Breakthroughs. The emergence and spread of public libraries In Hungary
The public library idea appeared first in a proposition (Memorandum…) by Ervin Szabó prepared in 1910. He was a decisive character of Hungarian library history, whose name was assumed by the metropolitan library maintained by the city. Ervin Szabó intended to turn the City Council’s official library a public library system with a huge central library and branch libraries after the Anglo-Saxon library pattern. His ideas were realised in a more modest form (a central library in an old building with five deposit libraries) due to financial and political reasons.
Studying Hungarian librarianship in the first years of the 1900s, efforts for the transplantation of the public library idea can be followed. Leading librarians were well acquainted with foreign literature, and modern trends in librarianship. Ervin Szabó’s plans have only partially been realised, but the Metropolitan Public Library and its branch libraries are still working (as the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library). From the 1920s the idea of the people’s library had a stronger impact on Hungarian librarianship. In the democratic era between 1945 and 1948 Anglo-Saxon experiences were utilised once again in the planning of public library provision. After 1949 socialist library policy prevailed (a great number of units with poor choice, focusing on lending). In the 1960s, in a more moderate political climate, there was a revival of Ervin Szabó’s intellectual heritage laying the foundations of the modern public library model.
The public library battle In 1968 or preface to the publication of István Sallai’s proposition entitled ‘Developmental trends of our public library system’ as a historic document of the age and that of the profession
In 1968 preparation of a new five-year plan gave an opportunity to rethink the principles of librarianship, and summarise the ideas of library policy suggested for the following period. The National Library Council discussed the propositions of István Sallai, which were severely criticised in the first instance by strictly thinking socialist library politicians. Remembering the circumstances, a participant of the discussion, a supporter of Sallai’s propositions and ideas explains why the proposition had such a great impact. The document was known to relatively few people, it had never been published though its spirit, suggesting the development of libraries after the public library model, was incorporated into the library policy of the coming years.
Developmental trends of our public library system. Proposition for the meeting of the National Library and Documentation Council, Békéscsaba, 19 June 1968
According to statistical surveys there were 7252 independent libraries working in Hungary in 1966, the majority of which were small. The study presents the system of public library provision having developed by the 1960s. In the 1910s the model of public libraries was to be followed, but from the 1920s on the German people’s library ideology prevailed (many small service points focusing on the satisfaction of the needs of borrowers). After 1949 the system of county, district and village libraries after the Soviet pattern, were introduced, maintaining deposit libraries as well. Councils were made responsible for public library provision by a departmental order of 1952. Experiences proved that in spite of its advantages, this set-up could not ensure the provision for small settlements. The network created was more of a methodological- administrative system than a hierarchical structure of provision in which smaller units were taken care of. Where the system was only able to provide methodological guidance, people’s library traditions survived. It was a trend all over the world that the number of libraries had been increasing, smaller units operated as parts of larger ones sharing functions in a hierarchical manner. Meanwhile in Hungary the number of independent units decreased, though the development of the deposit system had started. Guidelines for libraries had formulated relevant aims for the development of libraries, but trends were not the same as aims. Permanent development could only be ensured keeping in harmony with world trends. The author summarises the principles of library development in 16 points, and also what tasks follow from these principles, like a library must have a full time librarian, and be able to acquire the core material; the aim of the network can only be the sharing and dissemination of services; professional control and methodological guidance cannot be separated within the network; the library provision of small settlements has to be solved by means of deposits, etc.
VOCAL – Shared cataloguing system of Corvina libraries
The operation of a great number of integrated library systems with a reasonable number of bibliographic and duplicate records is necessary to the organisation of a shared cataloguing system. Large libraries tend to reach this level, while smaller public libraries require more and more records that can be downloaded and adopted. Various applications create opportunities for smaller units to join these networks. It is important from the point of view of the planning of co-operation that the TextLib system of the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library is widespread in Hungarian public libraries. Though academic libraries use different integrated systems, those having the same one can access one-another’s catalogues. Elimination of the different implementations of library and computer standards, character sets is a significant prerequisite of co-operation.
The Corvina (formerly Voyager) integrated library system (which has the great advantage that Hungarian standards are applied in it as far as possible) are used by the university associations of Debrecen and Szeged respectively. There are about half a million bibliographic records in the catalogues of the two libraries, and the material acquired since the middle of the 1960s are covered by machine readable catalogues.
At present the system is used by 25 libraries, that is the conditions of shared cataloguing are given. Shared cataloguing efforts of Corvina libraries are called Vocal. The author presents the characteristics of the shared cataloguing system, work processes, the problems of bibliographic and subject cataloguing, and the anticipated steps of development.
An evaluation of the support offered by the Soros Foundation to school libraries through applications between 1996 and 1998
The educational sub project serving the development of information provision contains that the modernisation of school libraries has to be supported by applications. A modern school library is an indispensable element of the information conception outlined by the National Core Curriculum. At the time of the first call for applications few school libraries had computers, and where there was one it was a slow, small capacity computer. The Organisation of School Librarians urged changes, and their plans met that of the Soros Foundation. The Foundation asked the organisation to elaborate proposals for the preparing applications for the development of information technology in school libraries. There were several rounds of application. First the development of the hardware and software used by school libraries was aimed at. Of the 930 applicants (700 of which applied for their first computer) 169 got multimedia computers, laser printers and software (SZIRÉN, Win’95, Office’95). The second round of applications followed in 1997 in which 350 of those not winning in the first round were invited to prepare applications. Home page designs had to be attached as a condition of application. In this round 133 institutions got the above equipment. In 1998 experiences gained so far with the applications were summarised at a conference held in Balatonfüred, where winners gave an account of their achievements. The last round was started in September, 1998, related to the role of educational programs in the use of libraries entitled -School libraries in a new role”. In this round 180 applicants won 80 million forints worth IT equipment.
Techniques of information retrieval, students and changing circumstances
During the past twenty years the importance of educating students for the individual use of books and libraries has become an integral part of the thinking of teachers and librarians. It has become obvious in the course of refreshing what has to be taught to users, that not only the content but also the methodology has to be updated. Tools were taught at two levels: at the basic level functions of a type of tool have to be presented using basic works as examples, while at level two (advanced) the critical selection of sources available within a type of tool has to be enhanced. The relation between traditional and computer readable reference tools must be re-considered. Basic reference tools (bibliographies, lexicons, catalogues) are present in their traditional form, but students should be prepared for the use of their computerised versions, too. Traditional card catalogues as well as the hierarchical UDC as a retrieval tool loose importance giving their place to co-ordinated retrieval systems using the natural language. The logic of searching in these systems, the use of logic operations in combination with words must by all means be taught to students. A broadly conceived subject in the field of informatics would be useful that dealt with the content issues and the computer technology behind processing and retrieval. Students (and the society) should also be taught to formulate correct questions.
Free and fee-based services in Hungarian libraries. A review of the literature
The reviewer examined the impact of the political, social and economic changes of the 1990s on librarianship from the point of view of how libraries tried to relieve their problems in financing and maintenance. Libraries have asked for a fee for their services, or raised the formerly symbolic one. The review is based upon Hungarian library literature of the past ten years, and summarises the answers given to the following questions: what should the library assume responsibility for; what should the budget cover; can the library work as a non-profit organisation; how can a library find sponsors; what should readers pay for; and how much do users have to pay and for what in various types of libraries.