|Tenant:||National Széchényi Library|
|Number of employees:||494|
A library doesn’t seem like the best place to visit for a blog writing about interesting workplaces. Why should we show people whose only task is to arrange books in alphabetical order and help people find them based on their order.
Well, we were wrong. The Széchényi Library is different. Of the eight and a half floors the building consists of, only three are accessible by civilians, thus there are plenty of areas for us to show you. It’s important to note that the library receives two copies of every single book published in Hungary, which means about 38 thousand new copies each year. The library was placed in the Buda Castle during the 80s, and apparently it was expected to have enough capacity for at least 30 years.
Walking into the castle, the library seems as though it’s merely a 3 story construction, but from the Tabán side of the district one can see the levels carved into the hillside. It’s thanks to this positioning that the storage levels don’t receive much natural light, but that’s just one of the attributes of working amongst millions of books underground.
László B. Bóka, the man responsible for PR, welcomes us firstly, and is unsure of just what to show us. After telling him we are curious about everything, he lets his colleague head of storage István Elbe take us around.
Let’s begin with the restoration shop. A top priority of the library is the upkeep of existing stock, as well as restoring any old and damaged ’artifacts’ to arrive. There are specially dedicated rooms for this, where the ladies working on restoration products readily show us their daily routines and current projects.
As we go on, the storage areas begin, which are twelve stories in height due to a lowered floor height allowing for twice the amount of stories. Before moving in, an architectural miracle had to be performed to build in Hauszmann’s castle courtyard, and convert itt o storage areas which have the capacity to bear all the weight of millions of books. While this feat was pulled off, it was motivated only by functionality, and thus the aesthetics were not paid attention to.
Connecting the storage levels and public reading areas is specially made postal system, called Telelift. The device, built and installed int he early 80s, is reminiscent of an electric train set, modified into a rollercoaster. Apparently a few years ago some German engineers visited the library, and were shocked to see such a system still active. The system does jam from time to time, and at times like these manual override is required, but at least the system shows the precise location of the jam.
We are in luck, as István Elbe is in love with his work, and shows us every little crevice of the building, with a story for each room. As we walk by, he jokes with the storage workers, asking them who’ll pose for a picture, but they turn out to be rather shy.
We stop in the journalism archives to dig up the newspaper from the date of my birth, but alas, I was born on a Monday, and in those days no daily newspapers were printed on Mondays. One of the most popular services of the library is the so-called ’Birthday Package’, which is a ceremoniously bound booklet containing the newspaper and magazine publications from a specific date, signifying the receiver’s date of birth.
We finish our tour in the public reading room, where Etelka Somogyi takes us around. It’s obvious the institution tries to keep up with modern technology, as they even have a e-book reading area as well.
We don’t really expect anyone to aspire to become a librarian after reading this post, and it remains to be seen whether the post-Guttenberg era will allow for an increase in library expenditure, but one thing is for certain: each year more and more books are published, so technology alone has not significantly changed our reading habits.