Library types

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The division of libraries into different library types or library types can be carried out on the basis of various criteria such as size, focus of collection, sponsorship and function. A common division is that of public libraries and academic libraries .

The public libraries serve the general supply of literature for the population for education and entertainment, while the scientific libraries primarily serve the scientific education and research . Public libraries are usually universal libraries (with some focus on fiction ) and are usually responsible for a city or district.

With regard to their focus of collection, a distinction can be made between universal libraries and special or specialist libraries . When it comes to borrowing media, a distinction is made between the lending library and the reference library .

The library system is structured differently in Germany , Austria , Switzerland and other countries. The historical development and federal structure, especially in Germany, meant that no centralized, uniformly organized library system could develop.

The terms electronic, digital and virtual library identify a certain type of library. Frequently, however, the so-called institutions are not libraries, but z. B. Internet portals or electronic publications.

In the Middle Ages , the institution of the monastery library played an important role in the preservation of knowledge.

The boundaries between individual library types cannot always be clearly drawn. There are also overlaps between libraries, archives and documentation facilities .



Classification according to functional levels

The Library Plan '73 and the position paper Libraries '93 prepared by the Federal Association of German Library Associations recommend that libraries be classified according to their area of ​​responsibility for the provision of literature. There are four functional levels:

Classification in library statistics

The German library statistics differentiate scientific libraries on the one hand and public libraries on the other.

The scientific libraries include the national library and the central specialist library (4th level), regional library , university library and other university libraries (3rd level) in various organizational forms as well as special libraries .

The public libraries Main Library (2nd stage), basic library (the first stage) and elementary library and mobile library , children's and youth library , patient library , music library , prison library , art library , troops Library , Library for the Blind and -Library distinction.


The following classification is common in Switzerland:

  • General public libraries (formerly popular libraries )
  • Study and educational libraries
  • General scientific libraries
  • Specialized scientific libraries

In this classification, the type of general academic library corresponds roughly to the 3rd functional level of the German libraries, whereby the large university libraries such as the Basel University Library are traditionally open to the public. According to the German classification, study and educational libraries would have to be located between the 1st and 3rd level, depending on the library, in that they carry literature for a wide audience, but also e.g. B. be able to fulfill a municipal or cantonal collection order and have extensive old stocks at their disposal. This type of library includes numerous cantonal and larger city ​​libraries .

Library landscape in Switzerland

The library system in Switzerland is primarily determined by the cantons and the municipalities, as is the case for culture and education. This means that the population has a say and can assert this in referendums on new buildings, conversions or budgets of libraries. Libraries are often forced to thrift due to budget cuts. As a result, many libraries have to be financially supported by associations and foundations.

Due to the prevailing cantonal sovereignty ( federalism ) in Switzerland, there are only three public libraries that are subordinate to the federal government: the collections of the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne and the Swiss National Library . For the general public libraries and the scientific collections, books from abroad are particularly important in relation to book production. Only the Swiss National Library focuses its collection on Swiss publications. Although Switzerland the legal deposit does not know exists between the libraries and publishers often an agreement that requires the member countries to deliver a copy.

Services throughout Switzerland

The Bibliomedia Switzerland Foundation (until 2002: Swiss People's Library) has been committed to the development of public libraries and the promotion of reading in Switzerland since it was founded in 1920. It contributes to the establishment of new libraries and supplies local libraries and schools with needs-based loan collections in all national languages ​​and 10 other foreign languages. It thus contributes to a balanced supply of all parts of the country with attractive library offers. She also develops and coordinates national campaigns and projects to promote reading.

The Swiss Library Service Cooperative was founded in 1965. It supports the library system financially and awards grants to employees of Swiss libraries for professional development abroad. It primarily supports school and community libraries and is a self-supporting cooperative.

The Swiss National Library provides two important research tools with the “General Catalog of Foreign Writings in Swiss Libraries” and the “Directory of Foreign Journals and Series in Swiss Libraries”. It also plays a key role in inter-library lending.

The Swiss library statistics are collected annually and published in the Swiss statistical yearbook. The Federal Statistical Office and the professional association (BBS) are responsible for supervision .

The Federalism also has disadvantages for the library system. Many projects that would have a benefit for the whole country fail because of the arduous bureaucracy of the cantons. This can also be seen in the fact that in Switzerland it has never been possible to create a collection focus based on the model of the special collection areas in Germany (special collection area plan of the German Research Foundation). Only the publication “Information Switzerland” comes close to the project. This work lists over 1250 libraries, archives, documentation centers and database providers in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein.

History of the Swiss library landscape

The Swiss library landscape is extremely complex and it is difficult to assign libraries to categories.

A look at Swiss history and the development of the Swiss library system can clarify this.

In the Middle Ages , the first libraries were founded in monasteries and are often attached to a scriptorium . The Reformation in the 16th century marked a cultural and political turning point, libraries were separated from the church and the forerunners of today's university libraries were founded (Basel, Zurich, Bern, Lausanne and Geneva).

Society also changes, in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century, a bourgeoisie was formed, which was now reading and educating itself. Citizens' libraries are established in the reformed cities and, in the course of education and compulsory schooling, lending libraries for the rural population and reading societies are established (although for a long time these will only remain open to a certain segment of the population).

The unrest of the French Revolution also gripped Switzerland and in 1803 led to the founding of the new cantons Aargau, Thurgau, Graubünden, Sankt Gallen, Ticino and Vaud. At the same time, cantonal libraries are now being founded, whose focus is on collecting, archiving and indexing regional literature. Monastery property is confiscated and serves as an initial inventory for the new libraries. In 1848, the federal structure of the Swiss federal state was finally confirmed by the new constitution, the cantons and the federal government divided the tasks according to the principle of subsidiarity . At the same time, the federal government founds its own libraries for the newly created political offices such as the statistical office and the military, and receives the right to found polytechnic schools. In 1900 the Swiss National Library (today: Swiss National Library ) opens in Bern. Most of the cantonal libraries have a double function. They are now both cantonal and university libraries. A large number of specialist and specialist libraries are formed within the university's institutes. The libraries of the reading societies are now also opening up to broader classes; they are seen as the forerunners of today's city libraries. The Swiss People's Libraries Foundation is organized. In general, attempts are being made to organize the library system by founding, among other things, the Association of Swiss Librarians (VSB, then BBS, now BIS), which is particularly responsible for training and lending as a link between the libraries.

Coordination was urgently needed because, according to statistics from 1911, 81.8% of the libraries in existence at the time had a stock of less than 1000 volumes, which shows a lack of communication in the library system. To counteract this, two measures are being taken: On the one hand, individual libraries are being amalgamated into a central library, which has a coordinating function and acts as a central office for the canton and city. On the other hand, the libraries begin to compile complete catalogs (for the first time in Zurich in 1897).

Order of the Swiss libraries divided according to library type

Study and educational libraries

A study and education library is a public library that makes literature and other documents available to the population in order to provide access to information and education. It is also used for scientific work. The collection focus of the study and educational libraries is on publications that are of interest to the region or deal with it.

Cantonal library

Each canton library has its own mission, which is assigned by the cantons. However, the acquisition policy is not prescribed by the canton. It rather follows from the tasks entrusted to it. In addition to their public mandate, the cantonal libraries also perform a regional collection mandate (similar to the national library , only at regional level). Together with archives, other libraries and similar institutions, it collects those publications which:

  • appear in a publisher whose headquarters are in the canton,
  • deal with the canton or its inhabitants,
  • Written by an author who comes from or lives in the canton.

These cantonal publications are called: Argoviensia ( canton Aargau ), Appenzellensia ( canton Appenzell Innerrhoden and canton Appenzell Ausserrhoden ), Basiliensia ( canton Basel-Stadt and canton Basel-Landschaft ), Bernensie ( canton Bern ), Glaronensia ( canton Glarus ), Rätica ( canton Graubünden ), Lucernensia ( canton Lucerne ), Néocomensia ( canton Neuchâtel ), Nidwaldensia ( canton Nidwalden ), Obwaldensia ( canton Obwalden ), Sangallensia ( canton St. Gallen ), Scaphusiana ( canton Schaffhausen ), Soloderensia ( canton Solothurn ), Thurgoviana ( canton Thurgau ), Uraniensia ( Canton Uri ), Vallesiana ( Canton Valais ), Tugiensia ( Canton Zug ), Turicensia ( Canton Zurich ).

The canton library collects documents regardless of the data carriers. That means: monographs, current publications, gray literature, dependent literature, maps, image documents, sound documents, audiovisual documents, electronic documents, online documents, radio and television programs. Depending on the type of publication, the library receives one or two copies for lending and the archive. It also compiles regional bibliographies. Only the Bibliothèque de Genève , the Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire Lausanne and the Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire Friborg have a compulsory fee (French: dépôt légal).

With the aim of better coordination, the cantonal libraries joined forces on May 20, 2010 for the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Libraries (SKKB).

General public libraries

A general public library (formerly the public library) is an open access library that is open to the general public. It has a wide range of resources and services in order to give citizens the opportunity to inform and educate themselves.

City and community library

In contrast to the cantonal libraries, the city libraries are usually not charged with keeping the copies, but with giving the general public access to information. Their stock covers the demand in the areas of information, education and training, culture and leisure. In addition to this non-fiction and specialist literature, it also provides a wide range of entertainment media. The mission of the city libraries is determined by the city, but each library has its own acquisition policy according to its tasks. A city library also has a certain social significance, as it is often used as a meeting place. It also organizes various events such as readings and exhibitions, making it an important location for the local cultural scene. School library or media library The task of a school library (today it is often referred to as a media library) is to provide students with literature and other media that are necessary for teaching. Another task is to arouse interest in reading and spread literature, which is why engaging exhibitions and other events (such as readings) are very important. It also serves as a pedagogical facility and supports the teachers in their work. For this reason, learning workshops, tutoring and the like are sometimes offered.

General academic libraries

A scientific library has publications of all kinds in the fields of study and research. Mostly it has specialized in a certain subject area (see subject libraries). In addition to offering scientific publications, she often researches and publishes herself. Although their task differs from general public libraries, they are mostly open to the public.

National Library

The Swiss National Library (formerly the State Library) was founded in 1895 and today contains around three million documents. The library also includes some special collections and institutions, such as the Swiss Literature Archive, the Graphic Collection and the Center Dürrenmatt Neuchâtel. Since January 1, 2006, the National Library has received its service mandate from the Federal Council , which also provides it with a general budget. Their tasks are laid down in the Swiss constitution. As far as its collections are concerned, the National Library is responsible for collecting, cataloging and conveying Helvetica. Helvetica includes all information carriers that:

  • appear in Switzerland,
  • have a content-related relationship to Switzerland or its population,
  • wholly or partially created or co-designed by Swiss or foreign authors (who are associated with Switzerland).

The following are collected: monographs, current publications, gray literature, dependent literature, maps, image documents, sound documents, audiovisual documents, electronic documents, online documents, radio and television programs. The National Library in Bern, the Fonoteca Nazionale Svizzera (Swiss National Sound Archives) in Lugano and the Cinémathèque Suisse (Swiss Film Archive) in Lausanne each receive a copy for archiving.

University and college library

The task of a university or college library is to make literature, databases and other publications from the respective subject areas available. Often it also covers other areas of knowledge. In addition, historical universities and institutions often have valuable writings and prints. The university or college library is usually not open to the public, but is primarily open to students, professors and assistants.

Subject and special libraries

A specialist library usually belongs to an institution, company, museum or archive and has an inventory that is limited to a certain area of ​​knowledge. Its main purpose is to support the institution to which it belongs in the fulfillment of its task and work and to provide the necessary specialist literature.

The statistics compiled annually by the Federal Statistical Office in collaboration with the Association of Libraries and Librarians in Switzerland (BBS) distinguish between 5 library categories:

  • National mandate libraries,
  • university libraries,
  • public libraries,
  • Networks of universities and
  • Networks of universities of applied sciences.

Union catalogs in Switzerland

Union catalog

In the case of a union catalog , the holdings of several libraries are brought together and uniformly recorded. The respective catalogs can be called up via a single interface during a search. The big advantage is the one-time recording of the title within the network. The relevant libraries can then attach their copies to this recording. One can speak of a kind of “division of labor” within cataloging. In addition, different competencies with regard to the acceptance of titles are often distributed to the participating institutions and monitored and supported by a coordination center. Union catalogs mostly arise from supra-regional political considerations or within academic institutions such as university libraries. Historically, the introduction of union catalogs goes back to the first appearances in the USA from 1970. This trend towards merging catalogs has also established itself in Switzerland in recent years. Examples of association catalogs in Switzerland

Information Network for German-speaking Switzerland (IDS)

The Informationsverbund Deutschschweiz (IDS) founded in 2003 by the Conference of German-Swiss University Libraries is an important union catalog in the German-speaking area . It comprises over 400 libraries and is also connected to NEBIS (network of libraries and information centers in Switzerland). According to the statutes of the IDS (Art. 3), the services focus among other things on "the administration and technical management of data held together". The IDS is made up of several independent sub-groups:

  • IDS Basel / Bern
  • IDS Lucerne
  • IDS St. Gallen
  • IDS Zurich University
  • IDS Zurich Central Library

In addition, the IDS has signed partner agreements with various libraries and associations at home and abroad:

Réseau des bibliothèques de Suisse occidentale (RÉRO)

In terms of its importance, the RERO union catalog of the Libraries in Western Switzerland is the counterpart to the IDS. 180 libraries from the cantons of Geneva, Jura, Friborg, Neuchâtel and Valais are involved. The libraries of the three universities in western Switzerland, Geneva, Neuchâtel and Freiburg, also play an important role.

One of the goals of the RÉRO is to coordinate science and study libraries in French-speaking Switzerland in the context of a uniform documentation policy based on the respective skills and resources. The focus is on the development and organization of a common network, which allows every user to access the entire inventory of the network. The online publications and dissertations from the participating universities of Friborg, Neuchâtel, Lausanne and Geneva are published in RÉRO DOC . The Open Access Initiative thus offers the member universities a digital archive for their documents.

Swiss Virtual Catalog (CHVK)

Around 60 libraries from Switzerland and Liechtenstein participate in the Swiss Virtual Catalog (CHVK). It is a meta-catalog which guarantees a simultaneous query in currently seventeen library catalogs. A specific search query results in hit lists of the various library catalogs consulted. In total, more than 9.1 million books and magazines can be queried. The CHVK does not maintain its own database.

Future and projects

In terms of culture, Switzerland is very much oriented towards other countries. This is mainly due to the fact that the centers of the three national languages ​​are not in Switzerland, but in Germany, France and Italy. Cooperation with foreign institutions in the area of ​​information is therefore essential for the Swiss library system. In addition, this international cooperation is simplified and promoted by the merger of the states within the EU and the growing networking in the field of digital communication. An important project is the Conference of European National Librarians (CNL). Its aim is to strengthen the role of the European national libraries. Particular attention is paid to the accessibility of the national cultural heritage. To this end, they launched “The European Library”, a virtual pan-European library that integrates the holdings of the various European national libraries in electronic form and makes searching considerably easier. The public has had access to this source since 2005. Other projects are more about international standardization of data in order to simplify use and exchange. The European project Linking and Exploring Authority Files (LEAF), in which the Swiss National Library is heavily involved, is concerned with setting up a concordance file that links the authority entries of several databases with one another. The Multilingual Access to Subjects (MACS) project also takes care of the standardization of entries. It is working on a system which, based on already existing indexing languages, enables multilingual thematic access to bibliographic catalogs.

There are also projects within the national borders to manage Swiss cultural assets as efficiently as possible and make them accessible. These are primarily dedicated to audiovisual media. Since their storage is subject to special storage conditions and a comprehensive collection requires close cooperation between the archiving and the producing institutions (e.g. radio stations), an association was founded with the aim of collecting, storing and conveying audiovisual documents in Switzerland ( Memoriav - Association for the Preservation of Switzerland's Audiovisual Cultural Property).

For the near future, there are two main areas of focus in library policy. Firstly, a comprehensive electronic collection ( e-Helvetica ) is to be implemented, which will contain, among other things, publications that can be accessed via the Internet. The main focus is on the development of solutions that guarantee the interpretation and readability of the data in the future.

The second focus is on the adaptation of the library services to the needs of the users and the integration of elements of New Public Management . This is intended to achieve efficient administration and higher customer satisfaction.


See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Robert Barth: Libraries, 2 - library types, sponsorship and professional association. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  2. Swiss Conference of the Cantonal Libraries SKKB
  3. ^ Réseau Romand RERO
  4. RERO explore . RERO.
  5. RÉRO DOC (German / English / French / Italian)
  6. Swiss Virtual Catalog CHVK ( Memento of the original from January 28, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /