Because my fall semester at UMD is done (and because our individual reports are due soon to the Initiative Fortbildung), I am finally going to finish recapping the Germany Parliamentary Tour. If you’re new to the site, here is a link to the earlier installments, as well as some background about the tour.
On October 5, 2007, we visited the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), one of the pre-eminent think tanks in Germany. Unfortunately, I accidentally threw away my notes in a fit of post-trip housecleaning. Fortunately, Eileen Deegan, one of my fellow traveling mates (and DGI peers), was nice enough to let me borrow her notes so I could write this post. I can’t thank her enough, as evidenced by the fact that I’m thanking her again here.
SWP Deputy Director Dr. Günther Maihold started off our visit by explaining the differences between American and German think tanks. While American institutions operate independently of the government by accepting grants from private foundations, German institutions are funded by the government. SWP receives €10 million annually from the Ministry of the Office of the Prime Minster. The theory there is that by receiving funding from the government, the think tanks are more independent from the interests of private donors. In the U.S., this theory is reversed.
The primary function of SWP’s 50 researchers is to publish studies on foreign affairs. Their reports are available to members of the Bundestag for six weeks before they are published.
Dr. Petra Galle, Deputy Head of Library and Information Services, next provided an overview of the institution’s library services and initiatives. The library is only open to SWP’s staff and members of parliament.
One of the projects the library is involved with is World Affairs Online. This database, which is the joint project with 13 other library and information services, is a bibliography of 700,000 articles from 1,000 foreign affairs publications. Dr. Galle said that 26,000 citations are added annually, and that 20 percent of the citations link to full-text versions of the articles.
Another online initiative the SWP library is a partner in is Vascoda. This resource is a specialized search engine linked to a number of scientific and scholarly catalogs, ranging from SWP to university libraries. From Vascoda, users are able to download or order articles they come across in their search results.
We then toured the SWP library with senior librarian Nele Morkel. She told the group that the library employs eight full- or part-time staff. Its collection invludes between 60,000 and 70,000 monographs, including a large number of so-called “grey literature.” The library also subscribes to 400 journals in print and online, and has access to LexisNexis and Factiva. Researchers do not have direct access to these two databases, however.
Morkel said that she was “proud to say” that the library continues to purchase new books. SWP’s management has never requested that the library cull its collection. However, the library does not have a need to hold onto old journals. It does have an interlibrary loan service.
The circulation process at the library still uses check-out cards. Morkel said that they have yet to find an automation system that suits their needs. She added that the continuing creation of electronic information has changed the way the library staff operates.