Library and Documentation Unit

Headed by Urs Schoepflin

The Library is the central unit for research information and documentation of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. Its mission is to support research at the Institute by providing scholarly literature, reference and up-to-date information services of all kinds. This includes the management and maintenance of the collections of printed sources like books and journals, of the microfiche and microfilm archive, and of a digital library comprising source texts pertinent to research in history of science. These collections are complemented by direct access to a broad range of remote electronic resources including dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference collections, electronic journals, and bibliographic databases. The electronic resources include both current and historic material. In addition, with its Interlibrary Loan Service the Library provides access to the collections of the main research libraries in Berlin, in Germany, and abroad. Local and Internet electronic resources are made available through the Library’s homepage. Along with its electronic resources, tools to search and handle the wealth of electronic information available in-house and worldwide are also supplied. The collections of printed books and journals are presented for open access and arranged systematically to meet user requirements for browsing. The Library offers a reading area with Intranet and Internet connections as well as an informal area for reading newspapers. These areas can be configured for discussion groups and receptions. The Library is permanently accessible for members of the Institute, including evenings and weekends.

Ruth Kessentini, Urs Schoepflin, Matthias Schwerdt, Ellen Garske, Urte Brauckmann, Sabine Klein, Ralf Hinrichsen, Beate McPhail (from left to right)
Library Developments

The development of the collections was continued and concentrated on major source works in rare original as well as in modern critical editions and on reference works along with a selection of secondary literature. The Library benefitted from the donation of parts of the private library of Peter Havas (focusing on relativity theory and mathematics) and from the partial acquisition of the bequest of Ernst Gehrcke (focusing on the reception of Einstein in the early 1920s). The collection of printed works - the current holdings amount to over 45,000 volumes - is arranged in the following divisions:

As a further information resource, 140 current journals belonging to the core literature in the research areas of the Institute are available. These include a selection of current newsletters of the major learned societies and institutions in history of science. Due to the limited space available to the Library in the main building, the backfiles of the printed journals including all discontinued titles are now accessible in a neighboring building.

The Library’s microform source collection ( e.g., Landmarks of Science, Newton’s Manuscripts and Papers, the papers of Joseph Banks, or Einstein’s Collected Works) has been expanded and now holds some 13,000 historical works, journals, and manuscripts. Microfilm readers, reader-printers and reader-scanners are provided to take full advantage of this strategic resource for research at the Institute (see ).

The Interlibrary Loan Service (ILL), another service priority to support research at the Institute, has again been expanded to good effect. Given the limited space and resources available to the core library collections and the diversity of the research topics at the Institute, this is perhaps the Library’s single most vital service, amounting to over 14.000 items in 2001. In view of its importance and to meet the growing demand also in the future, an additional position could be created thanks the support of the Max Planck Society. ILL provides bibliographic reference and document delivery from the major research libraries in Berlin, Germany and abroad. It also provides copies of journal articles (mainly digitized in PDF format to comply with the workflow of research projects and individual scientists) as well as microfilms of books and other documents. Catalogs of the lending libraries can be consulted on microfiche, electronic files, and through the Internet as a part of the Library’s reference service.

Electronic Resources

The Library’s electronic resources were considerably enhanced with the strategic aim to make more scholarly sources available in electronic form. Included are now digital facsimiles of source works pertinent to history of science, over 2.000 scholarly electronic journals, bibliographic reference and full-text databases, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and electronic library catalogs. Catalog information on all the Library’s collections and holdings is provided via an internal Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) available through the Intranet. Databases on CD-ROM can be searched on individual workstations.

A selection of remote bibliographic databases are available for direct searches. These include table of content files (Current Contents, Online Contents) as well as subject databases (History of Science and Technology, Web of Science, Bibliography of History of Art, Philosopher’s Index, Historical Abstracts, Dissertation Abstracts, Biosis, Medline, etc.). For mediated searches in a wide range of other reference and full-text databases the Library has access to the networks of OCLC and of Dialog host services.

All local and remote electronic holdings and services are integrated in the Library’s World Wide Web homepage providing unified access to various electronic resources. This page offers structured lists of links to the Institute’s library resources (catalog of holdings, new acquisitions lists, current journals), as well as to major library catalogs in Germany and abroad, to bibliographic information, to text archives, or to relevant sites in the history of science field.

Besides continuous support and advice in library, archive, and bibliography matters, the Library periodically offers structured introductions to the collections and services. Special courses are offered on the use of resources like electronic journals, remote bibliographic databases, library catalogs on the Internet, and for the use of personal bibliography makers (EndNote). Support is also provided for problems with reformatting various bibliographic software.

Staff development was accompanied by training schedules covering systems administration, search techniques in bibliographic databases, Internet training, and language courses. Staff members were also delegates at conferences and exhibitions relevant to the information field. In particular, Urte Brauckmann was a delegate in the framework of an international staff exchange with the Rand Africaans University Library, Johannesburg.

Project “Computer-Aided Source Collection in History of Science” and Related Digital Library Activities

Since the Institute was not endowed with an old library of gradually expanded holdings, many of the historical sources had to be acquired in the form of microfilm. To date, these microfilm archives store over 13.000 works and manuscripts. To offer state-of-the-art access to this resource both inhouse and on the Internet, a digital library was conceived including tools for the management and access to electronic facsimile documents, as well as a production line to digitize material from original prints, paper copies, and microforms. The Computer-Aided Source Collection in History of Science is a joint endeavor of the Library with members of the research groups and the recently-founded Information Technology Group (+++ internal page reference +++) and includes a group of specially trained assistant staff at the Library. Thus, digitization requirements of the research projects at the Institute (e.g. for a virtual library in the history of the life sciences in the framework of the project Experimentalisation of Life) can be met on demand and in a short time.

Technically the production line for digitization consists of flatbed scanners for paper documents, a SunRise microfilm scanner, and a digital camera to produce high quality color facsimiles from sensitive original prints. Currently, core documents of the microfilm archive are being digitized in gray-scale images allowing for a more detailed reproduction of the original from film. The document servers so far hold over 700 source documents both in gray-scale and color facsimiles. Care was taken to use widely available standard software (Web browsers) for accessing, browsing, and annotating the digitized documents in the viewer, both to immunize against dedicated and platform-dependent software solutions and to guarantee flexibility for future developments.

To overcome traditional restrictions in the availability of rare books and archival material, the Library, in parallel, is acquiring relevant source works in high quality image scans from other libraries and archives (e.g. State and University Library in Göttingen and Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel). Special contracts were concluded e.g. with the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin allowing for archival material to be digitized and disseminated freely on the Internet as an integrative part of the scholarly work pursued at the Institute.

In order to foster the availability of digital facsimiles of source works in history of science, a further strategic alliance is being planned with the library of the Institute and Museum for the History of Science in Florence and of the Dibner Institute in Cambridge, Mass. The aim of this alliance is to share the resources of rare books for digitization, to develop appropriate standards for digitizing, freely disseminating, and archiving source material and to adopt a workplan for digitization in light of the research priorities of the participants, thus complementing the individual institutions’ efforts. It is hoped that this initiative will help to set standards for digitized material in our field. The common goal shared by these activities is to create a critical mass of freely available scholarly material for studying history of science on the Internet.

In line with this policy, the Library plays an active role in the Archimedes Project (http:// archimedes. where the vision of an open digital research library for the study of long-term developments in the history of mechanics is being realized. In the framework of this project, a large body of printed sources has been transcribed into electronic text thus making the works available for further scholarly analysis. In a cooperation with the library of the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing digital facsimiles of Chinese sources in the history of mechanics are being provided, thus extending the scope of the available corpus also to the non-european tradition.

Integration into Professional Networks

Particular attention was paid to the further integration of the Library’s concepts and developments into professional networks. Besides participating in national and international conferences, the head of the Library regularly attended the librarians’ meetings of the Max Planck Society to discuss policy and technical issues.

Pursuing new concepts of information provision, dissemination of scholarly information, and service development, the Library has teamed up with the Information Technology Group at the Institute to build a pilot for the planned Max Planck wide eDocument Server, currently being realized by the Heinz Nixdorf Center for Information Management in the Max Planck Society (ZIM), and for which the Institute will serve as a pilot installation. Urs Schoepflin is attending meetings with the ZIM to further extend the concepts of advance information management also to the level of library resources within the Max Planck Society, in particular for the humanities.

In its educational role, the Library is involved with the Institute of Library Science at the Humboldt University, Berlin, where concepts, services, and the organization of the Library are regularly presented at seminars. The Library was also the host to several professional visits and to longer internships offered in the framework of professional on-the-job training and staff exchanges. Among the guests in these programs were librarians of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Berlin, the Library of the Institute and Museum for the History of Science in Florence, the Library of Rand Africaans University at Johannesburg, and the Library of the Chinese Academy of the Sciences in Lanzhou (China).

Scholarly Activities at the Library

In addition to his duties as head of the Library, Urs Schoepflin has also carried out scientometric research in the areas of scientific communication structures and reception processes of scientific literature.

In an ongoing study (in cooperation with Wolfgang Glänzel, Information Science and Informetrics Research Unit at the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest) the history of the field of scientometrics was critically reviewed. Special emphasis was given to research on recent methodological developments, an issue which clearly reflects the role presently often attributed to scientometrics as a tool for mere quantitative evaluation purposes, neglecting its power to elucidate scholarly communication processes. A presentation was made with members of the Central Administration of the Max Planck Society, when issues on quantitative and comparative evaluation measures for the research fields in the humanities were discussed.