Geneva is a city that loves books; it boasts a total of 9 million documents divided across 13 sites. Scientific and heritage sites, the libraries in the City of Geneva cover almost every field of knowledge. They play a pivotal role in preserving the city’s intellectual heritage and provide local services offering universal access.
All the public libraries are accessible free of charge.
Local public libraries
Books are a fundamental cultural tool which should be accessible to everyone. It is precisely to this end that the City of Geneva has developed a dense network of municipal libraries which, in addition to a book lending and advice service, organise a wide range of events for young and old alike including meetings with artists, storytelling sessions, music salons, workshops, exhibitions, screenings and even writing assistance provided by a public writer.
To ensure maximum proximity with the public, the services provided by the municipal libraries also include the bibliobuses, mobile libraries which ply their trade across the entire canton, as well as home lending for old and handicapped people living in the City of Geneva. Furthermore, the libraries join forces to provide the InterroGE online service, a free and personalised remote service which provides web users with reliable answers to a range of questions in less than three days.
The Geneva Library (BGE) is a repository of some two million works on a wide range of subjects filling almost 60 km of shelving! Formally created following the foundation of the Collège and Académie de Calvin in 1559, Geneva Library is the city’s oldest cultural institution.
Its centres of excellence reflect the key moments in the intellectual, cultural and religious history of Geneva.
The Musicale in Geneva Library boasts a remarkable collection of sheet music consisting of 50,000 scores, music journals, librettos and historical documents retracing the musical history of Geneva.
The "Les Délices" Library is housed in the residence occupied by Voltaire between 1755 and 1760. It contains a library of approximately 25,000 volumes devoted to Voltaire and the 18th century as well as a museum.
The Centre d’iconographie of Geneva Library contains almost 4 million images. It brings two collections together under one roof: the first, older, collection comprises the age-old iconography funds of Geneva Library while the other, more recent, collection consists of images collected by the documentary service of Old Geneva.
Art and Archaeology Library
The largest art library in Switzerland, the Art and Archaeology Library was founded in 1910. The collections it houses comprise works from all artistic fields ranging from prehistory to contemporary times. It is home to more than 450,000 books including 80,000 exhibition catalogues, 80,000 auction catalogues, about 6,200 reviews, electronic and multimedia resources and a precious fund of ancient books and artists’ books.
Botanical Conservatory and Garden Library
Almost all the books, prints and gazettes describing plants from around the world, indicating their distribution around the globe, cataloguing them by country or region and studying them per family or genus, etc. are kept in the Botanical Conservatory and Garden Library. It is one of the three leading botanical libraries in the world.
Musée Ariana Library
The Musée Ariana Library is Switzerland’s largest library dedicated to ceramics and glass. Its collections consist of more than 6,300 specialist works and more than 40 reviews relating to the arts of fire, ceramics, porcelain, faience, stoneware, pottery, glass and stained glass over the period from the 15th century to contemporary times.
Libraries of the Natural History Museum and the Scientific History
The library of the Natural History Museum conserves, enriches and makes documentation accessible relating to the institution’s fields of research, namely zoology, geo-sciences and archaeo-zoology.
Its collection consists of 70,000 monographs, 4,000 precious volumes, 4,000 geological and topographical maps, 2,200 different periodicals, 200,000 scientific articles and 185 linear metres of archive documents.
It also incorporates the library of the “Nos oiseaux” association and the world bat library.
The library of the Scientific History Museum owns more 13,000 monographs, including numerous old books, 12,000 brochures/reprints, 40 different periodicals, 500 manuscripts and 400 prints devoted to the history of science and technology, the history of medicine and scientific instruments.
Nestling under the eaves of the new MEG, the Marie Madeleine Lancoux Library boasts a collection focusing on social and cultural anthropology as well as the cultures and arts of the six continents. Containing almost 60,000 documents across all media, it also houses the Georges Amoudruz fund devoted to the cultures of the Alpine arc and the Rhône valley. It is also the depositary of the library of the Swiss Society of Americanists (SSA).
Geneva through the eyes of literature
The Cultural circuit – from one library to another offers people the chance to wander the streets of Geneva though the imagination of a host of authors. You can follow the descriptions of Paolo Coelho in “Eleven minutes”, Milan Kundera in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, Albert Cohen in “Belle du Seigneur”, Nicolas Buri in “Pierre de scandale” and Robert Harris in “The Fear Index” to name but a few. Intended for all types of public, it is a metaphorical stroll in step with excerpts from novels set in Geneva, encouraging you to admire both the buildings and the collections of the scientific and heritage libraries. It is also accompanied by podcasts offering a platform for people who explore the relationship between the city and literature to express themselves.
Literary events in Geneva
Regardless of whether reading is a solitary pleasure or a starting point for sharing and discussing during group meetings, libraries and festivals are on the agenda all year round. From reading rooms in winter to lawns and parks in summer, books offer numerous opportunities to escape your daily routine.
Early childhood and family book week: during the month of May, the Maison de la créativité and the municipal libraries offer early childhood professionals (during the week) and families (Wednesday and Saturday) the opportunity to discover the world of children's books.
Every spring, the Salon international du livre et de la presse pays homage to editors and authors from every background while also shining the spotlight on a new generation of writers. This prestigious event includes a rich and varied agenda of debates, meetings and book signing sessions.
Discover all the events and cultural happenings in the diary!
Direction du Département de la culture et de la transition numérique
19 Route de Malagnou
Tél. +41 22 418 65 00
Fax. +41 22 418 65 01
Article modifié le 27.03.2023 à 09:53