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Collection mandate of the German National Library

As the memory institution responsible for Germany's contemporary and recent written and musical culture, the German National Library collects books, serial publications (newspapers, periodicals, loose-leaf works), maps, sheet music, sound recordings, electronic and online publications under its legal mandate.

The Law regarding the German National Library (DNBG), which came into force on 22 June 2006 (BGBl. I S. 1338), lays down the collection mandate of the German National Library. The Legal Deposit Regulation (PflAV), which came into force on 23 October 2008, sets forth this collection mandate in more precise terms (BGBl. I S. 2013).

These regulations state that the collection mandate of the German National Library covers the following publications issued since 1913:

  • Media works published in Germany
  • Media works published abroad in German
  • Foreign publications of German media works translated into other languages
  • "Germanica" - i.e. media works about Germany published abroad in other languages
  • Printed works written or published between 1933 and 1945 by German-speaking emigrants

The collection mandate covers media works in both physical and non-physical form. Physical media works include both conventional paper-based publications (such as books and journals) but also microforms, sound recordings and media works on electronic data carriers (such as gramophone records, CD-ROMs, DVDs). Non-physical media works – so-called online publications – are disseminated via public networks (e.g. PDF files published on the Internet or websites).

All commercial and non-commercial publishers in Germany are obliged to submit two mandatory copies of their media works, free of charge, to the German National Library. The Legal Deposit Regulation clarifies the legal right of the German National Library to be sent publications, free of charge and without a specific request being issued. The regulation also exempts certain publications from the collection brief which are of no public interest. Under certain circumstances a subsidy may be granted for the submission of copies (PflAV, Art. 6). The obligation to submit mandatory deposit copies is not affected by the award of subsidies.

Single copies of all other media works not published in Germany are obtained as gifts, exchanges or as purchases. Such media works published abroad are acquired: through the submission of deposit copies in accordance with Art. 14 (2) DNBG, through the generous submission of hard copies, through international exchange agreements or through purchase.

The legal requirements of the collection mandate are explained and specified in the collection guidelines. The continually growing volume of publications and the large number of Internet publications are forcing the scope of the collection mandate to be restricted through the application of formal criteria. Accordingly, the collection guidelines specify which publications the German National Library collects from Germany and which from abroad.

The question of what a national cultural memory can and should accomplish is part of the public debate on the consequences of the digital revolution. The Collection mandate of the German National Library (PDF, 242KB, Barrier-free file) sets out the current position of the German National Library. The paper also contains a definition of the German term "Digitale Publikation" (PDF, 184KB, Barrier-free file) and the current use of terminology by the German National Library.

Last update: 15.11.2017


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