ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics – A Crystal Palace for the dismal science

Written by Birgit Gummersbach

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The cruise ships and ferries entering the port of Kiel offer the best view of the spectacular building sitting on the waterfront: a long, elegant curve of glass and concrete, four stories high. This is the home of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.

Many visitors and citizens of Kiel walk past the building when they take a stroll along the promenade. Few know that it houses one of the world’s largest libraries dedicated to economics. Some venture inside when it is Open Day, and they invariably ask: “Where are the books?”

They are held in stocks six stories deep, from the top floor to two levels underground, in shelves that optimise storage. It is the only efficient way to store 4 million books and keep them on hand for their eager readers.

The building is the home of a library that has been growing without interruption since it was founded in 1919 as a department of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy residing next door, so it is celebrating a centenary this year. It is young compared to other internationally renowned libraries, but its founding fathers had ambition and vision, and they built a collection that draws economists from all over the world. But readership is not restricted to economists: the library is open to anyone who is interested in economics.

There are books and journals from every country in the world that publishes literature in economics, available in many languages. The ZBW also collects handbooks and statistics and offers access to licensed databases,.

Economists no longer need to travel to Kiel to profit from this treasure: they can browse the library’s catalogues online; they can download free papers from its document servers; they can order them to be sent to their own libraries or to their own desk with document delivery services.

If you take the journey to Kiel you can order the books and journals from the stacks to read, copy or scan; you can use the databases for articles and download or print them. Or you can just sit in the reading rooms, looking out of the big windows facing east, and simply enjoy the view.

And then you can return to the city centre along the promenade, past the Landtag (parliament) of Schleswig-Holstein, the Geomar marine research institute and its aquarium, the rowing clubs, and the cruise and ferry terminals.

The ZBW celebrates its 100th birthday in 2019. Celebrate with us! https://100years.zbw.eu/

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