How can a Library Be Closed, but Active?

The whole IWM is trying – and in my opinion succeeding – to keep the intellectual discourse and exchange alive while the institute is closed. The contact to the Visiting Fellows continues, this blog on the website and our virtual colloquia are just a few things that keep us busy in these difficult times.

But what happens when the doors to a library have to shut? The (beautiful) physical space might be taken away, but the work continues. The work of an institutional library goes beyond the physical book and access to large publishing houses and databases. An institutional library cannot – and should not – compete with its larger pendants. Its value lies in the small things, in the kind of service only a closer relationship to research projects and the people connected to them can bring. The IWM library began with one shelf and has continuously expanded, so that today it comprises not only the main room of the library, but also most of the corridors and many offices. The collection is a reflection of the research that has happened at the IWM over time. One can see which fields were in high demand at a certain time and later abandoned, and which ones are new additions and enhancements.

The services I could provide are endless, but what brings value to the concept of an institutional library is the possibility to react individually and uniquely to every new request, new project, new Fellow that walks into the office. This personal connection is part of the IWM’s charm and what made it so easy to stay connected during these difficult times. I continue to answer research questions by our Permanent and Visiting Fellows and help them track down books and articles. In addition to this, I’ve been preparing a bi-weekly curated list of interesting links and articles which is sent out to the current fellows of the institute.

Some items of these lists might be of interest to a broader audience and you can find my personal selection below. It highlights the work of other libraries – there are many more to highlight, but space is limited – and ends with some personal reading recommendations.

Katharina Gratz
Head of Library and IWM Archive


Have you seen our publications page on the website? Maybe you find something you’d like to read and add to your personal collection; bookstores all over the world are still shipping out books as fast as they can.

Many libraries are finding new ways to connect with their readers and offer different services and glimpses behind the scenes and a small library like this depends on the collection of larger libraries.

The Austrian National Library, for example, offers many free resources: ANNO – Austrian Newspapers Online, ALEX – a historical law database or AKON – a collection of digitized postcards from around the world, to name just a few.

The Vienna public libraries are offering their large selection of e-books for free, and the Wienbibliothek im Rathaus has built a digital library with selected books and manuscripts from their valuable collections.

The Central and Easter European Online Library (CEEOL) is an excellent resource with various open access content in one place.

Anything library related is close to my heart and their value to communities is more visible than ever in these trying times. Libraries are doing so much more than just collect books – about what library closures mean for a community, and the NZZ about missing libraries.

If you have the time, you could also take a look at the Library Map of the world curated by IFLA, which highlights their involvement with the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Or visit the Chicago Art Institute to look at Edward Hopper (when you knowyou know). (Art Institute, New York Times, FAZ, Süddeutsche, Guardian)

Speaking of Hopper – one of his paintings is also the header for The Point Magazine’s Quarantine Journal. An excerpt by John Palattella can also be found here on the IWM-page.

Lastly, a literary recommendation: Roddy Doyle reading his short story “the curfew” – can you spot the IWM connection? (The New Yorker Podcast in the author’s voice)