Newsletter Archive: Autumn 2000
Library exchange with the Bauhaus-Universitaet Weimar
Over a year ago, I heard about the possibility of an exchange with a German librarian, arranged and funded through the Library Association and the British Council, together with the relevant German authorities. As I fnished to visit the former East Germany, I requested a university art library. An exchange partner, Gabriele Schaller, was found at the Bauhaus-University in Weimar and I spent three very interesting and senjoyable weeks there in July. Gabriele will be visiting us here in October. I found everyone there extremely friendly and helpful.
The University has faculties of architecture, civil engineering, art and design, and media. Its Main Library is housed in part of the "Gauforum", a massive, brooding building complex which dates from Hitler's proposed series of administrative centres in Berlin, Weimar, Nuremberg and Munich. It is unfortunately so solidly built that it is too expensive to demolish. However, it has been renovated internally to provide a modern library with pleasant offices where the centralised acquisitions and cataloguing procedures are carried out. Apart from reference books in the reading rooms, material is for loan and there is an extensive textbook collection with multiple copies, but the remainder of the books are kept in the stacks and must be requested. The Art, Design and Media Library, where I was based, is housed with the Architecture Library in the "Limona" building, - originally a brewery, subsequently a lemonade bottling plant! - converted about four years ago into an attractive, modern library. The exposed brick interiors, though lighter in colour than the Courtauld vaults, made me feel quite at home.
The publications exchange librarian described their operation, with over 400 exchange partners and far more publications available to send, but otherwise broadly similar to ours. I spent an afternoon in the acquisitions and cataloguing department. They belong to a co-operative cataloguing scheme, started in Holland and now covering several German states. After nearly 10 years of extensively subsidised book purchasing, which enabled them to start catching up with the west, the budget has now been cut right back and they are having to resort to launching an appeal to encourage donations.
I also translated some new leaþets for readers. Although there are few native English speakers at the university, there is a large number of foreign students, who may find it useful to have information in English.
In 1999 Weimar was European City of Culture and the resulting funding enabled a number of renovation/reconstruction projects to be completed. It is compact enough to see on foot, yet there is plenty to do, with concerts, theatre and opera, as well as museums and galleries.The Bauhaus Museum was a highlight, as were the public library, run by an enthusiastic librarian with a real vision, and the Anna Amalia Bibliothek, an 18th century rococo-style library which has restricted visiting hours "for conservatory reasons" as the English translation outside says rather charmingly!
I was encouraged to see other cities. In Leipzig, we were invited to the British Council and heard about their work and library. We then had an exhaustive tour of the Deutsche Bücherei (German National Library, now represented in Leipzig and in Frankfurt). At the Museum of Fine Arts, the librarian was interested in setting up a publications exchange with the Courtauld. In Dresden, we met the Exchange Librarian at the Kunstsammlungen and saw the main sights. Much has been restored, but there is still a great deal of rebuilding in progress.
In Berlin, I visited the "Brücke" Museum, the Pergamon Museum and at theGemäldegalerie. I made contact with the Exchange Librarian in the Art Library.
During my stay, I found the opportunity to meet people and hear their recent history was the most fascinating aspect of this wonderful experience. I am most grateful that the Institute encouraged me to pursue the idea and I would urge anyone to take advantage of similar opportunities.