Serving the local and international communities at Basel West Library GGG Stadtbibliothek Basel - over 200 years of service

Issue: winter 2012
Basel West Library's expanding range of services and events aim to ensure that the library is a friendly place for people to come and relax, read what is on offer, meet others and be able to bring their children.

The Stadtbibliothek Basel has a long history, having been founded in 1807 by the GGG as the "Reading Institute for Youth" (Leseanstalt für die Jugend). Over the past two centuries Basel's library service has become an integral part of the educational and cultural life of Basel. On a daily basis over 3,200 items are borrowed by Stadtbibliothek Basel members. 


Judging by the growing range of services being offered by the library, the demand from members shows no sign of slowing down. There are now seven libraries around the city and one library in Pratteln.

The central library is located downtown in Schmiedenhof, which has its own reading room. The GGG Basel West Library (GGG Stadtbibliothek Basel West) specialises in providing library services to the English speaking community, with an English speaking member of staff always on duty. All the libraries are open to the public and free to use.

Behind the scenes, over 80 employees work in 42 posts to keep the whole system running. As a result, the Stadtbibliothek Basel system is able to offer visitors 270,000 media, such as books, magazines, maps, CDs, DVDs and games (such as Wii, Nintendo DS and PlayStation). Also, the library's knowledge portal offers free access to numerous databases such as international journals and newspapers. Fortunately, the library service does not just stop at the door and simply accessing the internet will enable you to browse the library's entire catalogue and see where items are available. It's worth remembering that the range of material on offer is vast, so whether you are looking for encyclopaedias or comics, classical music or hip hop, cartoons or documentaries, there will be something that is sure to be of interest.


Basel West Library's programmes for the local and international communities

Basel West Library, which moved to its present location in Allschwilerstrasse in April 2011, is particularly well equipped for English-speaking members in the international community and others looking to improve their language skills. It has the biggest collection of English language adult and children's books, DVDs and audiobooks in Basel.

The English language section was originally started following a generous donation by the American Women's Club and the library continues to expand its services in this area. Suggestions from members on what they would like to see in the library are always welcomed.

In 2012, around 400 new books and audiobooks in English were ordered. One service that has proved very popular is the availability of the top ten books from the New York Times best sellers list. These books are in stock within one week of them being announced which represents a fantastic opportunity for readers to keep up to date with the most talked about books.

Another important feature has been the Basel West Library's keen interest in developing close partnerships with other organisations geared towards the expat community. In May 2012, the library was the location for an English Book sale, which was a joint initiative between the American Women's Club, Centrepoint, the Anglican Church of Basel and the GGG Stadtbibliothek Basel West. In the run up to the event, the organisers encouraged the donation of books, DVDs and CDs, which were then carefully sorted by enthusiastic volunteers. Around 10,000 items were initially predicted to be on sale, but thanks to generous donations the number rose to around 15,000. The event was such an overwhelming success that the book sale has become an annual event.

Basel West Library has a growing children's section and is particularly interested in serving its younger readers. It runs a number of events, such as the Bookworms group where children can listen to nursery rhymes in both English and German. A particularly fun, but valuable initiative, is the Children's Literature Bus (Kinderliteratur-Bus). It is instantly recognisable by its bright yellow colour and brings books and playing materials to libraries, playgrounds, parks, and public swimming pools. Above all, the Children's Literature Bus is a programme that encourages children where ever they are to improve their reading skills. Featuring in around 500 events per year the Kinderliteratur-Bus reaches about 6,000 young readers.

Basel West Library welcomes visitors to the library who want to know more about the services on offer. If you are interested in volunteering, the staff would be pleased to hear from you. To reach Basel West library, take Tram 6 to Allschwilerplatz or Bus 36 to Morgartenring.

Photo:Faiz Kermani

Author: Faiz Kermani

Originally from the UK, I live in Alsace but work in Basel in the pharmaceutical sector. I'm also on the Basel committee of the British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce. Outside the day job I have many interests. I'm part of the PR team for Centrepoint ( and am President of the Global Health Education Foundation (, a US-based not-for-profit healthcare charity which aims to improve healthcare in developing countries. For fun I also write children's books and have won a few awards (

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