One and two tier library system

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In librarianship, a two-tier system is the separation of a library system into a central library and several independent institute libraries (in the case of academic libraries) or district libraries (in the case of public libraries). While in a single-layer library system all branch libraries are subject to a central management, in a dual or two-layer library system the institute libraries are subordinate to one or more professors, institutes or a faculty . In some cases, even further subdivisions are possible ( three-tier library system , not to be confused with a three-tier library ).


The separation has primarily historical reasons; so the central university libraries were often magazine libraries with archive function, while the institute libraries at least for members of the Institute as lending libraries were available. In most two-tier library systems, there is now at least one cooperation, for example in cataloging , so that one can also speak of a cooperative or coordinated library system.

During the Weimar Republic , there was a strong increase and differentiation of subjects and institutes at universities. In order to continue to make the necessary literature sufficiently available, the university libraries had to react to this structural change. In a first step, specializations and collaborations in the library system were considered. There was a functional differentiation, supported by the Althoff library reforms . With the increase in literature, the university libraries were no longer able to fulfill their role as universal libraries . This led to a growing number of institute and seminar libraries in addition to the university libraries. Over time, these institute and seminar libraries grew into considerable specialist libraries. Very specialized in the respective subject, as the lecturer selected the literature based on the needs of the institute. The inventory was mostly managed on a part-time basis by assistants or students. This is where the librarians' criticism began. The holdings of the institute and seminar libraries were often poorly indexed. In addition, many works were purchased several times, for the university library and for the institute library. The lecturers of the institutes and seminars argued that the university libraries were too cumbersome overall, the selection of literature was made without consultation with the lecturers, the holdings were mostly stored in magazines, which made accessibility difficult. This situation resulted in the dualistic supply of literature at universities, what is now known as the two-tier library system.

Even a decree by Friedrich Althoff in 1891, which dealt with the coordination between institute and university libraries, was ignored. The two-tier system was the basis of all new libraries well into the 1970s.

Current state

Since the 1970s, the two-tier system has been transformed into a functional one-tier system. This was supported above all by the new technologies that made it possible to network between the institute and university libraries by means of EDP. General catalogs of the entire library system of a university could now also be created. This facilitated cooperation in building up the inventory and led to the pooling of resources, e.g. B. in the field of acquisitions. The universities that have been newly founded since the 1970s have mostly built a single-tier system. In the meantime, two-tier systems that were previously used are also being converted to single-tier systems.


  • From a two-tier library system to a functional one-tier system. Problem of a structural concept using the example of the University and City Library of Cologne (= Cologne working papers on library and information science. Vol. 43, ISSN  1434-1107 ). University of Applied Sciences Cologne - Faculty for Information and Communication Sciences - Institute for Information Science, Cologne 2004, (At the same time: Cologne University of Applied Sciences, Master's Thesis; digitized version (PDF; 937 kB) ).
  • Konstanze Söllner, Wilfried Sühl-Strohmenger (Hrsg.): Handbook of university library systems . Efficient information infrastructures for science and studies . De Gruyter Saur, Berlin et al. 2014, ISBN 978-3-11-030991-1 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rupert Hacker: Basic librarianship. 7th, revised edition. Saur, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-598-11394-3 .