Erasmus visit to the Freie Universität Berlin part 2

 At the Freie Universität, the  Library Director met with myself and a Library trainee on  placement and gave us an overview of the history, structure and projects and a tour of the main library. There are some similarities with the UK in terms of infrastructure and library systems.  There are differences though in terms of University libraries being more open to the public and that many of the books in the German libraries are on closed access and have to be collected. This is largely due to the building design being geared towards closed stacks. The university Libraries in Berlin  allow in members of the public but no bags and coats are allowed whereas in the UK, university libraries are often accessed via university ID cards. This is because the German libraries partly have a  public library role in terms of learning  and the public libraries are more for leisure reading and you may have to pay to enter them eg. the Berlin State Library.

Book Towers at the Library


We have one main Library and 2 law and 1 business Library at City University London but The Freie Universität  has 40 libraries, including small departmental ones. There is a project called 24 in 1 to merge many of them into a new building.  The FU library is moving to a new library system Alma and Primo which is also popular in the UK and are currently trying to implement single sign on for the website, virtual learning environment and electronic resources and a cloud based IT infrastructure for the Libraries .  I also visited the Philology Library. This is an unusual building designed by Sir Norman Foster. A  layered canopy opens for natural ventilation. The library has become the centrepiece of the University’s Dahlem campus and a Berlin architectural landmark. It holds 700,000 volumes.  

Philology Library

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 I met with the Director of the Social Sciences Library. This is one of the faculty libraries which work closely with academic staff and researchers. In the UK, many libraries are now increasing their researcher support and the Director mentioned that this an area for future development . The Social Sciences Library was formed from the merger of 5 departmental Libraries and includes politics and East European studies. One difference is that in the UK we have dedicated Subject Librarians so can concentrate on offering tailored services and training to staff and students, in this Library the Subject Librarian work is usually on top of a managerial or administrative role.

The Social Sciences Library director wishes to hold qualitative  interviews with academics and researchers to find out their expectations of services and training. Most of the information literacy is geared towards undergraduates and some of it has been delivered in small groups with peer learning taking place by students working together. Another idea was using a research portfolio where students do research and reflect on their search terms and results and then write a reflective summary and present their findings. Some small You Tube videos have been made to support the learning.


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