An addendum to the German Parliamentary Library Tour: Donna bought a jar of lingonberry jam in Berlin to bring home for a salmon recipe she makes. Unfortunately, she forgot to pack it in her checked luggage, and it was confiscated when she went through airport security. A couple of weeks ago, a group of German parliamentary librarians came to D.C. to visit, and they all brought Donna jars of lingonberry jam.
First off, a little bit of administrative stuff. This is the last recap of my trip to Germany.
Karlsruhe is home to both the Federal Constitutional Court and the Federal Court of Justice. We began our day at the former court, which is located near the Schloss Karlsruhe. The town’s layout is interesting, by the way, because all the streets fan out from the central location, giving the city a half-circle shape.
Volker Pletternburg was our guide for the Constitutional Court. He said the court has been located in Karlsruhe since 1951. It had been moved from Leipzig following the division of Germany after the war. The court was intentionally kept away from Bonn and Berlin to preserve judicial independence.
Pletternburg said that the court receives 6,000 petitions a year to hear cases. The petitions come either from individuals who have constitutional complaints or from state governments whose laws may be violated by a federal law.
The court consists of 16 judges, who are divided into panels of eight people called senates. The judges are elected by a committee in the Bundestag, which also sets the judges’ salaries. Once judges have been put in a senate group, they stay with that group for the whole of their Constitutional Court career.
Originally, the first senate handled the citizens’ complaints and the second senate handled the states’ complaints, but Pletternburg said this has changed over the years. All 16 justices meet at once only for administrative purposes or in the event that one senate’s decision from conflicts with one from the other senate.
The offices of the justices are in an adjacent building, with the so-called first senate on the first floor and the second senate on the second floor. Each judge can have up to five staff members. Their clerks must already be judges themselves, and many times are already well-known when they take the clerical position. Serving as a clerk in the court is considered a career step.
Generally, hearings are not open to the public. On rare occasions, both parties in a case may agree to hold their hearing in the public session room. The public and the press are allowed to sit in, but no cameras are allowed.
Pletternburg noted the eagle on the wall behind the judges’ seating area in the public session room. “It looks kind of deranged,” he said. It was modeled in such a way to show that the state does not have influence over the court’s decisions. He mentioned that a well-known murder mystery novel in Germany features a scene where the eagle falls off the wall and kills a judge.
Anyway, for public hearings, the procedures are determined beforehand. There is no time limit on speeches, and all of the judges can question lawyers on each side. The seating is arranged by order of seniority. There are chambers in the adjacent building for closed hearings.
After a decision is rendered, the justices decide on how the case law should be published. The publishing staff of the court sends the decision to a publisher for the case reporter, but commercial publishers can also buy copies of decisions from the judges for their own use. Also, judges may or may not allow the case to be published electronically, which can lead to some inconsistencies when trying to access decisions.
The main clientele for the library are the clerks of the justices, although some judges come by as well. Clerks are taught how to use the library’s intranet page, which they usually access from their office. The collection consists of public and constitutional law materials, as well as some non-legal literature dealing with government law and philosophy. While the catalog is available electronically, they still have their card catalog as well.
The library has an annual budget of €500,000, and Pletternburg said that half of this goes to looseleaf filings. In addition, each justice has their own office collection. There is also a daily press review published by the library that covers news important to the court.
After lunch, we toured the Federal Court of Justice with Dietrich Pannier. He said that here, unlike at the Constitutional Court, hearings are generally open to the public. If both sides agree, cameras can be allowed into the court as well. The court handles cases pertaining to civil and criminal law that have been appealed from lower courts.
Judges are selected to balance to court out geographically (in case there’s a lack of representation from, say, Hamburg) and to fill in topical areas that need coverage. In a pinch, justices may be asked to switch expertise, going from civil law to commerical law.
The original courthouse was actually a manor built for a duke. It became a government building after WWI. In 1950, it was turned into the courthouse. Pannier noted that the library used to be in the kitchen of the manor. Since then, a number of new buildings have been built to modernize the court’s facilities.
In another difference from the Constitutional Court, the Court of Justice library is open to the public. It consists of four floors, plus a basement for pre-WWII holdings. After reunification, it was expected that the court was going to move to Leipzig. The library modeled their cataloging system after the Leipzig courts’ system. Surprisingly, said Pannier, the court stayed in Karlsruhe.
The main reference desk is not on the main floor, but on the first floor (in American terms, it’s not on the first floor, but on the second floor). Pannier said that judges often make use of the reading room on the first floor, so it made sense to have the reference desk there as well.
Pannier said, “If I see five people here, I say, ‘Oh, it is crowded today.'” He believes that internet usage has eaten into library usage, although he doesn’t see that is a big deal. “Why should the judges come every day?” he asked, noting that they are already familiar with the print materials. Moreover, the library’s website has a comprehensive collection of links to online German law materials.
The library budget has decreased €40,000 over the past couple of years, but Pannier indicated that he usually takes the initiative to streamline costs and the collection. Regarding weeding, he said, “I will not ask anyone. I will do it.” He added, “I am paid well to decide for the library. The judges are paid well to make judgments.”
With that visit, our trip to Germany came to an end. As part of our agreement to participate, we had to submit a report on our experiences to to the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation, which provided funding for the tour. You can read my report (with all its grammatical errors) on the Germany Study Tour website.
Our final stop on our trip, from a pure “no longer hauling our luggage to the train station” perspective, was Karlsruhe. However, we took off for Strasbourg, France the morning after we checked into our hotel.
Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament, where I and my wife and a large number of her professional peers were once trapped on one of the most horrific tours any of us had ever been on. Our guide did not speak English as well as he thought he did, and also he fancied himself quite the expert on European affairs. So, after a brief walk around the building, he brought us to one of the parliament’s conference rooms to sit down, and then he proceeded to lecture us for about 45 minutes on such issues facing the E.U. as Turkey and the former Yugloslavia republics.
Finally, he opened it up for questions, and you could hear people groan when someone raised his hand. This person asked, “What about Russia?” Our guide thought for a moment, then responded, “Well, the problem with Russia is it’s sooooo beeeeeeeg.” The crowd burst into laughter, which forced our guide to laugh, mainly because I don’t think he understood what was so funny, but didn’t want to feel left out.
Afterwards, we all went out to eat and, more specifically, to drink, and I almost killed myself trying to match the Finns in our group drink to drink. Otherwise, I absolutely love visiting Strasbourg and was thrilled to have another chance.
We began our day trip by visiting the European Court of Human Rights, located near the European Parliament. Our guide was the court’s head librarian Nora Binder, assisted by the deputy librarian Genevieve Woods.
The court is a part of the Council of Europe, which was founded in 1949 to protect human rights in post-World War II Europe. The European Convention on Human Rights was ratified by 12 countries in 1950, and has been enforced since 1953.
The court was created in 1959 to hear cases involving torture and the inhumane treatment of prisoners. The most common complaint to the court is the denial of the right to a fair hearing. The vast number of cases brought to the court are brought by individuals, but not all applications to the court will be heard. Anyone living in a country that have ratified the convention can petition the court. An application must be submitted within six months of the final hearing on one’s case in one’s home country, and all other legal options must be exhausted first. Events that occurred before a particular country ratified the convention are not covered.
Judgments are binding for any country that has ratified the convention, and these countries sometimes need to pass new legislation to prevent future offenses. A committee of ministers from the Council of Europe enforces judgments, and expulsion from the council is the ultimate punishment for violations.
HUDOC is the council’s database of judgments. The court defines the keywords utilized in the cases, while a committee of attorneys determine the importance of each case. A case can be rated from one to three, with one being a key, precedent setting case. The importance rating does not change.
Using the database can be a bit tricky because of how cases are translated. Cases are available in both French and English and even something as simple as a person’s name can require different spellings depending on the language.
HUDOC is updated daily, as soon after a judgment is rendered as possible. It has cases going back to the 1970s, but older cases are currently being retroactively added to the databases, with cases rated one being scanned in first. Earlier cases can be purchased through the court’s archive, who will scan in and email them to requesters. HUDOC documents are admissible in court.
The library is small, with not a lot of room for the expansion of the collection. In addition to space issues, budget constraints limit the access to more expensive databases. Half of the materials used at the court are borrowed through ILL, although the library itself does not send out materials through ILL. The materials in the in-house collection include human rights treatises and laws from 47 countries. There are presently two permanent librarians and four contractors.
The library is open to the public on an appointment basis. There is also a great deal of material available to the public on the library’s website. This includes a new acquisitions bulletin and scans of the covers of the latest periodicals. Manuals are also available, but for a fee. They also have full-text internal working papers on the convention, which is good for planning for trials by serving as a sort of legislative history.
After our tour, and lunch at the court’s cafeteria (where I totally got to speak in French, and didn’t even get accosted for doing so!), we took a boat tour of the city, then spent some time hanging out in the square around Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg.
Our final stop in Munich was the Bavarian Parliament (Bayerischer Landtag). Upon arriving at the Maximilianeum, the building that houses the parliament, we met Dr. Markus Nadler, who gave us a tour of the library and the building. First, we watched a video describing the legislative and electoral process in Bavaria. Then Nadler gave us a brief history of the library and of the building.
The library was founded in 1819. Its operations were suspended during the Nazi regime, and all its materials were sent to the state library. Nadler said that not all of the titles were returned: before the war, the collection included 130,000 books, while the current count is 60,000.
The building was the brainchild of King Maximilian II of Bavaria, although he passed away before it was completed. In addition to housing the parliament, the Maximilianeum is the home of the Maximilianeum Scholarship Foundation, which educates “talented Bavarian youths (of any social rank) to achieve that level of academic and spiritual education requisite for meeting the higher tasks of state service” (Bayerischer Landtag, 2004, p. 10). In fact, the Foundation is the owner of the building. The parliament only rents its space there.
Nadler said that the library weeds its collection as new titles comes in. The same amount of books that are added are discardrf. This is because of the limited amount of space in the library, but also because of the importance of having an up-to-date inventory. The collection includes materials about Bavarian history and culture.
The library subscribes to 370 journals and newspapers from all parts of Bavarian. Nadler said that the parliamentarians want to have the news from their respective homes. The library also routes a list of the new books to the parliamentarians and their staff, who are the primary patrons of the library. Outside users must apply for special permission to gain access.
There are five professional librarians on staff. Nadler noted that some of the librarians can switch between tasks in the library, the archive and the documentation center.
In addition to housing the parliament and the Foundation, the Maximilianeum features a collection of paintings representing Bavarian history. The building was an art gallery from its inception. Seventeen paintings were destroyed during World War II.
Bayerischer Landtag. (2004). The Bavarian Landtag – State Parliament – and the Maximilianeum. Munich, Germany: The Landtag. Accessed 11 January 2008.
I’ve been sick the past couple of days, so I haven’t had the energy to do much other than correct previous posts about the DPMA and the Max Planck Society. Today, I’m going to flood you with posts, though, starting with this recap of our visit to the Bavarian State Library.
Our tour was led by Dr. Klaus Ceynowa, the deputy director general of the library. He began with a brief presentation, then we took a tour around the building.
The Bavarian State Library (BSB) was founded in 1558 and is the central state and archival library in Bavaria. While it is not a university library per se, it does provide services to the academic institutions in Munich. There are 680 employees at the library serving the public, including students and researchers from the city, the state and all over the world.
Their annual budget is €43 million, with 47.3 percent allotted to staff, 30.7 percent to media costs, eight percent to information technology, and 14 percent to operational costs. The library has 9.25 million volumes, 91,000 manuscripts, 20,000 incunabula (pre-1501 printed documents), and 136,000 16th century imprints. Ceynowa said that the incunabula collection is the best in the world, while the imprints collection is the best in Germany.
It has also the second largest periodicals collection in the world (after the British Library) with 50,000 print and electronic volumes. The library processes 500,000 document deliveries a year. Ceynowa said that ILL and document delivery requests have increased 143 percent in the past four years, partly because of budget cuts at university libraries.
In addition to its comprehensive humanities, social science and life sciences titles, the BSB has a number of special collections. These include special subject collections funded by the German Research Association, a maps collection, and an East Asian materials collection. Ceynowa said that the library has been the legal depositor of Bavaria since 1668.
Annually, there are one million visitors to the BSB, with 49,000 active users. Ceynowa noted there has been a 114 percent increase in visits during the past four years. In that time, loans increased 37 percent to 1.61 million. The public is not allowed in the stacks, but instead request materials from the staff. Books not kept in the seven floors of stacks are stored in one of two off-site satellites. A patron can wait from three to four hours up to one to two days to receive titles to be delivered by the book truck that travels between the main building and the satellites.
During allied bombing in World War Two, 450,000 volumes and 85 percent of the library building was destroyed. There was some recovery of materials lost, but the library maintains in the stacks a “corner of grief” featuring books that were damaged during the bombing campaign.
One of the BSB’s main foci is the digital preservation of materials. The library is one of the partners in the Google digital scanning project, but this participation represents only a portion of its efforts. The library established the Munich Digitization Center (MDZ) in 1997, one of two national digitization centers in Germany. It is funded by the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, the state of Bavaria, and the European Union. The MDZ works closely with the other national center, the Göttinger Digitalisierungszentrum (GDZ) and the Leibniz-Rechenzentrum, and it consults with smaller libraries about digitization projects.
While the library has focused on specific digitization projects in the past, Ceynowa said that it is moving into more general scanning. The Google project involves one million copyright-free titles. Reps from the company originally requested access to all of the BSB’s books, which the library administration would not grant. After the publishers’ lawsuit against Google over the project, they agreed to only scan in the copyright-free materials.
Google digitizes the books in Munich, and it pays for almost all the costs to move and scan the books. The scans are integrated into Google Book Search, and the BSB gets copies of the electronic data for its own digital collection. The books Google are allowed access to range from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Titles after 1900 are generally copyrighted, although Ceynowa noted that the metadata from these books have been added to WorldCat.
The scanning of the 70,000 items of 16th century materials is now being done with scanner robot. At the time of our visit, the robot had only been at the MDZ for about 8-10 weeks. The BSB is the first library in Europe using this prototype, which was bought from a start-up company in Austria called Treventus Mechatronics. The advantage of the robot is that it scans two pages at once without fully opening up the book, which prevents cracking open old spines. The initial scan is in TIFF format, then the scan is converted to JPG for use on the server. Here is a brief video of the robot in action:
In addition to touring the digitization center, we visited the preservation department. There are 14 conservators in house, and each year, they and freelance conservators preserve 300 books. It takes three-four weeks to complete a book.
The department performs applied research into preservation techniques before integrating them into its regular processes. It’s sort of like Willy Wonka’s invention room with books instead of candy (and no butterscotch or buttergin running on the side there).
Among the materials being worked on while we visited were letters between Ludwig I of Bavaria and his mistress Lola Montez, as well as Greek book from the 15th century being restored for an upcoming exhibition.
“Incunabulum.” (2008). Wikipedia. Accessed 9 January 2008.
On our first full day in Munich, we visited both the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt, or DPMA) and the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition and Tax Law (which I recapped in an earlier post). Munich is Germany’s capital of Intellectual Property, so it made sense to have an IP theme for the day.
At the DPMA, we met with Hubert Rothe, the head of the Information Services for the Public division. He provided us with an overview of Germany’s IP law and the function of the DPMA.
Before we get into the details of our visit, I am submitting this post to Rothe to review in order to confirm that what I’ve written is, you know, accurate. So expect it to be updated shortly.
I’ve received Rothe’s update and have made the changes below. They are underlined for dramatic effect.
The DPMA originally opened in Berlin in 1877. The old office in the Kreuzberg neighborhood now houses the Jewish Museum. In 1949, it was reopened in Munich. There are presently three DPMA offices. The Munich location has 2,259 staffers. The office in Berlin, which focuses on education resources for the public, has 105 employees, while the office in Jena has 235 staffers. The DPMA employs 700 patent examiners and 150 trademark examiners.
Rothe said that the mission of IP protection is the “promotion of economic development.” He explained that IP is divided into two broad categories, industrial property and copyright. We didn’t discuss copyright in any great deal, but Rothe did say that Germany does not have a copyright office “since the legislation in Germany and other European countries does not provide for a copyright registration. The creator owns the copyright without any formal steps.”
Industrial property is divided into four categories:
- Technical intellectual property rights (divided into patents and utility models);
- Marks (trade marks and service marks);
- Protection of plant varieties.
Patent law operates under a contract theory: an accepted application is a contract between the holder and the state that gives the former exclusive right of use for a maximum of twenty years. Unlike in the U.S., where the inventor holds a patent, European patents are mostly held by the company employing the inventor. Rothe wrote, “According to German law the inventor has to give notice to the employer about all inventions related to the job. The employer has to decide whether he will file a patent application or allow the employee to personally file the application. If the employer files the application the employee is entitled to an appropriate remuneration.”
The applicant must agree that the government can publish the specs of the invention to make them available to competitors and the general public. This information can be found in such publications as the patent documents (e.g. “patent specification” and the patent gazette, both published on the internet. This is in part how the law encourages invention in Germany. Only military-related trade secrets are not published, and even then, patent examiners decide in co-ordination with the Federal Ministry of Defense whether this exemption is granted. Rothe said the number of patents that aren’t published is relatively small.
The preconditions for IP protection are worldwide novelty, inventive activity (does the invention add something valuable to the state of the art), and commercial applicability. Discoveries, scientific theories, mathematical methods, plans, rules, and processes for theoretical activities are all not eligible for IP protection. Neither is software, per se. Rothe wrote, “The main claim of the patent application must include ‘technical means’ for solving the given problem in addition to the software.”
Applicants can choose to apply for protection in either Germany at the DPMA or at the European Patent Office, which opened in 1977 and also happens to be where we had lunch after our meeting. Rothe said that the advantage to applying for protection at the European office is that you only need to file once in English, German or French, then designate which states the patent applies to. Rothe wrote, “The procedural fees to be paid to the EPO are much higher than the fees of a single national patent office.”
Rothe added that the application practice of applicants, e. g. of those of the automotive sector, show that in many cases filing in one of the bigger European countries is as good as having a European-wide patent anyway. After all, if you have a product that can’t be used in Germany or the United Kingdom, then what good is it? In addition, at the German office, the application process can be completed faster. European IP and copyright laws are harmonized with each other to a large extent, but not with U.S. law.
The DPMA utilizes the “International Patent Classification” consisting of about 70,000 different classification units, and these units determine the type of examiner handles each application. The patent examiners each specialize in around 100 units. Germany requires examiners have five years of practical work in industry before they qualify for the two-year examiner training program. The European office, incidentally, does not require the same length of experience. This classification system is pan-European and is also used in Asia. Again, the U.S. has a different system.
Rothe said that about 50 percent of applications are granted, but the scope of the patent can be reduced by the examiners. After a patent is granted, opposition, appeal, and nullity procedures can follow.
Patents can be renewed annually, for a fee, up to the 20th year after filing. There are generally no options of renewing past the 20 years, although there are exceptions: for example, pharmaceutical inventions can get, after completion of the patent life of 20 years, a subsequent protection of maximally additional five years.
A key part of both applying for and examining patents is the use and creation of literature. Applicants need to cite what is presently the state of the art in their respective industries. The examiners perform a novelty search using all relevant literature. The examiners also cite all documents relevant for delimiting the claims in the application. In addition, Patent applications are published 18 months after they are filed. Non-patent literature, such as journals, play a big role in the chemical, pharmaceutical and biotech patent applications, but a smaller role in other industries like engineering.
Because of the importance of literature searching, it is no surprise that the library at the DPMA is extremely important. It has 40 staff members, 960,000 volumes, and 1,500 journals, and its two target users are the examiners and the general public. Because 80 percent of technical knowledge is only disclosed in patent documents, it is essential that the office disseminates IP information. Much of the office’s budget is spent on making office decisions, applications and so forth publicly available.
Because of its mission, the DPMA created DEPATISnet, the German patent database. (A pan-European database called esp@cenet is available from the European Patent Office.) Rothe said that the librarians thought of the functionality that was necessary for use by the public. After an RFP was distributed Europe-wide, a Berlin company won the contract to design and support the system. The DPMA’s 45 million patent archive was scanned and put into a document management system that formed the basis for the database. In the meantime the computer center of DPMA in Munich operates DEPATISnet.
The types of searches performed in DEPATISnet range from novelty searches to monitoring, to observe what competitors are doing, and competitive analysis, to determine how your company is doing. Searching is also important when preparing for infringement lawsuits.
DEPATISnet allows for basic and advanced (Boolean) searching. Patent examiners get more sophisticated research capabilities. Although the patent information is freely available on the internet, companies can make a lot of money either offering professional search services or designing publicly available advanced databases. The information services to the public division of DPMA studies the commercial products to determine the types of advanced features should be added to DEPATISnet. While it is the policy of the government to not interfere with the commercial business, Rothe said improving DEPATISnet smoothly from year to year helps pressure the companies to improve their own products.
Munich is not just Germany’s IP capital, of course. It is also Germany’s beer capital, so it made sense to drink at the Hofbräuhaus as well. I won’t recap that, other than to say that I held my own.
We began our last day in Dresden with a walking tour of the city. One of the things that our host Evelin Morgenstern pointed out to me was that because Dresden was part of East Germany, many of the people here did not grow up learning English. If they learned a second language, it was probably Russian.
After our walking tour, we headed to the Saxony State Library, which is on the campus of the Dresden University of Technology. Our guide, Manuela Queitsch, told us that the library was founded in 1556, but it has only been combined with the university library for about 10 years. The first part of our tour focused on the library’s digitization efforts. Queitsch said that the two main projects the library is working on are scans of books from the 16th and 17th century and the digitization of the Protocols of Saxony from 1919-1933 and 1945-1952. This latter project has received funding from the state parliament.
We were shown the scanning equipment they are using to scan their books. All of the digital images are produced initially in TIFF format, then converted into JPG for storage on the library’s web server. Five people have been trained to use the scanner, which is a very expensive piece of machinery from Austria. As it turns out, Austrian companies seem to be leading the way in book digitization, as I’ll talk about later when I recap our visit to the Bavarian State Library.
While touring the library we visited with Dr. Georg Zimmerman, the professional cartographer who serves as the library’s map librarian. The library has 160,000 maps in their archive. They have been scanning 10-15 maps in a day at a level of 12,000,000 pixels to provide the richest amount of detail possible. They then integrated the maps with Google Maps to provide complex navigation of the maps.
After lunch, Queitsch took us to the Treasure Room of the library’s Buchmuseum. This featured some absolutely amazing artifacts, from a lecture written by Martin Luther to an Albrecht Dürer sketchbook to scores hand-written by Bach, Vivaldi, and Wagner. There were two items that Queitsch noted in particular. One was a Sachsenspiegel, or Saxony law book, from around the 13th or 14th century. She said that this was very rarely on display, but had been put out for a special exhibition.
The other key item, and clearly the one the library is most proud of, is the Mayan Codex. Queitsch said it bought in 1739 for very little money in a Vienna bookshop that clearly had no idea what it had. The codex is an important link to Mayan culture because the Spanish destroyed so much of it. Only two other codices have been found, in Paris and in Madrid. Queitsch said that this one is in the best condition. A facsimile was made in 1905.
During the bombing of Dresden, it was put with other treasures into the library’s cellar for protection. However, the cellar flooded while the treasures were in it. Fortunately, the codex was not seriously damaged. Queitsch said that it has not entirely been deciphered, but it contains information about astrology and agriculture.
After that, we had some time to shop before we headed off to the train station in two very full cabs (with two very disgruntled cab drivers who saw how much luggage we all had) to head to Munich.
We had October 7, 2007 to ourselves to explore Berlin. I visited Alexanderplatz, Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg, then headed down to Lichterfelde to have dinner at the home of our host Evelin Morgenstern. There we met with Dr. Andrea Mehrländer of the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation (the organization that provided funding for the tour) and other Berlin-based librarians. We had dined with Mehrländer on our first night in Berlin, and she had apparently spent the whole week telling her colleagues that there was an American on the tour (i.e. me) that was willing to eat and actually enjoyed Berliner Eißbein.
On October 8, we entered what I will call the “really hectic” part of our trip. Here’s our schedule:
- October 8: Train to Dresden in the morning;
- October 9: Train to Munich via Nuremberg in the evening;
- October 11: Train to Karlsruhe in the evening;
- October 12: Day trip to Strasbourg via van.
Morgenstern described our itinerary to the clerk at the Hotel Martha-Hospiz, where we stayed in Dresden, and the clerk replied, “Only a German would plan such a trip.”
Our first official stop in Dresden was the Saxon Parliament (Sächsischer Landtag). After lunch in the parliament’s cafeteria (where librarian Imke Winter noted that the beer on tap wasn’t the local brew), we were given a tour of the building. The plenary chamber is a very slick, modern room, with seating areas that can be easily rearranged so that parliamentarians can be grouped by their respective parties.
Our guide Hans-Peter Maier, the parliament’s press speaker, described the workings of the Landtag with a fair dose of cynicism. Actually, to say that he was a bit cynical is to say that Rachel Ray is a bit chipper. I guess part of the reason for his outlook comes from the fact that the National Democratic Party (NPD) holds eight seats in parliament. The NPD is the German far-right party whose platform consists of opposing immigration to Germany. It is described in Wikipedia as “a de facto neo-Nazi party” and in Encyclopædia Britannica “as neofascist in orientation.” Maier said that 2.3 million people in Saxony supports the NPD. He noted the irony of how much support an anti-foreigner party has in a German state that does not have a lot of immigrants.
Maier said that there are 124 members of parliament who each earn a €410,000 annual salary. They also receive an allowance to pay for such things as travel expenses and staff salaries. There are 400 staff members, most of whom work for the individual politicians. The Landtag has 140 permanent administrative staff members, which includes the library staff, the maintenance crew, and the stenographers. Meyer noted that the stenographers, who are often trained in Berlin instead of in Dresden, are able to accurately record the statements of 120 people speaking at once.
The electoral process in Saxony is a rather interesting process. By interesting, I mean “convoluted,” and if the following is confusing, I apologize. There are two elections. In the first, citizens vote for specific politicians. In the second, they vote for the number of seats a party can hold.
In the most recent election, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) received two less seats in the second vote than they had won in the first. In other words, there were 55 parliamentarians elected to hold 53 seats. To make up for the discrepancy, the largest opposition party (Die Linke or “the Left”) was given two additional seats. Because of this, the Grüne (Green) party fell below the five percent of the Landtag it needed to hold a front row seat, a very important place for the party leader in the Landtag. A special rule was enacted to allow them to keep the chair.
You can see the current make-up of the plenary chamber on the Landtag website, but I will warn you that you have to view it in Internet Explorer and make sure you have an .svg viewer to see it. (The print version also requires a special Firefox plug-in, which in this case doesn’t seem to exist.) The German Wikipedia page for the Landtag also has a graphical breakdown of the chamber, but it doesn’t capture the seating arrangements as well as the official site does.
The proceedings are overseen by a president of the parliament. The president is a current parliamentarian elected by the assembly. He or she does not have the power to cut off speeches. The amount of time each party is given to speak is alloted by a committee beforehand. If a parliamentarian wants to ask a question during another member’s speech, he or she must wait until called upon by the president to do so. Maier noted that more often than not, the “question” consists of a brief speech. When asked by the president what the question is, the response is usually, “Stimmen Sie zu?” (“Do you agree?”)
Maier said that e-government services are still in their nascent stages in Saxony. He added that a great deal of technology is available to parliament members, but it is not necessarily widely used. The sessions are taped and can be viewed on the Landtag website. The videos are provided to the library, but no one has determined yet what the library should do with them. Imke Winter gave us a brief tour of the library after our discussion in the plenary chamber.
UPDATED: I should note at this point that I will be updating these posts as I get notes from other people on the tour. For example, I corrected the name of our guide in this post.
“Germany.” (2007). Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Accessed December 27, 2007.
“National Democratic Party of Germany.” (2007). Wikipedia. Accessed December 27, 2007.
“Sächsischer Landtag.” (2007). Wikipedia (Deutsch). Accessed December 27, 2007.
Up until now, I have been posting my recaps of the Germany Parliamentary Library Study Tour in chronological order. In this post, I am going to jump around a little bit. The group visited two locations of the Max Planck Society (MPG – the “G” stands for “Gesellschaft”) during our trip, so I am going to combine both visits into one post.
Now, if the name of the Max Planck Society sounds familiar, you might have read a recent report about how it recently ended its contract with Springer for the publisher’s electronic journal service because it felt it was being overcharged for access. MPG Vice President Kurt Mehlhorn said:
“Even at the very last minute the Springer publishing house had not been prepared to lower its inflated prices. The MPG therefore had had no other option but to terminate the contract.”
I wonder what Elsevier thinks about this.
Anyway, while in Hamburg, we met with Dr. Holger Knudsen, the library director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law. Later, in Munich, we met with Dr. Peter Weber and Ines Saler of the library at the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition and Tax Law.
Weber, the head of the library, began our meeting in Munich with an overview of the MPG and its place in what he referred to as the German research landscape. The Society is comprised of 80 institutes spread out over Germany (with one Dutch and two Italian locations). It primarily focuses on science and technology research, but it also has institutes focusing on law and other humanities-related projects. Each institute is run independently and determines its own research topics and research projects.
Weber said that the institutes are built around the topics its researchers set rather than having a set topic and adding researchers interested in that topic. This means that the focus of an institute can change as new members are added. He gave as an example the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, which was originally the Institute for History until March of 2007.
For more about the Society and its history, check out the MPG Wikipedia entry, which I can confirm with my own notes is accurate.
The Hamburg Rathaus (meaning City Hall), where the state parliament meets and the parliamentary library is housed, is all sorts of spectacular.
And as spectacular as it was on the outside, it’s just as spectacular on the inside.
I could take up a lot of space just posting photos of the Rathaus, actually, but I won’t, because we’re here to talk about the library.
Our tour mate Dr. Christine Wellems, the head of the Parlamentarische Informationsdienste (Parliamentary Information Service), began our day with a history of the city and its government. Hamburg was established in the fifth century, and it was granted a city charter by Frederick Barbarossa in 1189. The charter granted the city the freedom to have its own government and administration and the right to trade. The city featured a waterway to the North Sea, which made it a key European port.
UPDATED: Wellems has corrected this article. The following paragraph has been rewritten, and the corrections in the paragraphs after are noted with underlines.
In 1859, the first elections for the state parliament (the Bürgerschaft) was held. Before then, only rich residents of the state served as unelected parliamentarians. However, it was only after 1919 that all residents of Hamburg, regardless of gender or economic status, were given the right to vote.
During the Nazi era, the government was dissolved to consolidate federal power. In 1946, the first post-war parliament in Hamburg was set up with 81 members named by the British military government (called the Ernannte Buergerschaft). The first elected parliament was voted into office at the end of 1946.
The Rathaus houses both the state parliament and the state government (the Senat). The library serves the Bürgerschaft, the Senat and their respective staffs. It is not open to the public, but does provide services to journalists and students.
Among the services offered include reference, interlibrary loan, and a twice-daily press review. The morning review covers news about the Bürgerschaft in the regional newspapers, while the afternoon review encapsulates the national papers. Wellems said that Hamburg’s was the only state parliament library to provide a press service.
I should mention at this time that each of the 16 German states has its own parliamentary library. Wellems said that there are working groups for parliamentary librarians and for law librarians to discuss issues and swap information.
One of the items in the library collection is a book of meeting minutes from the 1600s, which Wellems was nice enough to pass around:
During our visit, we heard a presentation by Heike Lilie, the Juristin for the Bürgerschaft’s petitions committee (Sachbearbeiterin Eingabendienst). Lilie explained that any resident of Hamburg can petition the parliament. She said that half of 800 petitions filed each year deal with foreigners in extradition cases. There are no online submission services yet, so petitions must be submitted in writing. The parliament selects the 21-member committee at the start of each session, and it is the first of the parliament’s committees to be created.
After our meeting in the library, Wellums took us on a tour of the Rathaus. This gives me a chance to post one more photo from our visit. Because what’s a trip to Germany without Otto von Bismarck?