Digital Libraries in Hungary
Building on the natural curiosity of people
Katona József Library offers a wide range of digital services: knowledge repositories, portals with digital collections, maps and walks. How can these help to retain readers?
By Barnabas Virag
Libraries must adapt to the ongoing changes in relation to technological transformation, digital services, and the communities emerging around libraries, which means that resources must be provided for producing and curating virtual content, so readers can always access verifiable and up-to-date information.
The Katona József Library of Bács-Kiskun County is one of the most significant institutions in the Hungarian library system. It was awarded the title of Qualified Library in 2014 and 2020 and was the first winner of the Quality Library Award in 2015. Achieving high quality is our fundamental principle when it comes to implementing digital services.
Content supporting learning – databases and knowledge repositories
A principal objective of our digitising strategy is reinforcing the local community and identity which is supported by our Famous People Repository, representing public figures recognised both nationally and internationally. Relevant data is presented in the same structure: biography, recommended bibliography, and up-to-date articles.
Our portal’s database has a similar role: it contains the descriptions and photographs of historical memorials and statues, including the texts of memorial plaques with references. It is possible to browse in databases of landmark anniversaries, awards and honours, and also among the treasures of the library’s historical collection.
Local citizens are very proud of the two famous artists born in the town: József Katona, who was an active playwright in the early nineteenthcentury, and Zoltán Kodály, who is internationally recognised for his music pedagogy methods. Our repositories enable visitors to explore their lives and oeuvre. It is good to see that our resources are often cited, and our uploaded materials draw the attention of professionals. The resources are often supplemented by professionals, so we can provide up-to-date content, such as virtual exhibitions, methodology resources, and other online resources besides lexicons. The library collects publications on Zoltán Kodály and his works, including sheet music and recordings of his pieces and folk song adaptations.
On a city level, we launched a site called Concert Life in Kecskemét a few years ago, which is very successful. We gather information on all the town’s music events in every genre, and users can filter them based on genre. We recommend concert recordings from our collection and also offer a few pieces online. Our library’s service has helped to create a community of people with a shared interest in music events.
Public Collection Digitising Strategy
Since 2020, within the programme of the Public Collection Digitising Strategy, the new ‘Our Digital World’ portal has been providing historical information on the Cultural life of Bács-Kiskun county before World War II – through posters and small prints. In the late twentiethcentury, photojournalist Sándor Tóth worked for the local press for decades. He donated his photo collection to the library for digitisation which has already begun. Our section Walk in the old Kecskemét provides the parallel presentation of both the historical and present imagery of Kecskemét – with the aid of Google Maps.
Kecskemét has been the educational heart of the region since the nineteenthcentury. With our virtual exhibitions, we present the town’s four prestigious education institutes through school report cards, and textbooks written by their former teachers.
The library’s children’s section released the educational game collection Treasure Chest, which facilitates child development by targeting children and adults with a playful attitude.
Releasing new content during the pandemic
Being true to our motto – ‘Katona József Library – for a lifetime!’ – the library has actively made efforts to provide new content for all ages on our webpage. Due to the pandemic of 2020, our nursery rhyme activities were transferred to YouTube, reaching a wider audience than usual. Our Recommended for children selection contains printable colouring books and puppet show videos, but we also took part in holidays such as Easter, and new books were regularly recommended.
For teenagers, we made a virtual museum tour that offered help with language learning, and recommended links for members of our Harry Potter Club.
For seniors, some of our educational lectures have been made available on our YouTube channel, thereby helping to realise our information dissemination programme Beyond a high school education, including the digital skills development program Internet Fiesta.
In 2020, we remembered the 100th anniversary of the Trianon Treaty. Our website featured a quiz on Trianon, and recorded lectures related to the topic. We created an interactive map of historical Hungary (before the Treaty), which displays folk songs from its seventy-two counties. The map includes sheet music and recordings of folk dances and can be used as colourful supplementary teaching material.
Our library on social media platforms
The Katona József Library of Bács-Kiskun County is active on both Facebook and Instagram. While our Facebook page mainly shares pictures of new documents, library programmes and events, Instagram is used for sharing ambient images. Highlighted library programmes get their own Facebook events, where users can invite their acquaintances, also allowing them to comment. Press releases are regularly shared on social media. On our YouTube channel, visitors can find our service advertisements, reports, and media coverage.
Building on the natural curiosity of people and their interest in their own past – in order to preserve local documents – it is appropriate and necessary to base activities on local values.
Digital space helps to retain readers, and to bridge the gap between people who used to distance themselves from library services. Building on the natural curiosity of people and their interest in their own past – in order to preserve local documents – it is appropriate and necessary to base activities on local values. The appropriate communication of new digital content is essential, for which community spaces can offer help. Here, people interested in a subject can form separate groups where they can comment and share pictures, and services can be modified based on their feedback.