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60th IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 21-27, 1994

Newspaper cataloguing in Germany

Hartmut Walravens
Berlin State Library, Germany


Some countries have strong national libraries and centralized library systems. That allows for a national library policy and central development planning. Germany, however, until the second half of the previous century showed a rather chequered map of numerous independent kingdoms, dukedoms, great dukedoms, and principalities. This explains also the polycentric library scene. True, the unificatio n of Germany led to major central achievements, like a union catalogue of the German libraries, union files of serials, a world catalogue of incunabula, and many others, most of them started and run by the Royal Library in Berlin, later the Prussian State Library. After WW II under the provision of the Allies Germany became a federation with the cultural authority resting with the individual L&au ml;nder (states) in order to prevent a renewal of a totalitarian information policy. While a federative system has many advantages coordination is something difficult and time consuming to achieve. Individual Länder (sometimes several of them together) have their own regional library systems, often not compatible. Fortunately, some of the traditional central services have survived, like a un ion file of serials(Zeitschriftendatenbank, ZDB), the world catalogue of incunabula, and a union catalogue of conference proceedings, all of them maintained by the State Library of the Prussian Cultural Foundation and the German State Library which were merged as of January 1, 1992, owing to the unification of Germany. Several other central services have been added to the existing scope, namely a n authority file of corporate bodies, and the international coordination of the ISBN and ISMN systems. Most of these national and international activities are usually run by the national library but one has to keep in mind that owing to the German historical development there was no national library until 1912, and it was not created by the state but by the publishers' and booksellers' trade orga nization.

Where do newspapers fit in this picture?

From the beginning newspapers were part of the serials files but it was only about 1930 that Hans Traub published the first comprehensive attempt at a German union catalogue of newspapers1. During WW II many newspapers were destroyed by bombing and fire, other holdings were seized and given to libraries in Poland, and the Soviet Union, or simply kept in depositories with millions of other books. Anyhow, for these reasons Traub's union catalogue is sadly out of date even if it still is a good bibliographic reference tool and hint to former holdings. Otherwise a number of local and regional lists and catalogues of newspaper holdings were prepared and partly published, mostly after WW II. While such efforts are extremely useful there is hardly a single reference or interlibrary loan librari an at major libraries who can afford spending a couple of hours of research on individual loan applications. The need of having national union lists led to two publications: Gerd Hagelweide: Deutsche Zeitungsbestände in Bibliotheken und Archiven2 and SAZI (Standortverzeichnis ausländischer Zeitungen und Illustrierten)3. Both were extracts from existing card files:

While these two card files were extremely useful for bibliographical searches and for interlibrary loan the advent of library automation called for a more innovative solution. When the German serials Database was created as a cooperative cataloguing system (now an online system with about 700,000 serials records and about 3 mio. locations in German libraries) newspapers were welcome to be incorpo rated. The start was slow, however, and the initiative rested with individual libraries and regional library systems. The most active partner has been the South Western Library System (Südwestdeutscher Bibliotheksverbund).

The format of the ZDB was designed to cover all kind of serials; it turned out that by using this format (ZETA) to its full extent a number of special features of newspapers could well be incorporated, and so the ZDB was offered also as the central cataloguing resource for newspapers. The response was again slow as newspapers, especially historic holdings, have a relatively low priority as compar ed to current serials or up to date academic monographs. A major breakthrough was reached through the support of the German Research Association:

The ZDB is available online, both as a cataloguing file, and as a bibliographic database (under the GRIPS retrieval system); recently a CD ROM edition has been published. There are several advantages to using the ZDB as a central cataloguing file: Each title has to be catalogued only once. The other libraries use the existing records, add to them, if necessary, and give their holdings

The data are available nationwide also for bibliographic and interlibrary loan purposes

As the data are machine readable they are fed back to the individual libraries for inclusion in their own library systems or for the generation of offline products (alphabetical or subject lists, shelflists, etc.).

When the publisher of the former SAZI catalogue approached the Berlin State Library in order to prepare a new edition it was decided not to rely on the outdated pattern of a division between national and foreign newspapers but just offer the researcher all the information available in the ZDB. But why taking the trouble of selecting and printing data from a database which is available online and offline all over Germany? Well, the publication under the title of Internationale Zeitungsbestände in deutschen Bibliotheken / International newspaper holdings in German libraries4 has two advantages for newspaper specialists:

It contains only the almost 18,000 newspapers and similar serials from the shared cataloguing files. The reader does not have to check the 700,000 serials titles on file to find just the newspapers.

Owing to frequent title changes of newspapers and many short lived publications researchers like to search by country and place of publication and/or distribution. While this kind of combined search is not yet possible in the online database and definitely not in the more widely distributed microfiche edition, the printed selection has a comprehensive geographical index (pp. 673 801) with a break down according to countries. Within these groups the newspapers are listed under the respective place names which are arranged in alphabetical sequence.

Another DFG project currently under way is the inclusion of the holdings (including a comprehensive collection of microfilms) of the Dortmund Institut für Zeitungsforschung (Institute for Newspaper Research). This will lead to the incorporation of the numerous microforms created under the filming programme of the Mikrofilmarchiv der Deutschen Presse and will thus have a major impact on inter library loan. Newspapers generally do not circulate owing to their rarity, bulk and poor state of preservation. So the access to microforms of newspapers is, of course, vital to research.

Mention has been made of regional newspaper catalogues already. Most recent examples are due to Heinz Gittig, formerly of the staff of the German State Library. His indefatigable efforts led to two printed catalogues so far, one listing Berlin newspapers in Berlin collections5, the other one Brandenburg newspapers in Brandenburg collections and the Berlin State Library6. While these valuable publ ications may form stepping stones for the inclusion of these data in the Serials Database it is to be regretted that the records only partly fulfill the format requirements of the ZDB, and also that holdings of newspapers that were not published in that particular German state were excluded (e.g. newspapers from Mecklenburg in Brandenburg collections). For this reason there is still a lot of work to be done also in these regions.

Also with support from the German Research Association most of the university libraries in the Eastern part of Germany are busy recataloguing their serials. This is a rather Gargantuan task, especially for such large and traditional libraries like the Saxonian State Library at Dresden and Leipzig University Library. There are only rough estimates of the actual serials holdings, and the libraries will have to cope with an enormous work load as it is not just a matter of converting data. In many cases an autopsy of the titles and the extant holdings (losses mainly refer to damage during the war or confiscation or theft afterwards) is necessary. Newspapers with their additional problems might be included under the terms of the projects but there is much reason to doubt that libraries will m anage to cover also this time consuming task. In addition, major holdings of newspapers are kept by archives, museums and institutes which are not part of the outlined cataloguing programme.

The Berlin State Library has been carrying out a project to incorporate as many ISSNs (International Standard Serials Numbers) in the ZDB as possible. While the ISSN is, of course, a standard data element in cataloguing, a number of ZDB records do not contain ISSNs as these numbers were only assigned after the creation of the records. The kind cooperation of the ISSN International Centre (Paris) and the support of the DFG made it possible to go through the database and add missing ISSNs. This will be a useful connection between the ZDB and other serials files and union catalogues, especially as the individual data formats and cataloguing rules used in Europe are far from being compatible.

The conservation of newspapers raises special concern also in Germany. For this reason there is a microfilming programme, and there also is a project (apparently just finished after several years of work) to describe several German newspaper holdings from the point of view of conservation and the necessary measures to save them (carried out by the Institut für Zeitungsforschung, with support from the DFG). As the result of this investigation has not yet circulated it is not possible at present to give any assessment of its possible benefit to future cataloguing projects.

The ZDB has been designated the national resource for microform masters of serials within the framework of EROM, the European Register of Microform Masters. While a special German file for microform masters of monographs has been built up (GEROM) the ZDB will feed its data directly into the European file. The reason for this procedure is that the ZDB is already a union file of serials whatever th eir physical media. So only small adaptations had to be made to enable the ZDB to take over this additional function.

The importance and special features of newspapers have led to the establishment of a separate newspaper department within the Berlin State Library, thus emulating the example of the British Library and other major institutions. As the merger of the two Berlin state libraries keeps the staff busy with the task of integrating departments, catalogues and holdings (the media spoke of «a wedding of el ephants»), and the traditional building Unter den Linden is undergoing a complete refurbishment there is little time to spend on newspapers, however. For this reason it will take some time for this department to become firmly established. In spite of these developments and achievements there are numerous tasks for the future:

The Berlin State Library hopes to be able to continue its cataloguing projects as part of the ZDB work. One of the important newspaper collections in Berlin is at the former Institute for Marxism and Leninism, now a foundation within the Federal Archives. There are almost 20,000 newspapers and similar publications, including a near complete file of the SED (Communist party of the GDR) press. At l east one third of this material would be new titles to the ZDB (estimates go even up to 50%); it is also a very interesting and necessary source material for historians interested in the history and development of the GDR. For this reason it is an urgent task to make this material generally available.

There are still numerous other untapped newspaper collections in the country. While the ZDB and its predecessors have focussed on libraries, many newspapers are kept by institutes, archives, museums. Owing to the polycentric historic development few librarians as well as scholars have a satisfactory knowledge of these resources. For this reason a topography of newspaper collections in Germany wou ld be extremely useful. It should be a directory consisting of:

This would be the basis for all further newspaper cataloguing and microfilming activities. It would also prove enormously helpful for reference purposes and interlibrary loan until all these holdings have been fully catalogued and are available through the ZDB.

It would also be the guideline for future cataloguing projects as part of the support programme of the DFG.

The working group on newspapers maintained by the German Library Institute (DBI)7 was recently temporarily disbanded; a round table is supposed to take its place during the meantime. A symposium of newspaper librarians and experts as an activity of this round table would be desirable in order to give the state of affairs and form a consensus on a future newspaper programme.

A national newspaper programme for the German library world should be formulated. There are excellent models to emulate, like Newsplan in the UK and the US Newspaper Project. Also the French descriptive newspaper catalogue, done by «departements», is noteworthy.

Such a policy would allow the systematic cataloguing and preservation of newspapers in Germany instead of the present «spot» cataloguing which leaves the intiative to the local institutions.

These are certainly ambitious plans for the future. But rationalisation and the determination of priorities will hopefully contribute to the realisation of the mentioned goals, in spite of the worldwide economic slump and severe cuts in library budgets.


1 Traub, Hans. Standortkatalog wichtiger Zeitungsbestdnde in deutschen Bibliotheken. Leipzig: Hierscmann, 1933. XXXI, 254 pp.

2 Ed. by the Kommission für Geschichte des Parlamentarismus und der Politischen Parteien and the Verein Deutscher Bibliothekare e.V. Düsseldorf: Droste, 1974. 372 pp.

3 Winckler, Martin. Standortverzeichnis ausländischer Zeitungen und Illustrierten in Bibliotheken und Instituten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und Berlin (West). SAZI. München/Pullach: Verlag Dokumentation, 1975. 334 pp.

4 München. K. G. Saur, 1993. XXI, 801 pp.

5 Gittig, Heinz; Willi Höfig. Berliner Zeitungen und Wochenblätter in Berliner Bibliotheken. Berlin: DSB, 1991. XIII, 252 pp.

6 Gittig, Heinz. Brandenburgische Zeitungen und Wochenblätter. Berlin: SBB, 1993. XVIII, 177 pp.

7 Kommission für Zeitungen, Deutsches Bibliotheksinstitut.