Korean Studies Collections and their Management at the Eötvös Loránd University
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  • Registration Date 2021-06-23
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Korean Studies Collections and their Management at Eötvös Loránd University

Beatrix Mecsi
Head of Korean Studies Department,
Eötvös Loránd University

For university instructors, what could be better than reading excellent research papers from students and being able to conduct research themselves using up-to-date research materials and resources? For Korean Studies in Europe, where the target culture is thousands of kilometers away, this is even more the case and there is an even more urgent need to ensure access to high-quality, reliable study materials at our home institutes.

Since successfully applying for the Window on Korea (WOK) Library Installation project operated by the National Library of Korea, we have witnessed a change in the quality and diversity of students’ works. Regarding the work of researchers in Korean language and culture, as the latest and carefully selected sources became easily available, both the quality and quantity of their research grew considerably.

Before the arrival of the books from the WOK project, Korean Studies materials at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) consisted of donations of about 200-300 volumes made around the 1950s-1960s by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and by the Korea Foundation in the second half of the 1990s. Thus, before the arrival of the WOK donations, around 1200 volumes about Korea were available.

When the latest Window on Korea donations arrived in 2020, the holdings more than doubled and altogether 3700 books are now available on Korea. The books donated by the National Library of Korea are being shelved in a newly installed library space in our campus, Building B, where a WOK Library room in the Korean Studies Department was created (photo of the building).

The official opening celebration on October 16, 2020 was during the pandemic when large events with many people were not possible to arrange. Despite this, Prof. László Borhy, Rector of Eötvös Loránd University, Prof. Imre Hamar Vice Rector and Head of the Institute of East Asian Studies, and representatives from the Korean Cultural Center were still able to be present at the event with the Korean Studies Department staff. Once the pandemic restrictions are loosened, we are planning a Korean Day for October 2021 to allow students to celebrate together this new opportunity through which for five years from 2019 we can expect to be able to use the latest and most carefully-selected research material at our institute

Around 80% of the new WOK material has been processed with the help of two part-time Korean studies students assisting the professional librarian from the Institute, Ms. Kornélia Major, herself a China specialist. The titles are indicated both in Korean and in Romanized script.

Korean Studies materials are now housed in the above-mentioned new WOK Library room at the Korean Studies Department and in the Library of the Institute of East Asia. This library with a repository and a 24-seat reading room can be found on the campus. The Library of the Institute of East Asian Studies has five main collecting areas apart from Korean, including the Chinese, Japanese, South-East Asian, and Inner Asian collections. The latter is situated separately in the same building as the departments of Mongolia and Inner Asia

What is the difference in having such a collection in a university setting compared to in a public library? How are these collections managed in a university environment?

The Library of Eötvös Loránd University is the third in the country in its size and importance, and the first amongst higher education libraries in Hungary. In 2020 this library won an EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) Grant, the first library in the country to be given this recognition.

The history of the ELTE University Library goes back nearly a hundred years earlier than that of the university itself, which was established by Péter Pázmány (an archbishop and cardinal) in 1635. A college library for Jesuits founded by the archbishop of Esztergom, Miklós Oláh, in 1561 is regarded as the predecessor of the present university library of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.

Today, a new system has been developed based on a bottom-up strategy, and since 2009 the University Library has consisted of the University Library and Archives (as the main library), the eight Faculty Libraries, and the libraries operating outside the faculties, which are working together and connected under the name “University Library Service” (Egyetemi Könyvtári Szolgálat). From 2012 onwards, this body of libraries has been led by the Library Council (“Könyvtári Tanács”), which coordinates the strategies and professional duties of the organization

Universities have a special role in data curation and data stewarding duties and can actively connect to teaching and researching (“inside-out library” Lorcan Dempsey 2013). They can also take part in digital support for teaching, content-making, and science communication, thus showing a great potential for research management

Korean Studies at Eötvös Loránd University is one of the most dynamically developing departments, and it is second amongst the language departments only to the English Department in terms of the number of students willing to enroll in the first place (this year 166 students). Therefore, providing a rich and well-equipped library is essential for maintaining quality research and being faithful to the ideals of the university. Thanks to the generous support from the National Library of Korea, this ideal has become within reach, enabling us to build a hub of academic research on Korea at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.

(Thanks for the information on library operation and data to the Director of the University Library, Mrs. Kulcsár-Szabó Ernőné, Annamária Gombos; to the Head of the Faculty Library, Ms. Szonja Dániel, and to Ms. Kornélia Major, librarian of the Institute of East Asian Studies for the photos. Also to Ms. Ágnes Ágai librarian and photos of the opening ceremony of Mr. Gábor Rusznák journalist and photographer)

Main University Library and Archives; Reading Room (photo: ELTE)

Main University Library and Archives; Building and details (photo: ELTE)

Entrance to Múzeum krt. 4; Building B, the site of the Korean Studies Department and WOK Library

Opening celebration for the WOK Library: Left: Mr. Lee Dangkweon, Director of the Korean Cultural Center; Right: Prof. Imre Hamar, Vice Rector and Head of the Institute of East Asian Studies (Photo: Gábor Rusznák)

Opening celebration for the WOK Library. From the left: Krisztina Nguyen (PhD student), Dr. Alíz Horváth (lecturer), Kornélia Major (Librarian), Dr. Han Heejung (guest instructor from Korea), Prof. Imre Hamar (Vice Rector and Head of the Institute of East Asian Studies), Dr. Beatrix Mecsi (Department Head), Mr. Lee Dangkweon (Director of Korean Cultural Center), Mária Takáts (retired language teacher), Dr. Jin Kyoung-Ae (language teacher) (Photo: Gábor Rusznák)

Entrance to the Library of the Institute of East Asian Studies (photo: ELTE)

Reading room of the Library of the Institute of East Asian Studies (photo: ELTE)

Reading room of the Library of the Institute of East Asian Studies (detail) (photo: ELTE)