23 July 1829 may be regarded as the day on which the Central Library, now part of the Supreme Court of Justice, was founded, this being the day when Emperor Franz approved the establishment of a separate library. It is thus one of the oldest libraries of a public authority in Europe and the oldest judicial library in Austria.
The reading room of the Central Library has been open to all lawyers since 1905, a facility that is still provided today.
In 1927, the library contained around 50,000 works. At this time, it was the third-largest legal library in Europe. In addition to the current legal literature of the time and the collections of statutes, it also housed valuable manuscripts, irreplaceable early prints and the original statutes of Dalmatian and Italian cities. Almost all of these treasures fell victim to the flames in the Palace of Justice fire on 15 July 1927.
In autumn 1927, work was begun on rebuilding the library, which progressed rapidly thanks to numerous donations from Austria and abroad, such that, by the middle of the 1930s, the library’s stock once again numbered around 18,000 volumes. After the Supreme Court of Justice was dissolved in 1939, however, the most valuable and most recent works had to be handed over to the Court of the German Reich in Leipzig
Upon the re-establishment of the Republic of Austria in 1945, the Central Library was once again created within the re-established Supreme Court of Justice. The library’s inventory of books and journals has continuously increased since it was re-established in 1945.
In 1999, the Supreme Court of Justice decided to convert its previous paper catalogue to a database software solution supplied by Dabis-Gesellschaft für Datenbank InformationsSysteme GmbH, Vienna, that would record and manage the entire inventory of books, journals and statutory texts. This is a program package which, adapted to the particular requirements of a large library, permits rapid and rational cataloguing of the library’s inventory, in particular, as well as a search of the data records comparable to the legal information system of the Federal Government.
Enter Library Catalogue: Please click here! (This link opens a new window to DABIS, Vienna)
The computer database replaced the previous outdated index card system of the Central Library in January 2000. In order to permit uniform searches of the entire data inventory of the Central Library by means of a single IT-assisted inquiry, work was then begun on introducing a new software solution that would also include the recording of the vast old inventory. Projections show that approximately 18 man-years would be needed simply to register all of the old books, to which must be added the roughly 90,000 index cards on journal articles. Thus it is already clear that this will be the largest organisational project the Central Library has undertaken since it was founded.
Despite the fact that some outside assistance will be provided from time to time, it will still take a number of years to complete the full computerisation of all the Central Library’s index cards. At the end of 2003, however, at least the library’s inventory from 1970 onwards and journal articles had been registered in the database, together with supplementary key words. Since then, cataloguing of additional fields has been completed (criminal law, encyclopedia collection, legal philosophy, economics, the complete inventory of the office libraries of the members of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Procurator General’s Office). Older works in the fields of constitutional law are still being catalogued.
As of the end of 2008, the Central Library held roughly 124,000 works. As of that same time, roughly 180 legal journals were being received on a regular basis.