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History of Leipzig University Library

The history of the Leipzig University Library can be dated all the way back to the 16th century. In 1543 the rector of Leipzig University, Caspar Borner began collecting books from the libraries of monasteries closed-down by the Protestant Reformation. In the 17th century, librarian Joachin Feller integrated the libraries of the University faculties (founded in 1409), into the main University library and produced a printed catalog of its manuscripts. Librarian Christian Gottlieb Jöcher produced a handwritten catalog of the printed books a century later. Leipzig University Library then became a storehouse of professorial estates that was not used very often. Jöcher began to open the library for teachers and students two hours a week.

Leipzig University Library was given a new statute in 1833. It gained independence from the University, hiring a director who was not at the same time a University professor. It also began to receive a regular budget from the Saxon Ministry of education. At the end of the 19th century, Leipzig University Library was one of the most well endowed research libraries in Germany. It also grew through donations and acquisitions of manuscripts from antiquity to modern times. A new systematic catalog was introduced in the 1850's which filled 347 volumes. It was replaced in 1940 with the card catalog system. In 2008, Leipzig University Library began to convert all of its catalogs into an electronic format, a project that was completed by 2013.

After 1933, censorship and dwindling resources weakened the University function of Leipzig University Library. Its director from 1938, Fritz Printzhorn was a fervent Nazi and tried to get acquire books confiscated by the Secret Police for the library. In a bombing of April 6, 1945, the main library building was largely destroyed. The books however, were kept in cellars and secret locations outside of the city of Leipzig and were almost completely preserved intact after the war. The building itself was reconstructed after German unification from 1992–2002.

In the GDR period (1949–1990), there was a lack of foreign currency; the holdings did not grow to satisfy the needs of current research. There was no money to buy books from Western states and also the added difficulty of censorship under the GDR regime. Despite these challenges, the library grew into more than 40 branches. After re-unification the library branches were slowly transformed into larger units, still scattered all over the city. In 2009, a central branch opened in the main building at the Augustusplatz which offers a 24 hour library service.