History of EPFL Library

The EPFL Library is the descendant of the Library of the Ecole spéciale de Lausanne, founded in 1853. Discover the main stages in its history:

  • 1853. L’Ecole spéciale de Lausanne and its Library were founded. Both are housed in Bischoff House, Saint-Pierre Street in Lausanne.
  • 1890. The Special School becomes the Engineering School of the University of Lausanne.
  • 1943. After several changes of residence, the Engineering School moves to the former Savoy Hotel, 29-33 Avenue de Cour in Lausanne.
  • 1946. The Engineering School becomes the Polytechnic of the University of Lausanne (EPUL). Professor Emile Schnitzler is appointed as the first official Director of the Library.
  • 1953. Centenary of the School. The Library has approximately 20,000 publications and 500 titles of periodicals.
  • 1955. Ms. Suzanne Roulin is appointed Director of the Central Library.
  • 1969. EPUL is taken over by the Confederation and assumes the name Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL).
  • 1973. Mr. Thomas Tanzer is appointed Director of the Library.
  • 1978. The EPFL and the Central Library move to a new site in Ecublens, 5 km from Lausanne. Transfer of approximately 200,000 volumes, spread across 7 km of sheving. Under this new arrangement, free access to part of the collections is provided. From this year on, the publications are indexed using UDC (Universal Decimal Classification).
  • 1979. The Central Library offers a new service: searching on databanks accessible online.
  • 1983. Decision to computerise the Library by adopting the ETHICS system (ETH Information Control System), designed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich for its own library.
  • 1988. Implementation of ETHICS for cataloguing and indexing.
  • 1990. Ms. Annette Winkel appointed Director of the Library. Establishment of an anti-theft system for some 45,000 free-access volumes. The Library starts to be equipped with microcomputers and CD-ROM readers to allow users on-site consultation of the main bibliographies and references of the scientific and technical world.
  • 1991. Ms. Josette Noeninger appointed Director of the Library.
  • 1993. Bookbinding workshop permanently closed for economic reasons. Lending is computerised: it is integrated into the ETHICS system.
  • 1994. A documentary server, managed by the Library, offers access to the databanks Science Citation Index and Compendex, on the EPFL local computer network (for Macintosh computers). In the same year the Central Library makes its debut on the World Wide Web.
  • 1995. Accessioning of periodicals is integrated into the ETHICS system. Following the creation of the common UNIL-EPFL chemistry library (BiChi), the Central Library books and periodicals on chemistry are transferred to this new library.
  • 1996. The Library no longer depends on the administrative Board of the School, but on the Academic Affairs Board. Acquisitions are made via the ETHICS system. Some publishers of periodicals start to offer an electronic version, via the Web, to subscribing institutions.
  • 1997. A Windows NT server is set up, allowing documentary databases to be offered on-site in Windows and Macintosh.
  • 1998. A consortium is created de facto between the six institutions in the Council of Federal Institutes of Technology (CEPF) area, for common use of the databases INSPEC, Current Contents and Medline; these are hosted on a server in the Library of the EPFZ .
  • 1999. The entire Springer electronic periodicals are accessible on-site at EPFL, following a “national” agreement between Springer and academic libraries. Migration of the library management system ETHICS (developed by EPFZ) to the ALEPH 500 trading system. ETHICS changes its name to NEBIS (Netzwerk von Bibliotheken und Informationsstellen in der Schweiz ).
  • 2000. Considerable improvement on the offer in electronic periodicals by virtue of access to the platforms IOP, Annual Reviews, IEL (IEEE), IDEAL (Academic Press) and ScienceDirect (Elsevier). A Swiss academic consortium is born. EPFL is a partner by virtue of its Central Library.
  • 2003. Appointment of Mr. David Aymonin to a new position as Director of Scientific Information. In this capacity he runs the Central Library.
  • 2008. Foundation stone of the Rolex Learning Center is laid, new location of the library.
  • 2010. The Central Library and its specialised libraries (architecture, chemistry and criminal sciences, training and its technologies, computer science and communications, management of technology, mathematics, physics, materials science) regroup and move to the Rolex Learning to form the EPFL Library.
  • 2012. Appointment of Ms. Isabelle Kratz as Director.
  • 2018. Redevelopment of the Science and Society area and acquisition of a video game collection.
  • 2020. Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, the Library closes its doors to the public for more than 100 days. Services are maintained remotely and the reopening is gradual.
  • 2020. The Library joins swisscovery, a platform which includes 470 scientific swiss libraries and gives access to hundreds of millions of documents.
  • 2021. Appointment of Ms. Isabelle Eula as Director.
  • 2023. The Library’s transformation plan comes into effect.


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