Michigan State University

Collection Development Policy Statement: German Studies

AUTHOR: Mary Black Junttonen Last updated 03-23-2015

Purpose or Scope of Collection


This plan updates the Collection Development Policy written by Leena Siegelbaum in January 1990 and updated by Michael Seadle in 2005. Leena's plan covered all of Northern and Central Europe. This plan splits that into two parts, and this part covers only the German speaking countries: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. A policy for the Low Countries, Scandinavia, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, and other "Germanic" languages is under creation.

A. Curricular/Research/ Programmatic needs.

The German Collection (including translations and supporting works in other languages) supports the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs at MSU, as well as faculty research. It is also intended to meet the general information needs of the MSU community, including those of German speaking students, staff, and faculty in departments not directly linked to German studies. German language and literature represent the bulk of the teaching and research in this area. German history is also taught, mainly to undergraduates, and German resources are widely used in the fields of art history, music history, and many of the social sciences. An important new development has been courses in business German.

B. History of the Collection.

German language instruction at MSU dates back to the start of the 20th century. The program virtually died during the 1914-18 War, but was revived again afterwards. During the 1939-1945 War German language training focused on military needs. A significant growth period began after that war, though no PhD program in German Language and Literature began until 1961. This program falls administratively under the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African languages. German history courses have been taught at MSU only since the late 1950s. The pre-1950 German language and literature collection was inadequate for either the growing instruction demand or for research needs. A vigorous collection building effort began in the mid/late 1950s with the help of new faculty, interested librarians, and increased funding. The Harrassowitz approval plan began at this time, and has been the real backbone of the collecting effort. German language material suffices for MA and PhD study in most disciplines.

C. Existing Strengths and Emphasis

The German literature collection (PT) reflects the Harrassowitz approval plan and thus resembles the core collections of most other research libraries. Professor Gallagher donated funds that were used to purchase some materials on folk literature. No unique collections of any size or special interest have been acquired. Very conservative collection policies over the decades contributed to an overemphasis on Goethe and Schiller, and a distinct under-representation of popular culture materials (Unterhaltungsliteratur). This omission has been rectified in part for the general collection by purchase of "best-sellers", prize-winning titles, and other recommended titles in the realms of fiction, criticism, and, to a lesser extent, poetry. Film studies have become increasingly important, both for literature about films and for films themselves.  German comics and graphic novels have been purchased for Special Collections so that, by 2015, we may have the largest collection of German comics in the U.S.  Mysteries written by German-language authors, both in German and in translation, have been added to the collection since the mid-2000s. This is a genre which essentially did not exist in German literature until the last few decades (with a few very notable exceptions, e.g. Emil und Die Detektive, all Krimis were translations).

Collections of data have not yet become a factor in the research of the German faculty but will be included in holdings if and when they are pertinent to faculty and library work.