Library Catalogues and Bibliographies

In order to find your way through the vast amount of books and articles that are published every year, help is required. Two of these aids, namely library catalogues and bibliographies, are presented here in more detail.


Library Catalogues

A library catalogue details all books and academic journals available (e.g. for use in literature research) at a library or through a library association. Catalogue entries are generally assigned headwords. Many catalogues now also offer access to digital and/or digitised material, such as e-books or scanned copies of books and journal articles.

Most academic libraries are part of a library association with a shared catalogue. The University of Basel’s libraries, for example, participate in the Swissbib Basel-Bern association. Because a catalogue entry generally only refers to whole books or academic journal titles, individual articles in edited collections or journals are usually not listed in a library catalogue. An edited collection article must thus be located by finding the edited collection in which it was published, while the correct journal title and edition number are needed to locate a journal article. This has begun to change, however, as a result of digitalisation, with the services of many library catalogues having been expanded to include provision of access to texts in digital form. This makes a full-text search of articles possible in some catalogues (e.g. in the UB Basel catalogue). Some catalogues also provide access to electronic documents which have been made available by other service providers or partner institutions.

Catalogues which index the collections of a single library but also offer the option of searching across a range of other library catalogues are known as meta-catalogues. These catalogues are less subject to the individual purchasing policies of participating libraries than standard catalogues, but they do tend to offer less precise search options (e.g. headwords are not assigned uniformly). Swissbib is the most important meta-catalogue in Switzerland, while the Karlsruher Virtuelle Katalog (KVK) and WorldCat are recommended for a worldwide search.


Bibliographies are systematic compilations of references to academic literature (monographs, journal articles, articles in edited collections, etc.) published within a particular subject area. There are three main types of bibliography: current bibliographies (which are regularly updated), closed bibliographies and specialist bibliographies. Because it takes some time for a bibliography to be compiled, the most recent publications are not listed. Bibliographies are the most important guides for researchers to the vast number of academic books and articles which are published every year. This section briefly introduces the various types of bibliographies.

Other sources of bibliographic data include specialist encyclopaedias which provide literature references at the end of each article as well as academic journals which list recently published books or include a review section.

Current Bibliography

Continually updated bibliographies are published at regular intervals. In the past, it was common for new editions to be published annually; each edition would list all publications within a particular area of study which had been released during the course of the corresponding calendar year, usually in chapters divided by topic. Today, current bibliographies typically take the form of online databases which can be searched by title and headword. Some online databases also provide full-text access to academic texts. Many current bibliographies have a spatial and/or temporal focus. Examples thereof include the Swiss cantonal bibliographies or the Bibliography on Swiss History.

Closed Bibliography

Closed bibliographies, which are usually compiled as part of a project, are generally published in print, but are now also being made available as online databases. Most closed bibliographies boast a specific thematic focus. Closed bibliographies come with the disadvantage that, by their very nature, they exclude relevant literature which is published after the completion of the associated project.

Bibliography of Journals

A bibliography of journals is limited to the indexing of academic journal articles (articles in edited collections are occasionally also included). Many German- and English-language journals make the contents pages of their most recent editions available on the H-Soz-Kult website.

Specialist Bibliography

Specialist bibliographies are characterised by their specific thematic focus. A bibliography of reviews can also be classified as a specialist bibliography.