The Federal Military Library EMB was founded in 1848 at the request of General Henri Dufour (1787-1875). Its initial task was to collect military documents and papers relevant to military history relating to battle doctrine, history of wars, weapon technology and the organisation of armies. The foundation of the library was also related to the prohibition of mercenary service abroad, as this entailed the loss of an important source of direct war experience that was important for shaping and developing the Swiss defence system.
Today, the Library am Guisanplatz BiG, as the institution has been named after the merger of the federal military library with the civilian federal libraries in the area of Bern in 2006, is no longer located in the east wing of the Federal Palace, but in the former arsenal at the Guisanplatz in Bern which was renovated for this purpose.
The BiG still serves as a centre of excellence for specialised military literature and documentation as well as military history. Apart from this, however the civilian fields have attained central importance too, such as civil protection, architecture, economics or law. The clients of the BiG, which is open to the public, include federal employees, military personnel, but also private persons from Switzerland and abroad who seek its services due to the library’s international fame. Its overall holdings comprise about 550,000 books and about 5,600 periodicals.