What is e-rara?

e-rara is the portal for digitised printed works from Swiss libraries. These works range from books and maps to illustrated materials – from the earliest days of book printing to the 20th century.

e-rara pursues the following objectives:

  • Coordinated digitisation of printed works from the 15th to the 20th century from Swiss libraries in accordance with uniform quality standards
  • Central import into the portal of digital documents and bibliographical metadata
  • Persistent DOI referencing of electronic documents
  • Presentation of full texts, maps and illustrated materials on a common portal

Swiss printed works are digitised to some extent in collaboration with the digitisation activities of German libraries. e-rara makes its metadata available to international portals like Gallica and the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) run by Harvard University.

The portal was developed as part of the e-lib.ch: Elektronische Bibliothek Schweiz project and went online in 2010. It is run by Bibliothèque de Genève, ETH-Bibliothek, Universitätsbibliothek Basel, Universitätsbibliothek Bern and Zentralbibliothek Zürich. Many other libraries are contributing to the expansion of the portal with their stocks.

Who is e-rara addressed to?

As a national service, e-rara is addressed to:

  • Scientists
  • The general public
  • Institutions that have their stocks digitised and wish to make them accessible in digital form to a broader audience via e-rara. All commemorative institutions whose stocks fit the e-rara profile may participate in e-rara.

Why use e-rara?

Added value for scientists and the general public

  • Hand-picked selection of Swiss printed works from the 15th to the 20th century from various Swiss libraries
  • A constantly growing, freely accessible portal of high-quality, high-resolution digital colour documents
  • Centralised access from the search page, ability to carry out a search in all content available on e-rara
  • Simple navigation inside digital documents using a clear structure and access by chapter
  • Long-term availability of digital documents as a result of permanent links
  • OAI-PMH interface for downloading and subsequent utilisation of standardised metadata including links to the digital documents

Added value for partner institutions

  • Increased national and international visibility of the institution and what it has to offer
    • individual subpage on e-rara
    • integration of data into research portals like Gallica via standard interfaces (OAI-PMH)
    • visitor numbers have grown continuously since the portal went online
    • broad geographical range of visitors
  • Digitisation, backup, operation: services provided by e-rara
    • execution of the entire digitisation workflow from assessment of the condition of the stock to its going online
    • safe and expert handling of analogue stock
    • professional technical management of the portal and its content
    • direct import of metadata from library catalogues via standard interfaces (Z39.50)
    • long-term backup of digital documents (PDF, JPEG) including persistent links
    • transfer to partner institutions of masterfiles in TIFF format with bibliographical metadata and of structural data in METS-XML format

How does an institution participate in e-rara?

Subscribing to the service


  • Initial costs, particularly technical configuration: CHF 500 to 6,000 (depending on services provided and type of template)
  • Digitisation, input, data import: on request (depending on material and the library to be digitised)
  • Operation per year: about CHF 1.50 per 300-page book