The world of books
In 1951, the two public libraries of Lucerne, the cantonal library and the city public library, were combined to form the new Lucerne central library (Zentralbibliothek Luzern) located at Vögeligärtli on 10 Sempacherstrasse. In 1997, the name of the library was changed to Zentral- und Hochschulbibliothek Luzern ZHB (Lucerne central and university library), to reflect the opening of the Fachhochschule Zentralschweiz (University of Applied Sciences of Central Switzerland), which is today the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.
You can find out more about this in the audio contribution or in the complete text "The world of books".
The Lucerne Central & University Library (the Zentral- & Hochschulbibliothek Luzern, ZHB) is the largest library in Central Switzerland. As a public general academic library, it has been serving a broad community since 1951. In addition, it is the cetral library service for Lucerne's higher education institutions: the University of Lucerne, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, the University of Teacher Education and other tertiary education bodies. The main building on Sempacherplatz was rebuilt and renovated between 2016 and 2019. In addition, the ZHB also runs libraries at the University of Lucerne and at the School of Business and the School of Information Technology at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts. The total stock of print and electronic media amounted to 2 million in 2019. The ZHB is supported by the Canton of Lucerne.
Until the opening of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in 1997, the Lucerne Central & University Library bore the name the Lucerne Central Library. It was called central because in 1951 the two older public libraries of Lucerne, the Cantonal and the Citizens' Library, were centralised in the new building in the 'Vögeligärtli'.
In the Middle Ages, books were only found in a few spiritual centres, where the small number of people who could read were also concentrated. The library of the Benedictine monastery, St. Leodegar im Hof, which was founded in 850, no longer exists. The oldest library still in existence in the Canton of Lucerne is the 11th century collection of the canon monastery of St. Michael in Beromünster. Other monestaries of the period include the Cistercian monastery of St. Urban, founded in 1194 and the Franciscan monastery of Lucerne, from around 1269. These monestaries all also ran schools for their own offspring, as well as for lay people. In 1577, town clerk Renward Cysat (1545-1614), who himself owned an important private library, moved the Small Council to contribute 3000 guilders to the school library that was being constructed by the new Jesuit College. This grammar school and library, whose holdings had continued to grow, were taken over by the State of Lucerne in the course of the abolition of the Jesuit Order in 1774. The Jesuit library formed part of the stock with which the Cantonal Library was founded in 1832. In the decades that followed, other collections were incorporated. These included the libraries of the Franciscan monasteries of St. Mary in der Au Luzern and Werthenstein (1838), the Cistercian monastery of Sankt Urban (1849), as well as libraries of other Lucerne associations, families and private persons. All these collections are closely connected to Lucerne.
The Lucerne Public Library has its origins in the private collection of the Lucerne politician and historian Josef Anton Felix Balthasar (1737-1810). The city of Lucerne purchased his collection in 1809 as the basis for the public municipal library, which began operating in 1812. This public library exclusively collected Helvetica, that is manuscripts, prints and graphic sheets related to Switzerland. From 1895-1951 it had the status of a Swiss National Library for printed matter prior to 1848. The Lucerne Public Library has belonged to the Corporate Community of Lucerne since 1832. In 1951 the Corporate Community of Lucerne gave it to the Canton of Lucerne on permanent loan for joint administration together with the Cantonal Library.