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The history of the library

The Metropolitan Ervin Szabo Library celebrated the 100th anniversary of its foundation in 2004. The establishment of the Metropolitan Library was accepted by the City's General Assembly in 1903. The institution was set up by the combination of two special libraries ensuring the material - financial - and staff conditions recorded in the Rules for Operation.

The library started to operate in 1904. When it was founded, the stock material - comprised of 33000 volumes taken over from the City Statistical Office - basically included books of social science. There were demographic, statistical, administrative and sociological books. Ervin Szabó (the social scholar), who was the first director of the library, had a significant role in the formation of national sociology. He consistently developed the inherited material to a modern collection of sociology and social sciences. Under his management (control), from 1910, the Metropolitan Library started to be reorganized as an institution of 'public library'. He planned (among other things) to build a 'library palace' - a library building -; develop the city library as a centralized network of branch libraries; create children's libraries and cater to cultural tasks. The plans were only partly completed mainly because of World War I: five branch libraries were established, but the library palace could not be built. The task of managing and enlarging the material on local history - called Budapest Collection -, inherited from the preceeding institutions, was given to a new section from 1912.

In 1925 the rules for operation and organization were changed. The library became a collection with general field of subjects. In 1927, the City Council purchased the beautiful Neo-Baroque Wenckheim Palace, built in 1889, in the center of Budapest (in the so called palace quarter set up in the Reform Age). After four years of reconstruction, the library was opened in 1931. According to the requirements of the age, the significance of humanities and historical works increased, but natural and applied sciences were not developed. The number of branch libraries grew to thirteen.

In 1945, the siege of Budapest caused relatively little damage to the library. Although the Central Library had bullet-holes, and two branch libraries were totally destroyed, it was bearable compared with the total destruction of other public institutions and residential areas. The reconstruction started with great impetus after 1945. Sixteen libraries with deposited documents, a travelling library, 2 mobile ones - set up on trams - and an administrative branch library in the City Hall were established and some bibliographical publications were made. In May, 1946, the institution adopted the name of its founder, and it has been operating onwards under the name of Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library. In 1950, 'Greater-Budapest' was established, so the library had to undertake to provide for the incorporated towns and villages, as well. Twenty-three branch libraries were set up within six years.

From 1955 the Central Library was qualified as the main library within the network as well as the national resource library in sociology in 1968. It has the greatest collection on sociology in the country. It also has a nationwide range of influence serving the special library system. It systematically explores the material on national sociology.
The Music Collection was established in 1964. In the past half century, the library has organized a rich assortment in information services: analitical and other bibliographies have been made. The seven volumes of the Budapest Historical Bibliography represented a high standard. (Its continuation is fully computerized nowadays.) The analitical catalogues of literary periodicals and volumes of essays and studies have been developed since 1964. Today they are available online (old.fszek.hu) as well, along with SocioWeb.

The use and circulation of the documents of the Central Library has been growing rapidly from 1952. More than half of the registered users are intellectuals, mainly students now. Although the accommodation in the reading rooms was increased by alterations, it was more and more difficult to meet the requirements. The real solution was the reconstruction of the old buildings, extended by a new wing. It was done with the aid of financial resources given by the capital and with subsidy by the government (1998-2001). The result is an imposing building of high standard with the use and services appropriate to such a nice institution. The new complex includes the Children’s Dragon Library as well.

The virtual tour of the Central Library is available here:


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