medieval librarian, medieval scribe, Middle Ages, information management, southwest German Empire


The direct precursor of the modern librarian or archivist was the medieval scribe or notary. This person was responsible for the production or identification, storage, and retrieval of information and was the first information manager since antiquity to use vernacular languages in documents and books. The medieval information manager was highly educated and was often a prestigious and powerful official in whom important information and state secrets were entrusted. The civic secular scribes borrowed much from church practices but also worked out their own methods of source composition, verification, arrangement, and preservation. These procedures developed into many of the practices still in use today. This paper traces the development of some of these practices during the late Middle Ages in the area which roughly corresponds to modern Switzerland, southern Germany, and eastern France.

Original Publication Citation

Winkler, A (1992). The medieval librarian: Information management in the Southwest German Empire at the close of the Middle Ages. Proceedings of the Research Forum Academic Library Section Mountain Plains Library Association, 93-111 .

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Emporia State University, University Press




Harold B. Lee Library