-11-032145-6 , p. 6 .
  4. Library worlds in transition. The library in the internet age. Office for Future Issues 2016 ( PDF).
  5. Isabelle-Constance v. Opalinski: Shots at civilization. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 20th August 2014.
  6. a b Hans Haider in an interview with Karl Habsburg Misuse of cultural assets is a criminal offense. In: Wiener Zeitung. June 29, 2012.
  7. Peter Stone: Monuments Men: protecting cultural heritage in war zones. In: Apollo - The International Art Magazine. February 2, 2015.
  8. ^ Corine Wegener, Marjan Otter: Cultural Property at War: Protecting Heritage during Armed Conflict. In: The Getty Conservation Institute, Newsletter. 23.1, Spring 2008.
  9. Eden Stiffman: Cultural Preservation in Disasters, War Zones. Presents Big Challenges. In: The Chronicle Of Philanthropy. May 11, 2015.
  10. Langenscheidt's large dictionary of ancient Greek German . Berlin u. a. O. 1994.
  11. Horst Blanck : The book in antiquity. Munich 1992.
  12. ^ Werner Krieg : Introduction to library studies. 2nd edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1990, p. 2.
  13. Regina Becker : Encyclopedia Worlds of Memory. Library models in baroque architectural theory. Hamburg 2012 ( ).
  14. Gisela Ewert and Walther Umstätter provide an overview that goes up to 1999: The definition of the library . In: Bibliotheksdienst 33, Issue 6, 1999, ISSN  0006-1972 , pp. 957-971 ( online ( memento of September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive )).
  15. ^ Gisela Ewert, Walther Umstätter: Textbook of the library management. Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 978-3-7772-9730-9 , p. 10.
  16. Library portal : Gaming. August 3, 2017, accessed February 8, 2018 .
  17. Engelbert Plassmann u. a .: Libraries and the information society in Germany. An introduction. 2nd revised and expanded edition, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2011, ISBN 978-3-447-06474-3 , pp. 63-67.
  18. ^ Klaus Gantert, Rupert Hacker: Basic library knowledge. 8th edition, Saur, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-598-11771-8 , pp. 53-56.
  19. Engelbert Plassmann u. a .: Libraries and the information society in Germany. An introduction. 2nd revised and expanded edition, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2011, ISBN 978-3-447-06474-3 , pp. 63–65.
  20. a b German Library Statistics (DBS): Overall evaluation ( memento from January 21, 2017 in the Internet Archive ), as of August 31, 2016, with the note: “Despite a high participation rate, the DBS does not claim to be complete, as participation is voluntary . "
  21. ^ Museum of the Old Latin School in Großenhain . Retrieved December 10, 2010.