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The Role of Libraries
in the Information Society
Germany - Background Information

Updated: 05 NOV 98

In connection with the role of libraries in the information society , we have collected a fair amount of information on how the situation is evolving in different countries. This document provides background information on Germany.

Generic data

In 1993, Germany had 80.9 million inhabitants and an area of 356,980 sq. km., which gives a population density of 227 inhabitants per square kilometre . In 1990, West Germany spent 0.08% of its GDP on libraries.

Higher education libraries

Higher education libraries in Germany had 239 service points in 1995 . In 1991, the number of volumes in book collections was 119.7 million and there were 1.7 million registered users.

Current expenditure in 1995 was DM 792.3 million .

Public libraries

Public libraries in Germany had 13,032 service points in 1995. In 1992, the number of volumes in book collections was 128.9 million and there were 8.9 million registered users .

Current expenditure in 1995 was DM 1,332.9 million .

Statistical data on libraries

The total number of titles in UDC classes in 1993 was 67,206, whereas in 1992 it was 67,277 and in 1991 it was 67,890.

The German National Bibliography lists the following:

Number of titles
not available
not available

The total number of books-in-print (considering first and new editions) in Germany is given in the following table :

Number of titles
not available

Co-operation between public and higher education libraries is usually only established for individual cases at a local level .

However, higher education libraries in Germany have a very strong tradition of co-operation, leading to now eight regional shared cataloguing organisations and union catalogue schemes, all of them with their own computer and administration centre, delivering their records to a central national union on-line-catalogue of machine-readable data. Until recently, public libraries had not participated in any shared cataloguing enterprises or in the services of the regional cataloguing centres. There is now however at least one common cataloguing initiative coordinated by Düsseldorf City Library for public libraries in Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Of the German public libraries with full-time professional staff some 850 are computerised, that is to say they are working with IT but on very different scales. About 30 different systems are in use with different levels of comfort and performance .

In Germany, the number of volumes legally deposited in 1995 is of 158.8 thousand, in comparison to 163.5 thousand in 1994 and 134.6 thousand in 1993 .

Libraries and Internet

In Germany, 72 public libraries provide a homepage on the Web, 12 with Web OPACs. In addition, the Bavarian State Library Network, Die Deutche Bibliothek and the Deutches Bibliotheksinstitut DBI on-line also have Web pages .

Policy issues on libraries

In Germany there is no central political responsibility for library matters. The responsibility for public libraries is even more decentralised, because they are completely subordinated to the local municipalities. In addition, there is neither nation-wide nor state-wide library legislation .

Except in some federal states, there is no central library planning. As a rule, public libraries are funded by local authorities. The Federal Government can fund special projects, but not everyday needs. Because of the principle of independence in matters of education and culture, the federal States are responsible for cultural affairs.

The Government is preparing a programme called "Scientific and technical information for the 21st century" aimed at supporting the developments of information supply in which, one of the objectives is to develop an electronic library system with an obligation to supply electronic material to the German library association. Another objective is to create conditions for private-sector supply of all information products and services administered by academic or business institutions.

The Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Technology is providing funding totalling DM 80 million over 3 years to initiate the expansion of a high-speed network, intended to enable the German research network (DFN) to acquire rights to use high-performance networks. The DFN network will, at various access speeds, be available to the whole of the scientific and educational community: universities, schools, libraries, members of academic societies, state research institutions and research departments in industry.

Financial barriers represent the most outstanding difficulties for libraries to provide up-to-date IT-based services. All these financial needs have to compete with the needs of other municipal services, and authorities are facing very high budget deficits. Therefore many politicians and authorities want public libraries to cling to their traditional book-bound services, which they think are not that expensive. Besides, the specific restrictive budget spending system very often impedes sensible expenditures.

In line with the general Objectives of the Federal Government for the information society, the Federal Ministry for Education and Research has approved the Global-Info programme which, with a budget of around DM 60 million, will provide the foundations of an innovative digital library for science, knowledge and research.

The Federal Ministry of Justice is examining the need for changes to German copyright law and will participate actively in the discussions of legal arrangements at European and international level.

Additional background information

Additional information on the public libraries scene in France is available from the PUBLICA Web site .

Report on the situation of libraries, museums and archives prepared in February 1998 by the German National Focal Point for the European Commission's Libraries Sector.

European Commission

DG Information Society
Cultural Heritage Applications Unit Contact:Digicult
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