First mentioned in records in 1692, the Academy of Fine Arts is the oldest art college in Middle Europe. The library, however, is not documented prior to 1773 and the draft of the articles of the k.k. Akademie der vereinigten Bildenden Künste. Until the Graphic Collection was made an independent administrative unit in 2003, the director of the library supervised its collections as well. Nowadays the university library includes a branch in the Karl-Schweighofergasse. The mission statement of the library and its staff is to preserve bibliophilic treasures of the past on the one hand, on the other hand to be a forward-looking service unit in our modern information society.
The library's stock of media included: Books: 15.000 (1892), 26.000 (1917), 200.000 (2011); Hand drawings: 20.000 (1892), 26.000 (1917); Copper engravings: 63.000 (1892), 63.500 (1917); Photographs: 6.400 (1892), 13.400 (1917); Magazines: 130 (2011).
Through its computer terminals in the reading room, the library offers access to thousands of databases and e-journals via the platforms DBIS (Datenbankinformationssystem) and EZB (Elektronische Zeitschriftenbibliothek) respectively. Aside, following licensed electronical resources are available for research:
- Two bibliographical databases: IBZ Online; IBR Online
- Two fulltext databases: Humanities International Complete; Art & Architecture Complete
- Two electronic reference works: Allgemeines Künsterlexikon online; Colour Index International
- Three JSTOR collections: Arts & Sciences I, III, V
The university library is the information center of the Academy. Through its collections and its qualified staff, the library supports research, teaching and studies and cultivates information literacy. The focus in acquisition can be found in the collection development policy.
Aside from providing literature (print and online), the university library along with the university archive takes part in the field of provenance research which currently evolves among Austrian libraries (cf. Bruno Bauer/Christina Köstner/Markus Stumpf, NS-Provenienzforschung an Bibliotheken in Österreich, Wien 2011). The review of the administrative acts of the Academy in the years between 1933 and 1948 paved the way for the provenance project as it was unearthed that Dr. Otto Reich, director of the library between 1919 und 1945, was a member of the - at times still illegal - NSDAP. It is with great possibility that we can assume that the director of an important collection who was already a NAZI prior to the Anschluss had the ways and means to acquire NS-looted art. To this day, however, the proof remains to be shown.
"Es ist also kein Grund, gerade bei der Kunsthochschule einen Stillstand in der Entwicklung vorauszusetzen, umsoweniger, als jeder, der die Geschichte der Anstalt verfolgt hat, erkennen wird, dass manche der stets wieder hervorgetretenen Fragen noch immer ihrer Lösung harren, abgesehen von den neuen, die jede Zeit wieder mit sich bringt". (cf. Die k. k. Akademie der bildenden Künste in Wien in den Jahren 1892-1917, Wien 1917, S. 22)
The university library builds a bridge between the Academy and the public: It offers information and a work space to researchers, teachers and students - a center of communication on arts and science.