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International Association of Metropolitan City Libraries (INTAMEL) Round Table

Transformation of Budapest City Library services




Some views of the redeveloped Budapest Central Library

The last five years have brought important changes at the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library in professional organizational matters and also in the systems of the library network. Some areas of the transformation are now complete. However, this is an ongoing process lasting to the end of the decade and determining further development.

The decision of the Minister on the expansion and reconstruction of the Central Library meant that years after searching for the right location and budget cuts the work started at last in 1997. The team, led by the then director Jenö Kiss, the deputy director István Papp and financial director Sándor Deák arranged this significant work. The work started in 1998 and on 20 November 2000 the new building opened. On 12 September 2001 the reconstructed Wenkheim Palace part of the building was opened to the public once again. The Central Library and the Pálffy Palace are 15,000 sqm in area. 80% of the gross Ft3 billion investment was financed by the government while the City Council covered 20% of the cost.

The method of implementation is unique because the library was both the investor and builder. On the one hand this integration provided an advantage, on the other hand the institution had to solve the construction from its own financial resources, finding a considerable amount of money. The building plans were the work of chief designer Péter Hegedus. The interior designers were Mihály Hefkó and Csaba Jakab. Restoration work on the palace was controlled by Gábor László Nagy. The constructor companies were: Maszer, Magyar Építö RT and Középületépítö Rt. It is worth mentioning that the outstanding work was recognized by the architectural trade with an award of excellence and the title of "Best architect of the year" was given.

A metropolitan library was created that provides a wide range of services and meets the requirements of the public library. These familiar and new services are used by visitors from different backgrounds. The library is about to fill the role of the significant cultural centre of the city. There has been a considerable increase in the number of enrolled members - according to data on 31 December 2001, 48,535 people. The 3000-4500 visitors per day prove that investment for cultural purposes is a necessary and right decision. According to readers' opinion and professional comments the city library is an attractive and up-to-date place with a culture-transmissional rule.

We cite the words of Ervin Szabó - whom the library was named after: he wrote in 'Könyvtári Szemle' 1913/2 (a library journal): "Effectiveness of a library is measured by the number of users rather than by the number of books. It can be achieved by controlling the collection development with limited resources." Would he be satisfied with the library of Budapest? We don't know, but the concept of the public library suggested by him has became an accepted and general idea by the 21st century.

The restoration of the Metropolitan E. Szabó Library has not yet finished with the reconstruction of the building, but this year we started the improvement of branch libraries. The project accepted by the Cultural Committee of the City addressed the quality library service and facilities that follow changes in users' demands. It goes together with change in technology and paradigm. The aim is an effective and integrated library system that follows users' requirements. The essential criterion of today's libraries is the usage of results of modern information technology. A more rational operation means the integration of smaller units and sometimes the transfer of their maintenance to local civil organizations. This work assumes effective cooperation between the cultural administration, the City and the districts. Coordinating it is the task of the institution. Improvement of the network and the central service system connects with collection development, staff training and treatment of social problems as well. The library network is modernised on the improvement basis of the central library so that there should be a high standard library service throughout the city.


Latest Revision: February 6, 2003 Copyright ©
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