3 January 2022

We asked Dr Sandra Simon and Dr Sven Limbeck who actually decides which books are purchased for the HAB and what criteria are applied in making these decisions. Simon, the coordinator for specialist subjects, answered:

‘The HAB is a research library that focuses on research into the medieval and early modern eras. The cornerstone of the library is its historical holdings, which have been looked after and sporadically supplemented in Wolfenbüttel for almost 450 years. A large inventory of research literature is available for conducting research into and using the historical holdings – and this stock is continually being expanded.

The subject specialists are responsible for deciding which media are purchased for the HAB.

Subject specialists are people with an academic degree who have generally completed additional training as a librarian; it is they who are responsible for the selection of media in the library (books, journals, databases, digital resources). There are currently 17 subject specialists at the HAB, and they are responsible for 28 specialist areas; 13 librarians provide assistance in processing the media. The three biggest fields are history, German philology and theology.

The subject specialists use a range of tools to help them decide which media should be bought. These might be bibliographies such as the Deutsche Nationalbibliographie and the British National Bibliography, announcements from publishers or catalogues of recent releases issued by the book trade, which can be tailored to suit a particular specialist subject. Journals of reviews, social media and mailing lists run by professional associations can help the subject specialists by providing information on new publications as well as an overview of current research topics. Moreover, the subject specialists can take requests into account that HAB users have sent to ed.ba1675661844h@gnu1675661844brewr1675661844e1675661844.

In addition to the tools mentioned above, the subject specialists base their decisions on the HAB’s general selection criteria, i.e. acquisitions of media with some connection to research into the Middle Ages, early modern era and 18th century are as extensive as possible. Media that pertain to periods outside this narrow time frame are considered but then selected according to strict criteria.

All the subject specialists use these general guidelines in combination with criteria that have been developed for specific subjects as the basis for making their decisions about which print and digital books should be acquired. Acquisitions that entail subsequent costs – e.g. annual licence fees or subscriptions in the case of journals – are decided by all the subject specialists together.

Thanks to the ongoing work undertaken by the subject specialists, the holdings of research literature at the HAB are increasing by a total of around 8,500 books each year and also include several databases and journals.’


Sven Limbeck is a subject specialist whose responsibilities include the musicology section.

Acquisitions for musicology should relate to the subject as a whole, with attention paid to its systematic breadth and historical depth.

‘The Herzog August Bibliothek is a library with significant holdings of old works about music. The medieval manuscripts extend back to the very beginnings of musical notation and include not only some of the most important sources of medieval polyphony but also unique holdings of early Baroque masters such as Michael Praetorius and Heinrich Schütz. This means that there is a natural focus on research publications – including those from other countries – concerning historical musicology, which should be as complete as possible for the Middle Ages (monophonic and polyphonic music) and the early modern era (in particular, Protestant church music, vocal polyphony, the entire Baroque era and opera up until the pre-classical era). Decisions are made accordingly for systematic sub-disciplines such as notation, music theory, organology and gender research

By contrast, works about music sociology or education play little role for us if they have no historical relevance. Key basic works (reference works, handbooks, biographies, basic monographies and anthologies about musical analysis and cultural studies) are collected under as broad a definition as possible and include more recent musical history, i.e. on composers from the late 18th century to the present day. These include selected titles about jazz and popular music (e.g. on artists like Bob Dylan or David Bowie) or phenomena associated with the reception of music; at some point, a researcher looking into the later reception of German medieval literature will need publications about Richard Wagner …

Published musical scores are among the most important sources both for musicians who wish to play that music and for those engaged in musicological research. For that reason, we have acquired the historical and critical complete editions of the musical heritage of medieval Europe, the corpora of publications and complete works by composers of the 16th to 18th centuries, and a selection by many major composers from the 19th and 20th centuries. Editions on musical practice are particularly relevant when critical editions are completely absent or they are based on sources at the Herzog August Bibliothek.’

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