The Library of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin

At the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, internationally distinguished scholars, outstanding young researchers and prominent intellectuals receive the opportunity to concentrate on projects of their choice for one academic year (Oct.-Jul.) free from outside constraints and commitments. Approximately 40 fellows constitute an impermanent learning community that is international, intercultural and diverse in its disciplines.
The Institute provides an environment that lets fellows devote themselves entirely to their intellectual pursuits and benefit from the encouragement and criticism of an elite scholarly community. Ever since the Wissenschaftskolleg was founded in 1980 it has followed a proven concept that, instead of continually expanding its own collection, emphasizes close collaboration with other libraries. The Institute’s library becomes a mediator between the user and other libraries, seeking to fulfill research requirements quickly and individually by borrowing from Berlin’s nearby libraries, delivering documents, inter-library lending etc. and, increasingly, procuring entire texts electronically.
During their ten-month stay at the Kolleg, scholars remain associated with their parent institutions but must forego the infrastructure these provide, e.g. research assistants, and are focused on spending the time they have available as much as possible on their research and exchanges with co-fellows. Striving to provide effective service, the library staff takes upon themselves the research assistant role, conducting bibliographic and thematic research while helping guide fellows in using and exploiting electronic resources. The library’s task here is to assist the focus on the research topic by taking the burden of procuring information and administrative effort off the researcher’s shoulders as far as possible. The library service adapts to the annual transition of researchers using various approaches and research structures in the natural sciences and humanities with differing cultural and academic backgrounds. Doing so requires a great amount of flexibility and sensitivity regarding the preferred channels of communication (oral, written, digital or analog) and kinds of media (digital or print).
All librarians contribute actively toward upholding the Wissenschaftskolleg’s philosophy of deliberately encouraging “disruptions” in accustomed approaches to work and thought. They engage in intensive exchange with their users and inquire about research aims and needs so as to make independent contributions to the project that, instead of merely fulfilling material requests, actually provoke new and unexpected ones. Since the library director takes an active part in research at the Institute, she serves as an interface between the library and fellows on the one hand and the library and its cooperative partners on the other.