Well-Used Library with an International Reputation - Johann Christian Senckenberg University Library
When doctor Johann Christian Senckenberg decided in 1763 – after three marriages had ended unhappily – to place his fortune at the disposal of a foundation, he certainly cannot have guessed that the university library in his hometown would one day bear his name. And how could he? In those days there was no university in Frankfurt am Main.
The Johann Wolfgang Goethe University was not founded until 1914. But the medical institute that was supported by Senckenberg’s foundation and which included a comprehensive library as well as a botanical garden, a natural history collection, a chemical laboratory and an anatomical lecture theatre, was one of the founder institutes of the university.
New sponsor: the state of HessenIn fact, the library has been called the "Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg" only since 1 January 2005. This was the date on which sponsorship of the municipal and university library of Frankfurt am Main and of the Senckenberg Library passed from the town of Frankfurt to the state of Hessen after more than 500 years.
The library was originally an academic municipal library. When the university was founded, it also became the university’s literature provider. Although a large proportion of the stocks were lost in the Second World War, the library quickly grew in importance again after 1946 under director Hanns Wilhelm Eppelsheimer, particularly because since then it has been performing some special national tasks.
Emphasis: German language and literatureThe library manages eleven special collection areas as part of the national literature provision system funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), including "General and comparative literature and linguistics", "German language and literature", "Biology, botany and zoology", "Israel and Judaism" and "Theatre and cinema". Within the "Sammlung Deutscher Drucke" (collection of German printed literature), the Frankfurt library is responsible for the period from 1801 to 1870, and it provides the major journals for German studies and linguistics in electronic form as part of the national "Digizeitschriften" consortium (German digital journals archive). Virtual specialist libraries are currently being developed for German studies, linguistics, Judaism/Israel, biology and theatre/media studies.
The library also compiles the "Bibliographie der Deutschen Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft" (bibliography of German language and literature) (Eppelsheimer/Köttelwesch), known by Germanists as BDSL. Since 2004, an internet database has been available in addition to the printed version, with all records from 1985 onwards. It is updated every three months. In the near future, where possible, a direct link will lead from the bibliographical record to the full texts available in electronic form. For many years now, the BDSL has been supplemented by the "Bibliography of Linguistic Literature" (BLL), which is also compiled in Frankfurt’s university library.
In Hessen: working for the regional networkThe university library also takes on a range of central tasks for the Hessen library scene. Among other things, it edits the Hessische Bibliographie. It is also the head office of the Hessische BibliotheksInformationsSystem (HeBIS), to which all libraries in the state of Hessen are affiliated. It is easy to carry out literature searches and place orders within the network via the www.hebis.de portal – it is even possible to arrange interlibrary loans outside the network.
Digital: Special collections on the internetThe library is digitising its special collections and making them available via the internet in numerous projects funded by the German Research Foundation. Important digital collections include "Pamphlets of 1848 on the web", "Yiddish Prints" and the "Portrait collection of Friedrich Nicolas Manskopf".
The 70.000 or so photographs of the archive of the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft (German colonial society) are also freely accessible online. The photographs, which were taken between 1884 and 1918, have been digitised and made available in two languages. This has produced Germany’s largest digital photo collection from the former German colonies in Africa and the Pacific, and it is used internationally by a wide range of people.
As part of the "Compact Memory" project, the most important Jewish historical journals and newspapers from the German-speaking world up to 1938 are being made available on the Web. Twenty-six publications – including the "Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums", "Die Welt" and "Der Jude" – with a total of approx. 300.000 pages are already accessible online. The online archive has been admitted to the "World Digital Heritage" collection by UNESCO.
Number 1 for useThe Johann Christian Senckenberg University Library boasts 7.1 million media units and over 14.000 million journal subscriptions – and over 120.000 units are added every year. The library’s archive centre is also notable, with the Schopenhauer Archive, the Franz Lennartz Literature Archive and the estate of the Frankfurt School.
In the latest national performance comparison – the library index compiled by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Deutscher Bibliotheksverband (association of German libraries) – the Frankfurt library obtained a good 5th place in the "two-tier university libraries" category. In the "use" category, which took into account both the number of physical visits to the library and the total number of borrowings, the university library was actually the national winner. Johann Christian Senckenberg, who devoted his life to the dissemination of (medical) knowledge, cannot even have dreamed of all this.
Journalist and editor in Bonn
Translation: Ros Mendy
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion
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