Libraries are to keep pace with the demands of their readers’ growing technical sophistication.
By now, libraries have turned into the main bases of disseminating knowledge ad information. Therefore, they are to offer solutions whereby the increasing amount of information can be handled, their services extended in the computerised world of our age, and their own efficiency is stepped up.
In the comprehensive development plans of the National Széchényi Library for the coming years, modernisation of the readers’ service and the strengthening of IT capacities are of high priority. Each year, some small steps are to be taken toward this goal. The records of our Online catalogue are continuously growing retrospectively as well, while the Libinfo online reference supply system is more and more to our users’ satisfaction.
The year 2004 proved to be a milestone in creating up-to-date services. With the assistance of the Ministry of Informatics and Communication, we managed to install the Readers’ Professional Work Stations or OPM for short, a system unique and unparalleled from the point of informatics. Although readers have only a hundred terminals at their disposal, individual access, as well as individual storage capacity of 150 MB and a surface they can freely use, in fact, provide each subscriber with their own computer facility. Clients are served by a 200 Gigabyte file server and a 6.8 Terabyte storage server, which is also the storage site of the Széchényi digital library under construction. The system is complete with scanners, printers, digital cameras, CD and DVD writers as accessories. Library subscribers may read our off-and online electronic documents through their OPM terminals. At the same time, they can immediately write their papers, prepare their essays; take notes of their readings, as they have various word processing, Excel and other programs for working with databases. Editing pictures and webpages is also possible with unlimited Internet access. Observing copyright regulations, the documents that our readers produce, as well as the visuals and digitised texts they select may be copied on to various carriers (floppy, CD, DVD), may be printed out and are accessible through file transfer protocol (FTP). The unique feature of the system is that readers obtain all those services in one place (catalogues, databases, Internet-sources, electronic documents, etc.) for which they might need several terminals in other libraries.
The OPM system soon became very popular. Terminals are working to a 100% capacity. Thus, excessive demand is occasionally a problem, especially in the afternoon and in examination and entrance examination periods, when readers might have to wait for some time to have access to a terminal. Naturally, extending the system is on our agenda. However, for easing the pressure, building out the WIFI (wireless fidelity) system in 2005 has proved to be a successful solution. Globally, WIFI has many various applications in public places, but applying it in libraries is a relatively recent development. Establishing cable-free „hot spots” was an attractive option for us, as in this way we could avoid building work associated with laying cables. Some 5 to 10% of our readers use their laptops regularly in the library, with their numbers growing by the day. After the launch of the WIFI system, now in all the reading and public spaces of the institution, our visitors can join the OPM system and the world-wide web, as well as access most of our electronic services simply by applying a network card.
Among our further modernisation plans, there is the establishment of the RFID system, using Radio Frequency IDentification for monitoring the safety as well as the location, movement and status of documents, enabling our readers to request items electronically and also to take advantage of the various services provided in various locations in a simpler and uniform system by using their micro-chip-strengthened readers’ cards.
The digital future poses a major challenge to us. By reacting instantaneously, mapping out demands accurately, by taking a pro-active attitude and continuously looking for up-to-date solutions we can contribute to the Széchényi Library meeting its national mission and becoming one of the centres and pillars of the information supply of the future. In addition to having a library built on documents, the success of service-orientated library activities is based on this and similar modern IT developments, in which today the National Széchényi Library rightly takes pride.
Ferenc Tibor Tóth