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  • Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Wechselndes Rollenverständnis im Lauf der Jahrhunderte
  • Matthew Z. Heintzelman
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Wechselndes Rollenverständnis im Lauf der Jahrhunderte. By Franz Georg Kaltwasser . Beiträge zum Buch- und Bibliothekswesen, vol. 49. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2006. xi, 384 pp. €98,00. ISBN 3-447-05322-4.

In twenty years as director of the Bavarian State Library (1972–92), Franz Georg Kaltwasser was able to witness firsthand the difficulties created by an unclear library mission. What is the role of the Bavarian State Library? Should it be a research library, a university library, a library for everyday use, or a regional history museum? This monograph looks at these questions from several angles: historical development, current challenges, and comparisons with peer institutions. As one of the most important collections within Germany, the Bavarian State Library (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, BSB) in Munich has earned an international reputation through [End Page 336] its significant research collections. It has also served the students of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität for several decades. Brief flirtations with identities as a"national library" or as the "people's library" have proven unsuccessful. Kaltwasser's basic question centers on the BSB's viability within the web of conflicting expectations of patrons and stakeholders. In eight chapters he describes the development of the library's mission from the sixteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Then he devotes one chapter apiece to current challenges and to comparisons with other major national, university, or research libraries (e.g., the Library of Congress, the British Library, the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, and theBibliothèque nationale). He closes with a generous documentary appendix, providing historical texts relating to the BSB and rules for access from other libraries.

Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria founded the court library in 1558 with two motivations: support for his political and religious assertions and enhancement of his personal fame as a collector of art, curiosities, and books. As the sixteenth century progressed other important collections, including that of Hartman Schedel, came into the library, and it quickly grew quite large and famous. Generous access to the collections attracted several scholars, which led to an initial blossoming of the library that lasted into the mid-seventeenth century.

In the eighteenth century the library was reorganized as a collection for the promotion of the sciences for all, regardless of their estate. Problems with previous lending practices caused the library to convert in 1789 into a noncirculating research collection. Demand for the circulation of books arose very quickly, however, and by the early nineteenth century the BSB was again lending books. Meanwhile, the secularization of ecclesiastical and monastic collections catapulted the library into one of the largest on the Continent, and it became a boon to researchers, especially scholars of medieval manuscripts, incunabula, and early printed works. Improved access and international importance promoted a brief desire to see the BSB as a "national library," but that proved politically unviable, and it remained the court library, later the court and state library. Also complicating the library's mission during this period was its relationship to the Bavarian Academy ofSciences (founded in 1759), which directed the BSB from 1807 to 1827.

Ultimately, the library suffered under the loose set of circulation policies: so many books disappeared over time that the viability of the collections waned. Even priceless medieval manuscripts like the Nibelungenlied ms. D (Cgm 31) traveled to distant scholars—a scenario that would not be repeated today. In 1826 the cry arose for the reestablishment of the library as a noncirculating collection, although without success.

The greatest challenge to the BSB's identity has been its relationship to theLudwig-Maximilians-Universität (transferred to the Bavarian capital city in 1826). The university has special claims to the BSB as the logical support to its own collections. Kaltwasser sees the inability to distinguish the needs of an undergraduate library from those of a research institution as a severe failure in the BSB's mission. The university has heightened this problem by giving its own research institutes a large share of its library budget to create their own noncirculating collections, leaving the main university library with insufficient means to support the...


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