25th anniversary of German reunification


Book cover of “Deutschlandbilder” (9001.b.5770)

In November 2014 we described how the University Library collected material extensively about the fall of the Berlin Wall in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Similar energy was spent 25 years ago in gathering together material on German reunification, and this has remained a focus of our collection development ever since. Since on October 3rd it is the 25th anniversary of the union of East and West Germany, it seems an appropriate moment to take stock.

How does the user best identify the material on German reunification which is held in the University Library? There is no specific classmark devoted to the topic. Many books have been placed at 575:46, but this is a broad classification covering all historical material relating to Germany after 1990. Books on economic aspects of reunification are placed at 220:2, those that cover specifically social aspects stand at 244 and 245, and so on. Moreover, it is important to remember that only a limited and shrinking percentage of the intake finds its way to the open shelves anyway, even on such an important subject as this. Of the 31 books on German reunification published in 1990 which we have acquired, for example, 20 are on open access, 6 are on closed access but borrowable, and 5 have to be read in the Library. The number of acquisitions rose to 90 for 1991 imprints, and peaked at 98 for 1992 titles.

Nor is title keyword searching in the catalogue a reliable option. Although we are dealing with a very specific concept, it can be described in so many different ways. If we consider only German language items, titles speak of Vereinigung, Wiedervereinigung, Integration, Vereinigungsprozess, deutsche Einheit, deutsche Einigung, and so on. Most titles, moreover, do not specifically use the word Wiedervereinigung or its synonyms.

The only really viable way to unearth the Library’s holdings on this subject is by identifying the precise Library of Congress subject string relating to German reunification – Germany – History – Unification, 1990. Analysis of what is held in Cambridge then becomes a relatively straightforward matter.

Doing an exact search by subject in LibrarySearch (without the dashes, i.e. Germany History Unification, 1990) is the quickest way to see what is held by all Cambridge libraries collectively. The user then has the opportunity to refine the search further, for example by language, or by library, or by imprint date. At the time of writing (and the figures change fairly rapidly) Cambridge libraries have 951 printed books and 11 ebooks on German reunification, of which 691 are in German, 237 in English, and 23 in French. Of the 951 print items, the vast majority (911 items) are held by the main University Library. The rate of acquisition over the past quarter century is demonstrated in the adjacent graph.

GraphFinalLibrarySearch is the only way of searching across the range of Cambridge libraries in one go. An advanced subject search on the relevant database in Newton, using the same subject string (with or without dashes), produces similar results just for the University Library’s holdings, of course, but the subject searching is slightly more sophisticated. The display facilitates browsing, so that it is easy to take in the range of subdivisions which can qualify the subject string, thereby isolating books on the “economic aspects” of reunification (24 items), or titles which examine reunification as a theme “in literature” (5 items). Moreover, the subject string is usefully defined, and an important distinction drawn with similar subject material –

Here are entered works on the events of 1990, resulting in the joining of East and West Germany into a single German state. Works on the prospect of reuniting divided Germany following World War II are entered under German reunification question (1949-1990)

A 503 page bibliography by Werner Pfennig, entitled Bibliografie zum Deutschen Einigungsprozess = Bibliography on the process of German unification, has just been published by Metropol Verlag. Cambridge’s copy is currently on order.

David Lowe

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