A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Public Libraries in Germany

 

Glass case with small plastic toys with signs showing the number of reading points to buy them.
Prizes for reading at the Cologne city library.
Gumball machine with foam earplugs in clear plastic bubbles.
Too noisy at the library? Get some foam earplugs. Librarians think of everything.

The city library of Cologne is a magical place! I got to go on a behind-the-scenes tour with volunteer librarians from my local library.

Six floors of books, music, DVD’s to make any library fan happy. There’s even a special support office that supplies books and support for blind readers.

Author Heinrich Böll’s archive is here (including his desk and bookshelves!)

The library also has a “Maker Space” that includes 3D printers, sewing machines, and recording studios. You can even borrow a guitar.

Here are a few findings from the German Library Statistics (DBS Deutsche Bibliotheksstatistik) to give you an overview of the German library system.

In 2015, just over 7600 public libraries participated in the survey that produces the German Library Statistics.

5,600 of the libraries were run solely by volunteers. The other 2,000 had full-time staff.

German libraries buy a lot of books. Collectively, the libraries had an acquisitions budget of 105 Million Euro.

German libraries get e-books from distributors. More than 1,000 German libraries contract for electronic media with distributors such as libell-e.de.

German residents visit their libraries in person and online. 7 Million active library patrons visited 119 Million times. The survey warns that direct comparisons between states can’t be made, but the highest number of physical library visits per person seems to be in Hamburg (2.69), Bavaria (1.95), Bremen (1.86), Berlin (1.83), and Baden Württemberg (1.78). There were also 99 Million “virtual” library visits in 2015.

There’s a reason Germany is called the land of poets and thinkers. German libraries loaned 375,000 items (7,000 electronic). That’s an average of 4 and a half check-outs per German citizen.

E-books are growing, but print books still make up 76% of public library media. But the number of electronic loans has risen from 1.9% in 2013 to 4.5% in 2015.

It’s interesting that 2015 was the first year German university and scientific libraries loaned more electronic (53%) than physical media.

Virtual check-outs are even more important when you realize that 40% of public libraries are open for fewer than 20 hours per week.

German public libraries have lots of events. Public libraries threw more than 370,000 events in 2015. Almost half (47%) were for children and youth.

L-shaped low chairs made of soft foam that let you lean back to read. Can also tip chair over sideways to make an L-shaped table or bench.
These funky recliner chairs in the children’s section double as tables or benches.

If you’d like to know more about the Germany library system, you can download this brief data overview (English version). Or see the whole infographic-style poster here (Deutsch).

Did you find this interesting? Have a library anecdote or data tidbit to share? Feel free to comment.

 

 

 

 

 

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Published by

Laurel Decher

LAUREL DECHER writes stories about all things Italian, vegetable, or musical. Beloved pets of the past include "Stretchy the Leech" and a guinea pig that unexpectedly produced twins. She's famous for a nonexistent sense of direction, but carries maps because people always ask her for directions. When she's not lost, she can be found on Twitter and on her blog, This Is An Overseas Post, where she writes about life with her family in Germany. She's still a Vermonter and an epidemiologist at heart. PSA: Eat more kale! :) Her short fiction for adults, UNFORESEEN TIMES, originally appeared in _Windhover_. Photo: © Jane Joo Park, 2017.

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