The Directorate of Research of National Széchényi Library (Budapest, Hungary) visiting the National Library of Latvia

Thanks to the CENL Skills and Knowledge Bursary the head of the Directorate of Research of National Széchényi Library (Budapest, Hungary), László Boka and I participated in the international seminar Book Exhibitions and Their Audiences organized and hosted by the National Library of Latvia in Riga on 10-11th May, 2018.

The main goal of the seminar was to connect libraries, museum representatives and independent artists in order to exchange experiences and ideas. With the group works the seminar made attempts as well to consider and find solutions to problems and challenges faced by the libraries and book museums.

Case studies on the first day demonstrated the possibilities in book exhibitions and libraries. For example, Stephanie Jacobs (Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum), by presenting the Hands-on museum programs running in their museum, underlined the importance of the book materials during the student’s educational events. According to the presentation of Bernhard Fetz, the permanent exhibition of the Literaturmuseum in Vienna focuses not just on the multilingual, multiethnic factor of the Austrian literature, but it builds also on the different kinds of literary genres. Christina Back’s (Royal Danish Library) inspiring presentation about the Abramović Method for Treasures showed a possible result of bringing artists in the process of planning exhibitions. With Tigran Zargaryan’s account of the programs in the Museum of Printing in Armenia we could consider the facilities and educational events that help to attract audience that we usually don’t reckon with: for example, the expatriates or the handicapped visitors. Inga Surgunte’s and Elīna Kalniņa’s presentations on the methods and results of measuring the visitors’ number, nationality, interests and routes of their visit in the permanent exhibition Book in Latvia were both based on how the analysis of the data regarding the audience can make the exhibitions more effective. We got useful hints on how to track and survey the behaviour of the average visitors.

On the second day group works propounded the questions on the strengths and challenges of libraries and book museums discussing in particular the characteristics of the current and the targeted visitors. The panel discussions commented not just on our expectations from the audience’s responses, but also on what do we need to learn from our visitors, from schools and teachers to make libraries and book museums a lifelong experience.

Beyond the enthusiasm due to the participant colleagues’ shared experiences, we brought home ideas and a different point of view that hopefully will give fresh inspiration for the future exhibitions in our National Library. As in Hungary we are in lack of events on this topic, we are thankful to the organizers in Riga and the CENL Skills and Knowledge Bursary for this opportunity, and we hope that this workshop will become a regular annual event of this field.