The Cologne University and City Library (USB) is the central library of the University of Cologne and as such functions as a service institution especially for university members and institutes, but also for the citizens of Cologne and surroundings and a number of other customers. The USB, along with the institute libraries, is responsible for supplying the University of Cologne with literature and information. To fulfill its duties it makes use of modern information and communication technologies.
The USB offers both a wide spectrum of current information media and an extensive collection of historically important books. Its comprehensive special collections and areas of collection emphasis (business studies, social sciences, insurance studies (information in German), culture of Belgium/Luxembourg, Rhineland writings, European Union, Iceland-collection (information in German) make the library especially relevant for a supra-regional and non-academic clientele. The library has always been a trusted partner for businesses and aims to satisfy their information requirements with its collections.
The library’s old stock is the largest and most important in all of North Rhine-Westphalia. The USB is the guardian of the academic and literary heritage of the city of Cologne, having originated from the Council Library (1602) and other preceding institutions and having been supplemented by a number of substantial donations up until today.
According to the University charter, the USB is the central lending, reference library and information center for the University. It has a well-furnished textbook collection and a comprehensive research collection (non-circulating) in the open stacks, reading and catalog areas (approx. 100,000 volumes) with about 560 work spaces.
3.6 million items, approx. 8,500 of which are up-to-date periodicals for all subject areas except medicine (Medical Department of Cologne ).
Special subject collection areas include business studies, social sciences, insurance studies (information in German), the European Union and the culture of Belgium/Luxembourg, as well as Rhineland regional studies.
The Cologne USB was created as a result of the founding of the New University of Cologne in 1920. Its roots date back to a number of preceding institutions, which provided its rich and important old stock. The oldest root is the so-called Syndicate Library, founded in 1602 by the council of the city of Cologne, a reference library consisting mostly of legal scholarship to assist the work of the Council.
The Wallraf collection, another major source of the library’s old stock, can be traced back to Ferdinand Franz Wallraf (1748-1824), the last president of the Old University. This collection, together with the collection of the Syndicate Library, forms the foundation of the old Cologne City Library.
Another important source came from the Grammar School Library, which dates back to a collection of the Jesuit College, which was abolished in 1773. During the French occupation, the collections of numerous Cologne monasteries and the old Cologne grammar schools were added after 1794.
As the permanent depository of the grammar school and endowment fund, the library was incorporated into the City Library of Cologne and therefore became part of the USB in 1920.
The handbook of historical book collections (information in German) contains a short overview of the history and the collections (as of 1991).
The Central Library was planned to consist entirely of closed stacks.
As the books were not originally intended to be directly accessible, they were stored economically in narrow shelf units, sorted in the order of acquisition (numerus currens).
These stacks books can be ordered to borrow or for use in the reading room.
Even the partial opening of the stacks ("Sofortausleihbereich" - SAB (instant lending area)) could not change this basic principle.