What is a research library

What is a research library? The 80/20 rule

Today, very different libraries describe all or part of their activities with the term research library: In addition to the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel and the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, which have been doing this for decades, these include, for example, the

  • State and City Library Augsburg
  • Bamberg State Library
  • Library for research on the history of education in Berlin and Frankfurt / M.
  • Berlin State Library
  • Saxon State Library / State and University Library in Dresden
  • State and University Library Düsseldorf
  • University and Research Library Erfurt / Gotha
  • Lower Saxony State and University Library Göttingen
  • Library of the Francke Foundations in Halle / S.
  • Thuringian University and State Library Jena
  • Diocesan Library Cologne
  • Leipzig University Library
  • Mainz City Library
  • Library of the German Literature Archive Marbach / N.
  • Bavarian State Library

There are also numerous regional libraries. The list is certainly incomplete. It shows that there are many libraries that have a different main task and still see themselves as research libraries. I want the term for this research-oriented libraries suggest as a generic term.

They are characterized by

  1. the programmatic integration of research in the library
  2. the offer of special development services
  3. permanent access to the collection (archive function)
  4. a mediation contract with the public.

Research-oriented libraries are inconceivable without collections.

As a special case of research-oriented libraries, there are those that expressly understand themselves in this way Research libraries. The Duchess Anna Amalia Library and the Herzog August Library as well as some other libraries have no other task than to facilitate and promote research in the humanities and the humanities. They cannot be assigned to any other group of libraries, not even the regional libraries from which they emerged in Germany. That is why the research library sub-category is required within the research-oriented libraries.

Research libraries differ from other libraries in several criteria. Without going too far here, I would like to refer to the "80/20 rule", which states that around 80 percent of library questions can usually be answered with a core of 20 percent of the basic resources. In research libraries, users can also pursue questions for which the basic resources are insufficient and for which the 80 percent of the less widely used materials are necessary. The American-pragmatic 80/20 rule was formulated by the Washington librarian Thomas Mann (The research library as place: On the essential importance of collections of books shelved in subject-classified arrangements. In: The library as place. History, community, and culture. Ed. John E. Buschman etc. Westport, CT 2007, pp. 191-206, here pp. 191 f.)

The general rule of research libraries is that they promise a long-term and resource-intensive program that should not be indulged in lightly. Klaus Ceynowa points this out in an article that is well worth reading, but I do not want to agree in all aspects (Research Library Reloaded? Reflections on the future of the humanities research library. In: Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie 65.2018, pp. 3-7). He recommends getting the label Research library only to be attached if the performance profile can also be met. (The Krekelborn Research Library dares! :-)) 


See also Cultural and humanities research and libraries. In: Michael Knoche: On the way to the research library. Studies from the Duchess Anna Amalia Library. Frankfurt a. M .: Klostermann 2016, pp. 11–23 (= Journal for Libraries and Bibliography. Special Volume 120)