Max Planck Society

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.

Dr. WeberWeber, 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.

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Hamburg Parliament Library

Germany 013The 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.

Germany 010Among 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:

Germany 022

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.

For more detailed information about the petitions process, we’ve posted the text of Lilie’s presentation on the Parliamentary Study Tour blog.

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?

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Heise Online – Max Planck Society terminates licensing contract with Springer publishing house

Max Planck Society terminates licensing contract with Springer publishing houseFollowing several fruitless rounds of talks the Max Planck Society (MPG) has, effective January 1, 2008, terminated the online contract with the Springer publishing house which for eight years now has given all institutes electronic access to some 1,200 scientific journals. The analysis of user statistics and comparisons with other important publishing houses had shown that Springer was charging twice the amount the MPG still considered justifiable for access to the journals, the Society declared. “And that ‘justifiable’ rate is still higher than comparable offers of other major publishing houses,” a spokesman of the Max Planck Digital Library told heise online.

heise online – Max Planck Society terminates licensing contract with Springer publishing house

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