Subject indexing

Subject indexing allows documents at the Swiss National Library (NL) to be accessed via their subject matter.

Indexing using subject headings

Indexing standards

Since 1998, the NL’s collections have been indexed in a German indexing language according to the RSWK (Regeln für die Schlagwortkatalogisierung) indexing standards. Until April 2012 the controlled vocabulary of the Subject Headings Authority File (Schlagwortnormdatei, SWD) was used to describe the contents of a document.

Integrated Authority File (GND)

In April 2012 the previously separate authority files GKD (Corporate Body Authority File), PND (Personal Name Authority File), SWD (Subject Headings Authority File) as well as EST (Uniform Title File of the Deutsches Musikarchiv) were merged into the new Integrated Authority File (“Gemeinsame Normdatei”, GND). Since then descriptors from the GND have been used to index the documents of the NL. The file is managed by the German National Library in collaboration with various networks of libraries. The NL is actively involved in this network.

Indexing criteria

Some of the documents collected by the NL under its legal mandate are indexed. The criteria for subject indexing can be found in the document “Criteria for manual subject indexing”.


Dewey Decimal Classification

In addition to subject access provided by GND/RSWK, documents listed in The Swiss Book (the Swiss national bibliography) are classified according to the divisions of knowledge of the DDC (Dewey Decimal Classification). Only open-access holdings are given a complete DDC classification. 

Pre-1998 Universal Decimal Classification

Prior to 1998, the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) was used to describe the content of documents.

Indexing and classification of electronic publications

Bibliographic records of electronic publications may or may not contain subject indexing, depending on the data supplied by the producer. The classification into the various divisions of knowledge on the basis of the DDC (Dewey Decimal Classification) is also a matter for the producer.

Subject catalogue prior to 1998 (in German)

Until 1998 the documents were indexed using the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) system. 

This subject catalogue contains:

  • the digitised card index until 1991. This catalogue is currently not accessible. The catalogue data will be processed and integrated into the NL's online catalogue Helveticat, probably in 2025.
  • the electronic catalogue from 1991 to 1998, integrated into the NL's online catalogue Helveticat.

Last modification 13.03.2023

Top of page


Swiss National Library
Subject indexing
Hallwylstrasse 15
3003 Bern
Phone +41 58 462 89 11
Fax +41 58 462 84 63

Print contact