Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pestalozzi-Bibliothek Zürich - Oerlikon

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Zurich for a short visit, and as part of this visit I popped into the Zurich Branch Library of Oerlikon that was across the road from the hotel, because that is what you do when you are a librarian visiting another country. Zurich has 14 branches of the Pestalozzi-Bibliothek Zürich (or PBZ) system.

The total floor space of the library is 1105 m2 over 3 floors. the premises are located in an historic former post office building dating from 1927. It is Located directly at the railway station of the district of Zürich-OERLIKON, one of the main hubs in Switzerland.

The first thing I noticed was that the entrance was an open space without any oppressive circulation desks. There were three standing desks, separated, near the entryway and facing in slightly different ways so that each desk could be approached from a different direction. There were many people in the library at the time I visited at about 4pm, it was also very warm when the outside temperature was close to zero.

The library is the showcase for the PBZ as it was completed in 2013 and incorporates many modern designs and functional furniture. Just beyond the entrance a Take-away wall has been fitted where new releases and best sellers are kept for customers with little time. A 'grab and run' section if you like. 

Further along the building, the fiction section in multiple languages is held, along with magazines, DVD's and CD's. The shelving incorporated a lot of front facing books.


The lower floor also has a number of self checkout machines, with a readers lounge that looks out onto the train line.


On the second floor I found the non fiction, then on the third floor was the children's library, which at the time was filled with children participating in after school activities, so I didn't take any photographs while the children were there.

On the way back down to the lower floors, I looked more carefully at the spine labels on the non fiction and I noticed there were no dewey numbers. I also don't read German so I approached the librarians to ask about the spine labels ...

The top line of the label is the branch of the PBZ (in this case OE for Oerlikon), the next line is the classification (or signature) of where it is placed on the shelf. The third line is the authors suffix.

The signature is the item that intrigued me the most - it means that the entire non fiction of Zurich libraries is organised by subject - without the Dewey or LOC system indicated on the spine or the OPAC. One of the librarians took the time out to show me the subjects they use throughout the system. Unfortunately you cannot access the list through the regular OPAC, but you can gain an inkling from the shelf markers as to how they created the subject headings and what would be generally included as part of this. After some searching I think I have found the full list here, but it may not be.

Something else that impressed me was the OPAC is available in multiple languages.

This library was also featured on a blog 1001 Libraries you need to see before you die.

Overall I was very impressed with the Zurich library system, and this branch of it.

EDIT : I wrote to the PBZ for more information and this is what they replied with : 

For our non fiction department we use a blend between the ASB (Allgemeine Systematik für Öffentliche Bibliotheken i.e. General system for public libraries) see:, and the so called Themenbereiche (subjects), mainly created by ourselves. 

They also send me 31 pages of information on the subjects they use. Thank you PBZ!


Johanna Krijnsen said...

Hi Diane

The signature is based on the ASB, a systematic for public libraries. The Notations of ASB are alphanumeric. The ASB is divided in 23 main groups represented by an uppercase letter. The breakdown of the main groups is carried out in groups and up to 4 subgroups with the aid of up to 2 lowercase letters and up to 3 digits, e.g.

E Geschichte, Zeitgeschichte
Em Deutsche Geschichte
Emp Deutsche Geschichte von 1815 bis zur Gegenwart
Emp 8 Deutsche Geschichte von 1945 bis zur Gegenwart
Emp 82 Deutsche Geschichte von 1945 bis 1990
Emp 820 Geschichte der Bundesrepublik von 1949 bis 1990

The ASB system lacks in-depth development and level of detail, and last but not least it's not universal )-:


Dianne McKenzie said...

Thanks for your insight Jo, is the ASB cataloguing system a Swiss, general European or other place invention?