Town Council Library
Lüneburg: Town Council Library (Ratsbücherei)
The Ratsbücherei of Lüneburg is over 600 years old, which makes it one of Germany's oldest municipal libraries. It was originally founded with the name ‘des rades liberie’ (the council library), and located in the town hall. It was amalgamated with the library of the Franciscan Monastery when their Lüneburg monastery was dissolved in 1555 and housed in the former monastery building.
The library’s fiction section and lending area can be found on the ground floor, in a well-preserved gothic hall with cross vaulting. The remains of the cloisters can be glimpsed through a door of armoured glass - this is where manuscripts and incunables are stored.
The children and young people’s section is housed in the former living quarters of the parsons’ widows in the monastery courtyard, the ‘Klosterhof’. Parts of this complex also date from the time of the monastery.
For centuries, the library collected works from other libraries in the town. It was also able to increase its stock with gifts from Lüneburg's patricians, doctors and pharmacists. Today, the Ratsbücherei Lüneburg owns 796 manuscripts, 1131 incunables and about 20,000 prints from the 16th to 18th centuries. Approximately 15,000 volumes date from the 19th century. The Lüneburg legal manuscripts are among its most important documents, for example the Sachsenspiegel [survey of Saxon law] (from around 1410 or 1445) and the Schwabenspiegel [legal code of non-Saxon laws] (from around 1410).
In combination with the young people’s library ‘In the Klosterhof’ and the library in the Kaltenmoor school complex, the Ratsbücherei now contains approximately 190,000 items.
Text: Rolf Müller