Profile of the University Library

The university library of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


Libraries are enjoying a boom in visitors and users in the transition from printed to digital media. Libraries are evidently not being affected by the ‘cloud’ of electronic content and services - in fact, they are still places offering access to information and knowledge and enabling knowledge to be acquired and produced.

However, the appeal of libraries is not limited to providing and processing information and knowledge. Libraries are also entirely public areas where encounters and communications in the strictest sense of the word result in what is known as ‘scholarly communication’.

The services provided by the university library of the Humboldt-Universität with its 12 locations are availed of by around 69,000 registered users (38,000 of whom are external), and the Grimm-Zentrum is particularly popular with 5,200 users per day. Together with the around 4,800 users of the branch libraries, around 10,000 people today visit the library sites. In 2011, the university library was the most popular academic library in Germany with 2.96 million visitors. The university library’s collection profile also includes special collections such as the university’s art collection(Custody), offering an extensive stock of art items. As a facility with central responsibility for the entire university, the university archive is part of the university library and contains more than 8000 metres of records and outstanding academic bequests.



The PRIMUS search engine, introduced in 2011, offers innovative access to the knowledge of the university library stock with 7.8 million search queries per year. Stocks include 6 million printed books and journals together with digital knowledge resources including 200,000 e-books, 16,000 e-journals and 200 databases and digital objects which can be searched and used down to item level. These also include the stocks of the two ‘Higher Education’ and ‘Folklore and Ethnology’ DFG special collections. The Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation offers funding of €900,000 a year to procure printed monographs in all subject areas.

Long opening hours really help to ensure good conditions for work and study: the Grimm-Zentrum is open on weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 12 midnight and also open at weekends. The Law School Library’s Sunday opening hours are very popular. The university library’s old stocks attract particular attention, and are back-catalogued in defined chronological steps for easier retrieval.

The creation of a digitisation service means that valuable Humboldt-Universität old stocks are gradually being converted to digital documents and made available free of charge. Digital reproductions, theses, and open-access publication and journal series are accessible via the e-doc server.

Proposed externally funded projects are being planned to digitise ethnological journals and to create a cloud-based communication and collaboration platform in a project consortium with libraries and data centres from Bavaria, Berlin and Brandenburg.

The Humboldt-Universität university library’s high position in the German library ranking BIX and the strong national and international interest shown in the library provide a strong motivation to further develop the university library into a ‘gateway for knowledge’.


Development objectives

In line with Humboldt-Universität’s quest for excellence, the library will be consistently continuing its supply mandate with digital and printed information and media with a range of collections aligned with Humboldt-Universität’s research profile, and will be expanding and improving its service profile on cooperation with university academics and the computer and media service via digital value-added services for researchers, teachers and students.

On this basis, the university library of the Humboldt-Universität has set the following goals for the next five years:

  • Improve the accessibility of its old collections by retro-converting catalogue data and digitising selected stocks
  • User-friendly design of open stock and user areas and of the opening hours in the Grimm-Zentrum and branch libraries. The planned extension on Campus Nord should finalise location concentration
  • Further development of information competence services and development of subject-specific and user-specific access to resources (subject gateways)
  • Provision of specialist ‘Open Science’ service scenarios (open access, open data, open source etc.)
  • Continually increasing the efficiency of work procedures and routine processes
  • Sustainable qualification of staff in light of new professional challenges

This orientation makes the university library of the Humboldt-Universität (founded in 1831) a top-level partner for research, teaching and learning as well as a high-quality service centre for academic work.



The university library’s (single-layer) library system consists of the following locations:

  • Central Library in the Jacob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum (including 12 integrated branch libraries and sub-libraries)
  • Natural Sciences Library in the Erwin-Schrödinger-Zentrum
  • Campus Nord Library
  • 8 branch libraries and sub-libraries


Organisational chart


Special collections


Annual reports

Annual Report 2011

Annual Report 2012

Annual Report 2013

Annual Report 2014

Annual Report 2015


The university library also uses an info app to provide information about its history, locations and the library of Jacom and Wilhelm Grimm, as well as presenting a series of digital texts.

Further information available in the university library brochure