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Celebrating excellence: a profile on German libraries

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Summary

This article has given a brief overview of some of the developments in German libraries. It is far from comprehensive: many excellent research and public libraries have been omitted, as has the work being done in prison libraries and with minority groups.

What emerges, however, is a picture which combines both the German respect for knowledge and research, as well as the more Anglo-Saxon "big society" approach with churches stepping in to help libraries in parts which the "official" public service cannot reach.

Idealism – the view that all knowledge should be freely available – is balanced by pragmatism and efficiency, with licences being parcelled out according to need, and different centres specializing in particular subjects. And there are plenty of examples of innovation.

All in all, despite the concerns of the German Library Association, libraries are generally thriving and offering plenty of examples of good practice for the rest of the world.