Fulfilling Füssen

While in the highest town in Germany’s Bavaria last summer I went to Stadt Bibliothek Füssen (SBF).


SBF is on left

Housed in a baroque monastery, the stairs down are half-timbered so I’m surprised to find sleek glass and steel fixtures.  Futuristic sconces and floor lamps dot the premises and attractive Plexiglas and brushed metal stands hold staff suggestions and informational pamphlets.  At the spiffy circulation desk, Tina greeted me warmly, but due to policy, couldn’t be in the photo.

IMG_0385It’s one level, and though quite hot outside, its cellar location means air conditioning is unnecessary.  The building is on a steep slope, so despite the catacomb style entry, as you move further in, the vaulted ceilings, tall arched windows and whitewashed walls impart a bright and airy feel.

IMG_0395The crisp white racks have lots of holes to allow adjustment for displays.  Sandwiched between two normal cases acting as end panels, tiers of audiobooks are presented face out.

Sliding drawers let you easily browse the 6,400 CDs, films and brand new releases in Media.

IMG_0388SBF is one of the largest public facilities around.  Founded in 1958 as Volksbücherei (people’s library), a 2011 expansion brought modernized equipment and turned it into the ideal community gathering place where people chat to friends, surf the web or relax over a cup of coffee and a newspaper.



SBF has an association that, like a Friend’s group, advocates for them and seeks relationships with regional schools, cultural organizations and governing bodies.  

There are three internet computers and free wifi for all.  Use has tripled to 130,000 loans per year in just a decade.  Up to age 18, you don’t pay, and then it’s 20 euro a year or buy a family card for 30 euro.  Materials go out for four weeks except periodicals go out for two and ILL is available.

It’s a very different layout from a typical library.  Long cabinets are custom fit, sinking below openings and creating exhibition areas on top.

Fascinating sculptures and art constructions catch the eye.


Infinity effect

Classics and bestsellers are propped up on a long single ledge running down one side of the corridor and shelves are off the ground so can be cleaned underneath.

The library does a monthly tour, and has concerts, lectures and author appearances.   Discuss books at LiteraturCafé or go to a cinema night or “Bittersüß” (bittersweet), a series of happenings from October to April.  In summer, Martin Harbauer, an actor and professional storyteller from the Bavarian Theater Academy, reads from Hesse, Goethe, Melville and London.

IMG_0399In Teen’s, high seats by a PC, graffiti splashed walls and manga make a statement about the expected audience.  SBF carried video games until 2015 but got rid of them in hopes of encouraging people to play board games together (they have a whole slew for checkout), so the TV console and headsets are now solely for previewing movies.

IMG_0420Exploring the attached courtyard, I admired the exterior’s whimsical details – terracotta tiles cap a high wall and a small bronze roof covers an octagonal enclosure perched on a buttress.

The friars slaughtered animals in this little garden and during the renovation lots of small bones from chickens and rabbits were unearthed.

Youth and Fiction are in what was once storage for the cloister…

IMG_0430… while colorful Children’s used to be the Conditorey (confectionary).  Knotted pine planks and scatter rugs lead passed offerings for tiny tots encased in stackable cubes to titles for older kids.  Wheeled contraptions hold picture books in crates and rows of paperbacks beneath.

Youngsters lounge on beanbags, benches and stools painted with favorite characters or read ensconced in curving primary hued plastic chairs.  Parents have comfortable furniture options too.IMG_0452The wonderful flag stone floor is exposed here, though I imagine the carpeted sections must be warmer in winter.

Plush toys keep toddlers occupied as juveniles select Kinder DVDs in a curtained alcove.  Backpacks contain a mixture of themed items including CD Roms and quizzes.  Appropriately for a district where crenellations are common, one was on knights and castles.  Handouts featuring upcoming adolescent activities hang from a carving of a cheerful pig-tailed girl in patchwork clothes by a charming papier-mâché giraffe.

img_0448.jpgJuniors attend regular storytimes and online the Antolin-Buchportal provides interactive reading support.

The website also has a program calendar and a slideshow of the bibliothek.  A library value calculator lets you discover taxpayers’ return on investment or subscribe to the newsletter.  Download electronic books, media and serials via Onleihe Schwaben or search the Brockhaus Encyclopedia.

SBF lends energy conservation kits and has a wide array of map packages for recreational adventures like cycling, crosscountry skiing or hiking (“wandern” in Deutsch – what a great word for it!).  Wicker seats by a fretted sun streaked window make an inviting spot and near a bulletin board with patron tips and reviews, a frame around a PAC supplies even more promotional space.


Lots of light for studying

In the only place with anything resembling stacks I met Sabine Frey, the director or Bibliotheksleitung (library management).  Until 2010, SBF had a mere 144 square meters (1550 square feet) and now it’s 946 square meters (more than 10,000 square feet) and has 42,434 items.  The city budgets 35,000 euro annually for acquisitions and takes care of employee salaries and infrastructure costs.  Four people work here – full timers Sabine and Monja (who answered my initial inquiry) and part time Tina and Moni plus several volunteers who read to children and they currently have an apprentice as well.

Sabine enlightened me about the abbey’s past.  Originally, this room was the kitchen and its former Komedihaus (theater) is now a repository for 4500 volumes of local history and its special collection on Totentanz (Dance of the Dead – there’s a famous one here) and violin and lute fabrication, crafts inextricably linked to Füssen.

All the paintings and installations have some connection to the area.


Fanciful instrument

I was intrigued by this piece and by three similar ones in a recess above Travel.

Sabine then led me into the pièce de résistance, the Orangerie, a stunning chamber   perfect for library functions and meetings.

img_0512-e1501713616371.jpgAt other times, the conservatory is open to anyone who wants to enjoy a beautiful venue lit by the soft glow of chandeliers.  Read papers attached to spindles or choose one of the 50 magazines from an antique white vitrine.  If you’re thirsty, help yourself to some water from the pitcher on the portable bar by the small kitchen or grab a macchiato from the Café, where a cupboard filled with crockery flanks an honor system coffee machine.  A woodstove sheathed in a towering pearlescent gray unit effectively disperses heat to keep it cozy as you ease into a striking blue and fuchsia cube shaped cushioned chair.

Füssen gets so many tourists they can borrow from SBF for free using the KönigsCard.  Without it, visitors pay five euro to use the library while here.  So if you ever go to Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for the one at Disneyland, be sure to take a “peak.”


Surrounding scenery

You won’t regret a side trip to this magnificent edifice on the banks of the Lech, and the delightful library inside will welcome you with open arms as you gape at its architectural gems.

What an appealing destination!  The citizens of this lovely old town are very fortunate.



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2 Responses to Fulfilling Füssen

  1. Pioneer says:

    Love the art. -gm

    Greg Mickells
    Library Director

    Madison Public Library
    201 W Mifflin St
    Madison, WI 53703

    Office: 608-267-1184

    [MPL Vison File]

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