History of the ZB MED
The ZB MED has its roots in two locations and two much older libraries that form a key part of Rhineland heritage, one founded in 1847 in Bonn and another in 1908 in Cologne.
In 1908, the “Bibliothek der Akademie für praktische Medizin” (Library of the Academy of Practical Medicine) opened its doors in Cologne. Established as a hospital library, its goal was to help doctors by coordinating the numerous collections of books and journals held by other hospital and institute libraries. From an initial stock of 75 journals and 5,000 books, the library gradually increased its holdings to more than 30,000 items by purchasing new items in its subject areas and by incorporating a multitude of donations, acquisitions and bequests. When the University and City Library of Cologne was founded in 1920, the hospital library was incorporated as “Department 3”. The library's holdings survived the war virtually unscathed, and in 1948 the German Research Foundation (DFG in German) instructed the library to take charge of the special medical collection, granting it a nationwide remit that covered the entire Federal Republic of Germany.
Building up its stock
With the support of the DFG, the library intensified its efforts to collect foreign literature, particularly from the Anglo-American sphere. New items were acquired at a steady pace and, by 1963, the library boasted 1,100 journal titles and 250,000 volumes.
In 1964, the Science Council recommended that the "Medical Department of the University and City Library" should be expanded into the "Zentralbibliothek der Medizin" (National Library of Medicine). This was eventually established five years later, in 1969. Its mandate was to acquire the relevant literature as "comprehensively as possible" in its role as the "national specialist library of medicine". Ever since then, its collection policy has encompassed everything from anatomy and anthropology to urology and virology. German and English-language texts predominate in the book collections, while journals are acquired from all over the world – in all languages and from all countries.
1969 also saw the founding of the German Institute of Medical Documentation and Information (DIMDI) in Cologne, an institution that works closely with the ZB MED on issues regarding its collection policy.
In 1994, the library's name was changed to the “Deutsche Zentralbibliothek für Medizin” (German National Library of Medicine), and in 1999, the ZB MED moved in to its own building on the site of the University Hospital of Cologne.
Developing a long-established collection
In 2001, a second site in Bonn came under the wing of the ZB MED. Since 1847, this had been the site of the smaller and older of the ZB MED's two predecessor libraries, the “Höhere Landwirthschaftliche Lehranstalt Bonn-Poppelsdorf” (Bonn-Poppelsdorf Institute of Higher Education for Agriculture). Its name was changed to the “Königlich Landwirthschaftliche Akademie“ (Royal Agricultural Academy) in 1961 and it was subsequently granted the ability to confer doctorates as an Agricultural University in 1919.
As its name implied, the Bonn-based library focused on acquiring an extensive collection of agriculture-related literature – much as the Cologne site was exclusively engaged in acquiring medical literature. With the steady acquisition of new items through donations and bequests, the library's holdings grew from 273 books and 12 journal titles in the 1850s to more than 35,000 volumes in 1934.
In that same year, the Agricultural University was incorporated as the seventh department of Bonn University. Its main library – which unlike Bonn University library had escaped the war unscathed – became the agriculture department of the university library. By 1950 it was the largest specialist agricultural library in West Germany, and this led to the DFG assigning it nationwide responsibility for the special agriculture collection, granting it a similar role to the library in Cologne. Thanks to funding from the DFG, the library continued to increase its holdings and in 1962 it was renamed the “Zentralbibliothek der Landbauwissenschaft” (National Library of Agricultural Science).
In 1971, the library became the German centre for the Agricultural Libraries Network (AGLINET) and launched plans for an urgently needed new library building. It moved to its new home in 1983, but in 1997 the building was subjected to an arson attack and had to be extensively repaired. None of the 300,000 items in its stock at that time were lost in the fire.
In 1995, the library was renamed the “Deutsche Zentralbibliothek für Landbauwissenschaften” (German National Library of Agricultural Sciences), but in 1999 the Science Council recommended that it should no longer be run as an independent entity.
As a result, the subject areas of nutrition and the environment were incorporated in the German National Library of Medicine (ZB MED) in 2001, followed by the subject area of agriculture in 2003. Since then the ZB MED has been managed over the two sites, operating as the ZB MED Medicine. Health. in Cologne and as the ZB MED Nutrition. Environment. Agriculture. in Bonn.
Five disciplines in one library
With its broad range of subjects from the field of life sciences and a stock that now stands at more than 1.5 million volumes, the ZB MED is the world's largest library in its combination of subjects. In addition to acquiring ‘traditional’ media such as books and journals, the library is steadily increasing its holdings in the broad field of new electronic publishing formats. The ZB MED constantly strives to keep abreast of developments in the field of medicine and changes in the needs of its customers (researchers, students, physicians, industry, scientists) and tailors its collection profile and information services to reflect demand.