Découvrez les bibliothèques de la Ville de Genève
Toute l'offre culturelle

  • La Bibliothèque de Genève déploie sur 4 sites un patrimoine écrit, imprimé, musical et iconographique unique qu’elle sélectionne, protège, valorise et transmet au grand public comme au public scientifique.
  • Site internet de la Bibliothèque de Genève

  • Les Bibliothèques municipales sont des lieux de rencontre, de découverte et de partage qui vous proposent de nombreux documents à emprunter ainsi que des activités gratuites pour petit-e-s et grand-e-s.
  • Site Internet des Bibliothèques municipales

  • Les musées d’art et d’histoire, le Musée d’ethnographie et le Museum d’histoire naturelle, les Conservatoires et Jardin botaniques et le Fond municipal d’art contemporain proposent un accès à leur bibliothèque scientifique .
  • Site internet

  • Vous avez une question et vous souhaitez une réponse personnalisée? Le réseau des bibliothèques genevoises vous offre, en moins de trois jours, un résultat fiable et des sources identifiées.
  • Service Interroge


Officially formed after the foundation of the Collège and the Académie de Calvin in 1559 in Geneva’s Old Town, the Bibliothèque de Genève is historically the dean of the city’s cultural institutions. It has been called successively the Bibliothèque de l’Académie in the 16th century, the Bibliothèque Publique in the 18th century, the Bibliothèque Publique et Universitaire during the 20th century, and since 2006, the Bibliothèque de Genève. The Bibliothèque is heir to the legal deposit law of 1539 and the collections of the Académie library.

Le Service d'aide à la recherche, au premier étage du bâtiment des Bastions

Starting in 1539 a law enjoined Genevan printers to deposit with the Chamber of accounts several copies of each of their publications. Thus was born Geneva’s dépôt légal genevois, or legal deposit, the oldest in the world after France’s (1537). It has ensured that the output of local presses has been conserved down to the present, although the law hasn’t always been strictly applied and even met with a long period when it was suspended during the 20th century.

A few years later, in 1562, the Bibliothèque de Genève was mentioned for the first time as part of the Académie and Collège founded by Calvin in 1559. It is the latter date that ought to be borne in mind since it attests to the existence in Geneva of a truly organized library. It is the earliest mention of an institution of its kind in Switzerland after the Bibliothèque de Bâle (1471).

Published catalogues make clear the regular expansion of the collections: 720 volumes were counted in 1572; 1,200 in 1612; 4,000 in 1702; 15,000 in 1779; and over 70,000 in 1872, the year in which the Bibliothèque moved to the Bastions and the building it occupies today.

From the outset, personal libraries like those of Jean Calvin, François Bonivard and Pierre Vermigli did much to enrich the collections, but the most remarkable contribution under the ancien régime is without doubt the collection of illuminated manuscripts that the Genevan theologian Ami Lullin had purchased in Paris and donated to the library in 1756. Generally, the 18th century was a period of great cultural and intellectual activity for Geneva, associated with rapid economic development, all of which translated into a significant expansion of the library’s collections.

The new constitution that Geneva adopted in 1847 in the wake of the radical revolution attributed the Bibliothèque to the City of Geneva. The library’s mission, however, remained bound up with higher education, which explains why the library accompanied the Académie—which had become the University in the meantime—to its new home in the Bastions. In 1907 it officially took the name of the Bibliothèque publique et universitaire.

Genève, pose de la première pierre des bâtiments universitaires. Poussé par les professeurs des branches scientifiques, le projet de construction d'un bâtiment moderne est approuvé par le Grand Conseil le 12 juin 1867. Etudiants et enseignants ont besoin de grands amphithéâtres et de laboratoires. Le chantier semble intéresser les Genevois, venus nombreux à assister à la cérémonie de la pose de la première pierre en ce 31 octobre 1868. Phot29P Universite 03

Growth of the collections was to speed up during the 20th century, which can be seen in all comparable libraries, following the general increase in printing. The Bastions building quickly proved too cramped and extensions and transformations were to punctuate the entire century. In 1905 a new reading room was built right up against the eastern façade, while exhibition galleries were added. Several refittings of the underground book storage increased their capacity. The last one to date was completed in 1987.

The most recent period witnessed the gradual introduction of computer technology into the various library departments. In 1984, the Bibliothèque was made a part of the Réseau romand, the Western Swiss network, which is known today as Rero, the Réseau des bibliothèques de Suisse occidentale, or Library network of Western Switzerland.

In 1999 the Bibliothèque de Genève inaugurated the first open-access area in its history. Prior to that, except for reference works and other specialized books for ready consultation, library books could only be obtained by doing a catalogue search and having them retrieved from the storage shelves. Despite its limited size (30,000 volumes), this encyclopedic selection of recent books has been a great success, which is attested by the volume of books in circulation.

The Reading room was renovated in 2005, offering readers greater comfort and WiFi access, the first public hotspot in the City of Geneva.

In 2006, the Bibliothèque mounted a major exhibition at the Musée Rath, Arts, savoirs, mémoire. Trésors de la Bibliothèque de Genève (Arts, knowledge, memory. Treasures of the Bibliothèque de Genève). It was at this occasion that the library officially readopted its former name, the Bibliothèque de Genève.

A complete renovation of the Espace Ami-Lullin, the exhibition space located on the Bibliothèque’s ground floor, was begun in 2007. Since its inauguration in October 2008, the room’s furnishings and equipment, now entirely redone, make it possible to display items in an utterly secure environment. The exhibition space has also been provided with an area where talks can be given.

In the early 21st century, renovation work was undertaken, although without resolving the problem of spatial limits for the collections in the medium term (over 2,000,000 volumes for printed books alone).

Promenade des Bastions 8
1205 Genève

T: +41 22 418 28 00
F: +41 22 418 28 01