The Swiss National Library (NL) is a comparatively young institution, a fact reflected in its collections and in its building from the 1930s.

1895: Helvetica collection started

Erster NB-Standort
The history of the NL began in the year 1895 in a four-room apartment at Christoffelgasse 7 in Bern.

The history of the NL began in the year 1895 in a four-room apartment in the centre of Bern. Parliament had defined the mandate of the “National Library” the previous year: it was to build a collection of Helvetica dating back to the creation of the federal state in 1848.

1899: the NL opens up to the public

Historical reading room in the Swiss Federal Archives.
The NL was housed within the Federal Archives from 1899 to 1931.

In 1899, the NL moved into the North Wing of the recently completed Federal Archives building. These new premises made it possible to open the collections up to the public.

1931: move to the current location

The current NL building
In 1931, the NL moved into its purpose-built home at Hallwylstrasse 15.

Construction of the NL building in Bern’s Kirchenfeld district, still in use today, was begun in 1927. The NL finally moved into its new home on Hallwylstrasse in 1931.

1994–2009: extension and renovation

Underground stacks
The building has been carefully modernised and adapted to suit contemporary needs.

The end of the 20th century and the start of the new millennium was a time of modernisation and computerisation. The NL kept track of technological progress and the changing needs of its users.

In 1991, it drew up a master plan to ensure that it could make optimal use of its premises. This led to the construction of two new sets of underground stacks, offering sufficient capacity reserves to last until 2038.

The master plan also covered a careful modernisation of the NL building. The renovated original building was reopened in 2001, and the NL now offers state-of-the-art technical infrastructure in spacious rooms, many of which retain their historic character.

Recent milestones

  • 1991: Swiss Literary Archives founded
  • 1997: East stack enters operation
  • 2000: Centre Dürrenmatt Neuchâtel opened
  • 2001: Renovated original building opened
  • 2007: Federal Archives of Historic Monuments integrated
  • 2009: West stack enters operation
  • 2010: Swiss Union Catalogue of monographs closed
  • 2010: Online catalogue integrated into swissbib (the first metacatalogue of the Swiss university libraries and the NL)
  • 2016: Swiss National Sound Archives integrated

Last modification 27.06.2019

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