Berlin State Library

Glimpses of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

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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: Achim Bonte

Achim Bonte studied German and history at the universities of Mannheim, Freiburg im Breisgau and Basel. In 1995, he received his doctorate with a thesis on political culture in the Weimar Republic. From 1996 to 2006, he worked at Heidelberg University Library, first as subject librarian, and most recently as deputy director. In 2006, Achim Bonte moved to the Saxon State Library – Dresden State and University Library (SLUB) as Deputy Director General, which he headed from 2018. In 2021, he took over as director of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.