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Korean Studies Collection at Goettingen State and University Library

Goettingen State and University Library, one of the five best libraries in Germany, was created almost at the same time the University of Goettingen was founded in 1734. One key element that set this library apart from all other libraries in Europe was that it was developed as an academic library. The Grimm brothers (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, 1829-1837), for example, are globally known for their collection of German fairy tales, and used to work in Goettingen State and University Library.

The Library building suffered extensive damage due to bombings toward the end of World War II. Most of the books in the Library, however, managed to avoid severe damage, and as a result a significant number of 18th and 19th century books are preserved in the Library today. What are to be considered a particularly valuable contribution are publications that date back to the 18th century that emphasize an English-language cultural sphere.

Unlike the United States, Britain, and France, there was no national library system in Germany. Instead, there were history-bound libraries in each state. As a consequence, several national libraries were created in each state, resulting in the localization of libraries. There were plans at one stage to open a central national library, but that was never put into action due to the two world wars. After the wars, German libraries faced severe financial difficulties and failed to purchase sufficient foreign publications. Thus, a library system in which the libraries collected foreign academic publications evolved from this economically difficult period.

Collection of Publications under the Specialized Library System

This specialized library system refers to a foreign publications' mutual lending formula among German libraries, under which the German Academic Foundation(Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) assigns specific academic fields to a library, provides this library with budgetary support (two-thirds of the funds necessary for purchase of publications), thereby allowing that library to take responsibility for purchasing foreign publications printed after 1930, as well as to file a list of these publications and then lend them to other German libraries when they are requested. The ultimate goal of this system was to purchase as many foreign publications printed after 1930 as possible, thereby having at least a specific foreign book kept at any one German library. Thanks to this system, the publication lending scheme is firmly in place in Germany today. For example, Goettingen State and University Library used to lend more than 500,000 volumes annually as a "providing" (lending) institute rather than a "receiving" (borrowing) institute. The German Academic Foundation allotted an annual budget for the purchase of foreign publications published prior to 1930.

Goettingen State and University Library, which has been assigned approximately 20 academic disciplines, has built a reputation as a specialized library in Germany. Uralic and Altaic studies are included in the 20 academic disciplines, and furthermore, from an academic point of view, the Library is the origin of worldwide Uralic and Altaic studies. As the Library has collected a significant number of relevant publications since the 19th century, the Germany Academic Foundation designated the Library as an institute dedicated to collections of Uralic and Altaic studies-related publications after 1945.

In 1971 Uralic studies were redefined into general Uralic, Hungarian and Finnish studies, while Altaic studies were reclassified as Turkish, Mongolian, Manchurian·Tungus and Korean ones. For Korean studies, this library was offered three areas, Korean linguistics, literature and folklore, for purchase of books. The German Academic Foundation changed the specialized library system to a country-based lending system later. As a result, Korea, along with China and Japan, were assigned to the national library in Berlin, resulting in two libraries in Germany now being required to collect publications relating to Korean studies.

Leading Korean Studies Repository in Germany

 Goettingen State and University LibraryCollection of Korean studies materials virtually commenced in 1975 when I traveled to Korea at the request of the director of the Library to purchase books and other publications with a budget of 20,000 marks. The purchases of Korean studies books focused on original sources of Korean studies (mostly photographic reproductions). The publications bought between 1975 and 2001, the year of my retirement, totaled approximately 100,000, and more than 250 types of series and periodicals are currently in the list of standing order.

Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that, with regards to Korean studies publications, Goettingen State and University Library is one of the best libraries in Europe. Among notable Korean publications stored at the Library are microfilmed trans of ancient Korean novels. The collection of these microfilms has been made possible with financial support from the German Academic Foundation. The Library wanted to put trans of ancient Korean novels, dispersed all around the globe, onto microfilm in at least one place that represented them as a collective. The index of these microfilmed trans was once released for the use of libraries. These publications will be published in the Collana Korean Literature and Culture Series by the University of Siena, Italy.

Almost all Korean studies publications kept at Goettingen State and University Library are computerized. This institute was the first German library to start building a database for its volumes in the 1970s. A list of newly purchased books, which is announced on a quarterly basis, can be found on the Library homepage.

The Library adopted the PICA system, which was developed in the Netherlands in the early 1990s, and as a result the entire library, including book ordering systems are now computerized. All newly purchased Korean books are indexed under the McCune-Reischauer Romanization system. Therefore, to gain access to information regarding Korean studies publications in the Library, knowledge of the M-R Romanization system is required.

After retiring from my job after 26 years of service at Goettingen State and University Library, I now serve as an advisor to the Korean studies book collection at the Library. Dr. Wolfgang Giella, my predecessor, has taken over Altaic studies, and Dr. Seong Guem-sook joined him in early August in order to provide more efficient collections and better management of Korean studies publications with the support of the Korean Foundation.