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Collection Development Policy

German Language and Literature

German Language and Literature
Sem C. Sutter
May 2009


Brief overview of the collection

  • History:  The German philology collection began as a key component of the Library’s founding acquisition, the Berlin Collection of 1891, and subsequent development has been continuous.  Ongoing routine acquisitions as well as substantial block purchases and donated collections have built one of the country’s significant research resources in the field.

  • Broad subject areas emphasized or de-emphasized: Current collecting focuses on German literary and cultural studies from the 18th century to the present. Historical holdings for medieval and baroque German literature and for Dutch literature are stronger than current collecting levels, reflecting shifts in the academic program.

  •  Description of academic program: The Department of Germanic Studies offers AB, AM and PhD degrees. Emphases include literary history, literary and cultural theory, intellectual history, and the German philosophical tradition, with strong affinities for opera, theater, and performance studies, cinema studies, psychoanalysis, Jewish studies, and visual studies.

  • Audience/Purpose: The collection supports the research and teaching needs of its primary audience, faculty and students in the Department of Germanic Studies, as well as those of readers in other programs, especially Comparative Literature, Linguistics, Jewish Studies, Music, Art History, History, Philosophy, and the Divinity School. Secondarily, the literature collection supplies material for the recreational reading interests of the university community as a whole.


Collecting guidelines

Levels of selection: Comprehensive, research, instructional support, basic information; for a description of these levels, see the general policy statement.

The Library of Congress classifies Germanic languages in the subclasses PD (Germanic and North Germanic) and PF (West Germanic) and Germanic literature in subclass PT. Please note that collecting guidelines for Scandinavian languages and literatures are discussed in a separate collection policy statement.

Germanic Languages—General  (PD1-780): research level

Old Germanic Dialects (PD1001-1350): basic information level

West Germanic Languages—Dutch, Flemish, Frisian  (PF1-1541): basic information level

German Literature—General  (PT1-1360): research level

German Literature—Middle High German, ca. 1050-1450/1500 (PT 1501-1695): instructional support level

German Literature—1500-ca. 1700 (PT 1701-1797): instructional support level

German Literature—1700-ca. 1860/70 (PT 1799-2592): research level

German Literature—1860/70-1960 (PT2600-2653): research level

German Literature—1960-present (PT2660-2653): research level

German Literature—East Germany (PT3701-3746): research level

Low German Literature (PT4801-4897): basic information level

Dutch Literature & Flemish Literature since 1830 (PT5001-6467): basic information level

Afrikaans Literature (PT6500-6593): basic information level

  • Type of materials included & excluded:  The Library actively acquires literary works, criticism, dictionaries, reference works and grammars. These include journals, monographs, and series, either in print or online.  Spoken word recordings and performances are acquired on a highly selective basis. 

    Introductory textbooks, anthologies of previously published material, and unrevised dissertations are generally not   acquired.

  • Physical formats included & excluded: All formats are included, but acquisition of microforms and CD-ROMs is very highly selective. An increasing percentage of the journal collection is available online rather than in print.  The Library supports access to relevant specialized electronic indexing and abstracting tools and full-text corpora as comprehensively as possible within budgetary limits. Notable among these are Bibliographie der deutschen Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft, IBZ - Internationale Bibliographie der geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Zeitschriftenliteratur, Digitale Bibliothek Deutscher Klassiker, Die Deutsche Lyrik, and the works of Luther, Goethe, Schiller, Kafka, and Brecht.
  • Publication dates collected: While primary focus is on currently-published material, as funding levels and availability permit the Library regularly acquires older and out-of-print titles in the field to meet new research and teaching needs, to fill gaps, to respond to reader requests, and to continue building areas of particular strength and interest.  The bibliographer generally selects out-of-print titles, while the director of the Special Collections Research Center acquires rare titles, often in consultation with the bibliographer.

  • Languages:  The Library collects materials primarily in the Germanic languages and English, selectively acquiring monographs in other Western European languages, especially French.  Works of criticism in Slavic and Asian languages are not normally considered in scope, but such titles occasionally enter the collection incidentally through area studies exchange programs. The Library actively collects translations into English.  Translations into other languages are generally out of scope but are accepted as gifts with great selectivity.

  • Geographical range: Emphasis is on materials published in Western Europe and North America.

  • Chronological span: Comprehensive, from materials focusing on the medieval period to the present.

  •  Selection process: The Library has defined blanket plans with Otto Harrassowitz and Erasmus Boekhandel that automatically supply new titles by major German and Dutch belles lettres authors, respectively. Criticism is primarily selected from electronic notification slips from Harrassowitz and Yankee Book Peddler, supplemented by catalogs.

Areas of distinction

The rare book collection in the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) is particularly strong in German literature of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries and its holdings of eighteenth-century Dutch literature are among the most extensive in the country. Notable special collections include the Linckesche Leihbibliothek, a collection of approximately 15,000 volumes of popular nineteenth-century literature, originally part of a rental library in Leipzig; a collection of some 1,700 Almanache and Taschenbücher  of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and the Wieboldt-Rosenwald collection of German-language folksong manuscript photostats.

The Ludwig Rosenberger Library of Judaica in SCRC documents the social and cultural history of the Jewish people, with particular emphasis on German-speaking Europe.

Related University of Chicago collections

Strong collections in other humanities disciplines and in the social sciences, particularly history and psychology, as well as in Jewish studies complement the German literary and intellectual history, and literary and cultural theory collections.

Cooperative arrangements and related collections

Northwestern University Library complements Chicago’s collections in German language and literature, particularly through its extensive collection of expressionist literature. University of Chicago readers enjoy reciprocal borrowing privileges. We rely on the Center for Research Libraries for newspapers, foreign dissertations, and some large microform sets.