Berlin State Library

Glimpses of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin



  • The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin is the largest scholarly universal library in Germany. It collects and preserves manuscripts, printed works, and digital works from all areas of scholarship, languages, and countries.

    Holdings and Acquisitions

    The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library) is a center of national and international literature. It preserves extensive holdings in all disciplines. With more than twenty-five million works in various media, the Staatsbibliothek is the largest scholarly universal library in Germany. Its collections include books, manuscripts, autographs, maps, prints, photo albums, newspapers, archives, electronic resources and much more. One particular treasure is the score of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It is UNESCO World Heritage. The archives of scholars and writers and extensive archives of publishing houses are made available to and utilized by scholars at the Staatsbibliothek. Its holdings, including databases and other electronic resources, are constantly growing.

    Preserving and Digitizing the Holdings

    One of the central tasks of the library in addition to collecting works and making them accessible is the preservation of written documents. In the area of preservation, the Staatsbibliothek combines a number of competences. It restores its own holdings and tests and develops new methods of preservation. The Staatsbibliothek offers its users a variety of services to obtain and research literature. Unique works especially are gradually being digitized and made available on the Internet. The library’s digitization center has extensive modern equipment.

    Its Origins and Present Locations

    The Staatsbibliothek was founded in 1661 as the Churfürstliche Bibliothek zu Cölln an der Spree (Electoral Library in Cölln on the Spree). Today two monumental buildings shape the public image of the Staatsbibliothek: The building on the boulevard Unter den Linden has been in operation since 1914. When Germany was divided, a new building was constructed at the Kulturforum on Potsdamer Strasse. It was opened in 1978. Extensive construction is currently underway at both locations.

    ‘One Library in Two Buildings’

    Following reunification in 1990, the library was reorganized as an institution in two buildings. The building on Unter den Linden now serves as a research library for the historical holdings. When construction work is complete, it will house the departments of manuscripts, books for children and young people, maps, music and newspapers. The building on Potsdamer Strasse is a research library for the modern holdings. It will also house the regional collections on Eastern Europe, the Orient, and East Asia.

    The General Director of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: Barbara Schneider-Kempf

    Barbara Schneider-Kempf studied architecture in Mainz, Hanover and Aachen. After training as a librarian, she worked in Hanover and Duisburg. From 1992 to 2002 she was Director of the Universitätsbibliothek Potsdam. In 2002 she moved to the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, where she took over as General Director in 2004. Barbara Schneider-Kempf is, among other things, the chairwoman of the Advisory Board of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek and of the Allianz Schriftliches Kulturgut Erhalten (Alliance for the Preservation of the Written Cultural Heritage) as well as co-spokeswoman of the Deutsch-Russischer Bibliotheksdialog (German-Russian Library Dialogue).