Swiss National Library
Schweizerische Nationalbibliothek (German)
Bibliothèque nationale suisse (French)
Biblioteca nazionale svizzera (Italian)
Biblioteca naziunala svizra (Romansh)
Swiss National Library building in Bern
46°56′29″N 7°26′59″E / 46.94140660°N 7.44970340°E / 46.94140660; 7.44970340
LocationBern, Switzerland
Established1895 (129 years ago) (1895)
Reference to legal mandateLaw about the Swiss National Library (available in German, French and Italian)
Items collectedbooks, journals, newspapers, magazines, maps, official publications, posters, drawings and manuscripts
Size5.1M items
Criteria for collectionHelvetica: publications published in Switzerland or written by Swiss authors or concerning Switzerland
Legal depositNo, but agreements with publishers
Access and use
Access requirementsReading rooms: free.
Registration for lending: be Swiss resident or citizen over 18
Circulation78,000 (2007)
Other information
Budget32.9M Swiss francs (2008, incl. internal federal costing; $31.8M, 2nd quarter 2008)
DirectorMs. Marie-Christine Doffey (since 2005)
Employees146 FTE

The Swiss National Library (German: Schweizerische Nationalbibliothek, French: Bibliothèque nationale suisse, Italian: Biblioteca nazionale svizzera, Romansh: Biblioteca naziunala svizra) is the national library of Switzerland. Part of the Federal Office of Culture, it is charged with collecting, cataloging and conserving information in all fields, disciplines, and media connected with Switzerland, as well as ensuring the widest possible accessibility and dissemination of such data.

The Swiss National Library is intended to be open to all and, by the breadth and scope of its collection, aims to reflect the plurality and diversity of Swiss culture. It is a heritage site of national significance.[1]


On June 28, 1894, an Act of Council created the library with the responsibility of collecting "Helvetica": all publications relating to the Swiss and Switzerland.[2]: 352  In 1899, the library opened to the public in the Federal Archives building. In 1931, the library moved to a newly-constructed building on Hallwylstrasse.[3] The building was designed in the Modernist style of New Objectivity and is a listed historic monument.[4]

In 1991, a plan was made to construct underground stacks and modernize the building. The first underground stack opened in 1997 and holds books, literary archives, and special collections. The second underground stack opened in 2009 and holds newspapers and periodicals. The library expects it will have reserve storage capacity until 2038.[5] Between 1994 and 2001, the library building was renovated to modernize and extend it.[6]

In 2000, the Centre Dürrenmatt Neuchâtel, a museum of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's works, opened as a unit of the library in Neuchâtel.[7]


The Swiss National Library collection includes an extensive collection of books, newspapers, maps and atlases, official publications and printed music. The National Library's book collection contains the entire output of Swiss publishers in all languages and adds almost 15,000 new publications in a given year. There is no legal deposit law in place but rather an agreement with Swiss publishers.[8] As of 2020, the library held 4.8 million publications.[9]

Swiss National Library main reading room

Special collections that are housed at the National Library include the Lüthi Bible Collection, musical estates, the Archives of the New Helvetic Society and many more collections on topics including library science, press and radio, politics, sports, science and genealogy.[10]

The National Library has an extensive poster collection as part of its Prints and Drawings department that covers Swiss poster production.[11] The poster collection includes the Claude Kuhn Archive, which features over 350 posters created by the Bernese artist.[12]


Stacks at the National Library

In 1901, the library published the first volume of the Swiss Book, the national bibliography of Switzerland. Editions are published each year.[13]: 215 [14]

In 1928, the Swiss Union Catalog was formed to create a central catalog for all Swiss libraries. In 1979, the National Library took over the catalog's management from the Swiss Librarians' Association. In 2010, with the advent of digital catalogs, the service closed.[15]

Since 1995,[citation needed] the library has housed the ISSN Centre Switzerland which assigns ISSNs to Swiss serial publications.[16]

In 1998, the Swiss Literary Archives were established as division of the National Library to collect literary estates and archives.[17] In 2016, the Swiss National Sound Archives came under the organization of the library.[18]

Quarto is the journal of the Swiss National Library and focuses on a different one of Switzerland's four literatures (German, French, Italian and Romansh) with texts and essays on the featured literature. The journal is published once or twice each year.[19]

See also


  1. ^ "Kulturgüterschutzinventar mit Objekten von nationaler Bedeutung". (in German). Retrieved 2022-03-28.
  2. ^ Kropf, Linda Stoddart (1974). "The Swiss National Library: It's [sic] History, Collection and Prospects". The Journal of Library History. 9 (4): 352–360. ISSN 0275-3650. JSTOR 25540589.
  3. ^ "History". Swiss National Library NL. 27 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Architecture". Swiss National Library. Retrieved 2022-03-27.
  5. ^ "The Swiss National Library opens its new underground stacks". Swiss National Library. 20 Aug 2009. Retrieved 2022-03-27.
  6. ^ "Architecture". Swiss National Library. Retrieved 2022-03-27.
  7. ^ "History". Centre Dürrenmatt Neuchâtel. Retrieved 2022-03-27.
  8. ^ NL, Swiss National Library. "Books". Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  9. ^ "Annual Report 2020". Swiss National Library. 10 June 2021.
  10. ^ NL, Swiss National Library. "Other special collections". Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  11. ^ NL, Swiss National Library. "Posters: overview". Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  12. ^ NL, Swiss National Library. "Claude Kuhn archive". Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  13. ^ Beck, Marcel (1947). "Bibliography in Switzerland". The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy. 17 (3): 215–218. doi:10.1086/617357. ISSN 0024-2519. JSTOR 4303589. PMID 20272329. S2CID 10738492.
  14. ^ ""The Swiss Book" national bibliography". Swiss National Library. 2 April 2019. Retrieved 2022-03-28.
  15. ^ "History of the Swiss Union Catalogue of monographs". Swiss National Library. 21 Nov 2018. Retrieved 2022-03-27.
  16. ^ "ISSN Centre Switzerland". Swiss National Library. 22 April 2020. Retrieved 2022-03-28.
  17. ^ "Swiss Literary Archives (SLA)". Swiss National Library. 4 July 2006. Archived from the original on 10 Oct 2006.
  18. ^ "Nationalphonothek kommt zur Nationalbibliothek". Schweizerischen Nationalbibliothek (in German). 2016-01-14. Retrieved 2022-03-28.
  19. ^ Swiss National Library. "Quarto". Retrieved 2021-03-05.