Hungarian Libraries/Canadian Libraries

I am entering the Master of Library and Information Science degree with an interesting perspective as a Canadian living in Hungary.  There are many similarities and differences between Hungarian and Canadian libraries. Here are some of my observations of Hungarian and Canadian public libraries:

Security:  In Hungary, at least in the main branch of the Metropolitan Ervin Library, patrons are required to registrar as readers and scan their library card every time they enter stacks and reading rooms.  They must check their coats in the coatroom and leave their larger bags and backpacks in the coatroom. While in Canada I cannot recall ever visiting a public library where you must be registered just to enter the stacks and reading rooms.

Cost to borrow materials: At Hungarian public libraries patrons must pay a fee to borrow libraries materials for a set period of time.  For example it costs about $6 a year to borrow materials from my small local library; the Central Library of the Metropolitan Ervin Szabo Library costs about $25 per year to borrow materials.  Canadian public libraries are free to local residents and others as well, such as local tax payers, to borrow most library materials.

Buildings: Both Hungarian and Canadian libraries are housed in a number of different types of buildings.  The Central Library of the Metropolitan Ervin Szabo Library is housed in a castle (think Downton Abby type castle, not fortress type castle).  While one of the branches at the Clarington Public Library, my local Canadian public library, is located in an old house.

Programing: Both Hungarian and Canadian libraries provide programs for both children and adults according to their needs.  For example a branch library of the Metropolitan Ervin Szabo Library offered crafting lessons this summer, while the Clarington Public library offered film afternoons.

Overall purpose: From what I have observed both Hungarian and Canadian libraries strive to provide local residents with access to information via various media forms (books, audio visual materials, the web, etc.), as well as community programing that meets their patrons’ needs.

Reasons for differences: The differences between Hungarian and Canadian public libraries, in my opinion, come down to cultural differences.  Our culture affects almost everything we do as a society and that includes public libraries.

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6 Responses to Hungarian Libraries/Canadian Libraries

  1. Vicki says:

    Fascinating post, Andrea. I enjoyed learning about some of the differences you’ve noted between Hungarian and Canadian public libraries. – Vicki


  2. Abby Reiter says:

    Excellent Post Andrea! Very interesting!


  3. Casandra Sandoval says:

    Might I ask why you moved to Hungary? Did you experience a significant culture-shock? Did you already speak Hungarian? I’ve heard it can be a difficult language to learn to speak.

    I’ve often wondered how the libraries in other countries worked. While I’m not that surprised that they have patron fees, I am surprised by the amount of security measures. Have you figured out why they go to such lengths? Is book theft a recurring problem out there? I’d be interested in finding out why they decided to put such measures in place.


  4. Andrea says:


    My dad is Hungarian, so that has always made me interested in Hungary. As a Christian I believe that God called me to my current position at the International Christian School of Budapest. I did experience culture shock and I still do, although often people call it culture stress, because you can’t survive in a constant state of shock.

    I knew about 20 words of Hungarian when I arrived, so no I didn’t speak Hungarian when I moved here. It is a very difficult language for English speakers to learn, but slowly I am. My school is an English speaking school, so I only need Hungary when I’m out. Although, many Hungarians speak English, so when I try to speak to them in Hungarian they will speak back to me in English. Which is helpful, but at the same time frustrating when I’m trying to learn the language.

    The security issue is an interesting thing. It is not just the libraries that are extra vigilant. There are security guards around store and inside stores. I believe that, at least at one time, theft was high here.


  5. Alyssa says:

    Andrea, this is a fascinating post. I have a couple questions about the fees at the Hungarian Public Libraries. In the United States (I’m not sure about Canada) smaller libraries/branch libraries sometimes suffer because of budget or lack of use. Do you know if the fees help sustain those smaller libraries? My other question is, can you get books sent to a smaller library in Hungary from a larger one with a larger fee? -Alyssa


    • Andrea says:

      Alyssa, I would assume that the fees help sustain the libraries, but I’ve never actually asked a librarian myself to find out. All of the public libraries that I know of charge user fees, big and small. I’m not sure about having books sent to small libraries. I did see some information about inter-library loan on website for the large public library system in Budapest, but I believe that is for books they don’t have in the system. Because, of my limited language abilities and understanding of culture, I don’t always understand all of the nuances of places such as libraries.

      These are all great questions and I’m hope that during my degree I will get a chance to sit down and chat with some Hungarian librarians to find out answers to them!


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