RVK • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

Another Option for Finding Library Materials by Subject

I have written before in this blog about using the Hollis library catalog to find materials in the law library by subject.

Specifically, I find the Hollis catalog’s hyperlinked Library of Congress (LC) Subject Headings to be a great way to discover what the libraries at Harvard have on a particular topic, especially if I’m looking for materials in multiple languages.

I recently learned more about a subject-based classification system that is used in many German academic libraries, the Regensburger Verbundklassifikation (RVK) system. This system was developed by the library at the University of Regensburg in the 1960s.

As with LC Call Numbers, the RVK system assigns letters to subjects. However, where law books are given a call number that starts with “K” under the LC system, the RVK system uses the letter “P” for call numbers for legal materials.

There is a wonderful RVK directory and search engine that is freely available through the internet: RVK Online. Although it is all in German, it is intuitive enough to use even if you don’t know the language well.

On the homepage of this site, there is a collapseable list of subjects. To view the subtopics under law, you would click the plus-sign next to Rechtswissenschaft (Legal Sciences).

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Next, keep collapsing the list until you find the subject you want.  For example, if you are interested in researching the history of criminal law in the German states, you would click Rechtswissenschaft > Strafrecht, Strafverfahrensrecht, Kriminologie > Allgemeines und Geschichte > Geschichte > Deutsche Länder.

Once you have clicked down to a designated subject, a menu will appear on the right side of the screen. There is a row of blue buttons under the text of the subject you have selected. You can use these buttons to search for materials on this subject in German-language library consortia catalogs. (Suche = Search)

  • BVB – Library consortium of the state of Bavaria
  • GVB – Library consortium of the states of Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Niedersachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thüringen
  • SWB – Library consortium of the state of Baden-Württemberg
  • OVB – Library consortium of Austria

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If, on the above screen, you were to click Suche in SWB, you would see a search results list of 288 items available in the libraries of Badem-Württemberg, listed chronologically, newest first. (Note: I personally find the SWB catalog to be very strong in legal materials.)

The first book in this list is a 2014 conference publication about the work of Feuerbach, a late-17th century German legal scholar whose major work was to reform the Bavarian criminal code.

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If you are interested in the history of criminal law in Bavaria, you will probably want to read this book. Of course, if you are not in Germany, you’re wondering if any U.S. libraries have this book so that you can borrow it.

This is easy enough to find out. Click the record in the SWB catalog, and look for the book’s ISBN number, a 13-digit code that starts with “978.”

Then, use that code to search for the book in the worldwide library catalog WorldCat (http://www.worldcat.org/advancedsearch). There is an option to search WorldCat by ISBN.

If you do this, you will see that several North American libraries (include the HLS Library!) own this book.

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Although there is not a lot that has been written about the RVK system in languages other than German, there are lists of selected subjects (including those under the “P” legal sciences class) translated into both English and Italian. These lists are available at http://www.unibz.it/en/library/about/projects/rvk-translation.html.

The RVK system provides researchers with another option for finding library materials by subject. It might be easier to use this RVK system for certain types of research than to try to search a library catalog by keyword, especially if you are unfamiliar with the language used to discuss the topic in the scholarly literature.

I know that this is a resource that I am very happy to have learned about, and one that I will always use in my searches for German law materials in the future.

 

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