"Putting content into context"


700 virtual machines in the cloud and around two petabytes of storage: Since 2007, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (BSB) has been cooperating closely with the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ). LRZ not only stores the data from the 462-year-old Stabi, but is also responsible for IT services and applications and, if necessary, advises the digital specialists of the library on technical issues. "We don't have to worry about issues such as data security or long-term storage, but it is precisely these backup services that are critical to our success," says Dr. Klaus Ceynowa. In an interview with the LRZ, the Director of the BSB explains how the 462-year-old library is currently being digitized and why reading rooms remain important for researchers.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek holds 2.5 million digitized books. What are they?

Dr. Klaus Ceynowa: These are not new publications or journals for lending. Stabi is one of the four libraries worldwide with the largest holdings of the most valuable, unique manuscripts, incunabula and historical prints, for example from the 16th century. We initiated the Munich Digitization Center (MDZ) back in 1997 and since then have been scanning primarily rare and conservatively demanding library materials. The bulk of the digitized material, 1.3 million with an average of 300 pages, is made up of copyright-free books from the 17th to 20th centuries, which we have been digitizing since 2007 as part of the Google Books project. Added to this are special formats, such as maps and artistically designed book covers. The LRZ provides us with the technical infrastructure for these works, stores more than 2 billion files or more than a petabyte of data for us, supports us in long-term archiving and in making these digital copies freely accessible online for everyone.

What will happen to the photo collection of the magazine Stern, which the Gruner & Jahr publishing house donated to Stabi in 2019?

Ceynowa: As the largest historical library in Germany, contemporary documentary, journalistic photography is of particular interest to us. Even before the Stern donation, we owned around 2.5 million photographs, for example of Heinrich Hoffmann, Adolf Hitler's personal photographer, or of the reconstruction and cultural life of the post-war period in Bavaria and Munich. In terms of the number of contemporary documentary photos, the Stern is the number one internationally. 1948 to the 1990s was the great phase of documentary photography, Stern is considered the pictorial memory of Germany, Europe, even the world. This donation of around 17 million photos, negatives, slides is a stroke of luck for us, we will gradually digitalize them over the next 20 years.

Do you also digitize three-dimensional images?

Ceynowa: For us, writing and images are the be-all and end-all, but we keep, for example, very rare, old globes, writing sticks or Egyptian shards with inscriptions, which are recorded three-dimensionally. Also the often extremely artistic, carved and with precious metals and jewels occupied relief covers of manuscripts need special treatment. The BSB also organizes and manages Bavarikon, the digital cultural portal of Bavarian art treasures. Here we now advise and support 142 partners, i.e. museums, collections, libraries from all over Bavaria, in the scanning of sculptures, paintings, arts and crafts, etc. The long-term storage of the high-resolution digitized material, the scaling down and up for different media carriers, this in turn is provided by the technology of the LRZ.

How digital is the BSB and how does digitization work here?

Ceynowa: Our library is just becoming two, an analog and a digital one, and both challenge us. We are not breaking away from the analog, the printed book continues to exist alongside the electronic one. We create around 130,000 new books every year, including an increasing number of e-books. Of course, all works are electronically catalogued, provided with metadata and can thus be used worldwide. Nevertheless, scientists appreciate the on-site library and the work in reading rooms, where they find not only scientific literature but also a place for exchange and communication. Our task was and is to put content into context. To this end, we offer research-oriented reading rooms on site, and at the same time we develop software and technology, for example, together with the Stanford University Library, to create virtual exhibition and research environments in which scientists can work and cooperate with each other regardless of their location. We are at the beginning, but one thing is certain - we will continue to need a reliable technology partner in the future who takes care of hardware, new systems, platforms and storage devices, namely the LRZ. (Interview: vs)

Photo: BSB/H-R.Schulz