The Swiss National Library opens its new underground stacks

Bern, 20.08.2009 - The Swiss National Library today opened its new underground stacks, thereby completing the last stage of the 1991 master plan. The National Library’s stacks will be open to the public on the weekend of 29 and 30 August.

The Swiss National Library (NB) preserves a significant portion of Switzerland’s cultural heritage. In its stacks it stores around five million books, newspapers, magazines, posters, artist’s editions and literary estates with reference to Switzerland. The collection grows annually by around 60,000 documents. A constant temperature and relative humidity ensure that the documents are preserved and can thus be used for as long as possible.

A thorough insight into the workings and activities of the NB can be gained during the open days on the last weekend in August. On 29 and 30 August those interested will be able to join various presentations between 11am and 6pm when it will also be possible to visit both stacks.

Material was moved into the second stack in April and May and it was officially inaugurated on 20 August following four years of construction and installation. It offers space for 83km of shelving over four underground floors and is largely used to house newspapers and periodicals. The books and literary archives along with special collections such as posters are stored in the first underground stack built in 1997, which covers seven floors with around 59km of shelving.

The NB now has reserve storage capacity until around 2038. While the NB does not require all of the available space itself, the Swiss Federal Archives (SFA), which have urgent need for space, will be able to make use of it. The SFA will occupy an area of around 3’300 m2 in the west stack. Comprehensive safety installations such as fire and smoke detectors, fire doors and shutters and a sprinkler system have been fitted to ensure the safety of staff and all inventory. Staff working underground are permanently connected to the outside world via an emergency call system.

The two underground stacks are the result of a master plan from 1991 designed to ensure the optimal use of the site. In addition to creating reserve capacity the intention was also to carefully modernise the library building dating from 1930, the only one in Switzerland in the “Neues Bauen” style. In 2001, the renovated old building was reopened. Since then the Swiss National Library has been able to offer its users modern technical infrastructure in spacious and partially historical surroundings.

The total cost of construction under the master plan was CHF 93.6 million. 

Open days:

Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 August 2009, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Address for enquiries

Marie-Christine Doffey, Director of the Swiss National Library
Tel. 031 322 89 01,


Swiss National Library