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THe Library of the Hungarian Parlaiment

Parliament of Hungary

Libraries through teh Lens: The Library of the Hungarian Parliament

In the latest instalment of Libraries through the Lens, Thomas Guignard takes us through the doors of the Library of the Hungarian Parliament.

The library celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2018 and Thomas says the library is very much a living, breathing part of Budapest society. On a recent visit to the country, Thomas made time to take in the library, which he points out is not included on the official tour of the Parliament building.

“That’s because while a large part of the building is no longer used for parliamentary purposes (Hungary moved to an unicameral legislature during the Second World War), its library is still very much active today,” says Thomas. “It is open to the general public and is a beloved work space for students and pensioners, who share the space with researchers, political aides and the odd MP.

“As one of the few institutions offering access to foreign newspapers and literature during the Communist period, it served a crucial role welcoming intellectuals and political dissenters, essentially creating a safe space for those calling for the end of the official state ideology at the very centre of the government they were criticizing. This legacy of being open to the world can still be seen in today’s collections, which include extensive coverage of international law, politics and contemporary history, true to its status as a national research library.

“This openness is also made apparent in the reading room itself, where a significant part of the collection is freely available to patrons in open shelves.”

And while the library is steeped in history, it has recently been refurbished to deliver 21st century services. Thomas said: “Extensive renovations have recently returned this superb room to its original glory by removing the glass partitions that had been erected to ‘protect’ the collections. Removing physical barriers, opening their doors to anyone and entrusting users with unfettered access to collections is a powerful sign that ­libraries perpetuate their role as a place of research, discussion, dissent and liberty, a role that is as crucial today as ever.”

Follow Thomas on Instagram @concretelibraries.


Published: 23 October 2018

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