reports that the 1st mobile library was launched 45 years ago in Budapest. The idea of the library bus was not totally new at that time since after World War II, mobile libraries were installed in trams as well. It is always very interesting to see where everything has started, and in this article, you can get to know more about these library buses!

The 1st mobile libraries were set up in trams after World War II, and by July 1945, 2 trams, the 9550 and the 9552, started their operation in Budapest. Later on, a 3rd one was also put into service.

/ by Zoltán Gábor Németh/

However, from 1973 onwards, libraries installed in Ikarus 255 buses served the demand of the readers after the trams had been withdrawn from the market. Their schedule was extremely punctual which meant that they arrived only on a particular day of the week. Those interested could only get on the bus through the back door where the library counter was installed. In the 1st few years, two people, a bus driver and a librarian worked on the bus, but from the mid-1980s, a well-trained bus driver could run the library on his own.

The libraries looked similar to today’s libraries. Readers got a library card, could use the catalogue and find lots of interesting books.

As far as the construction of these buses is concerned, the basis for them was the Ikarus 255 bus where the seats were replaced by bookshelves. The only difference between these bookshelves and a normal one was that in the library buses, a poll was installed into the bookshelf to keep the books properly in their place.

/fortepan JANKÓ ATTILA/

The library buses mostly circulated in those districts that did not possess a library of their own. Therefore, they ran to new housing estates, but to the Buda mountain, too, like to today’s Sasad-Sashegy.


The 1st buses had 2,300 books on their shelves while another 700 were stored in their boots.

By August 1973, it was rumoured that 31,000 books were borrowed from the libraries within half a year.

Here is what Népszabadság wrote in November 1973 about the 1st mobile library in Budapest:

“It is equipped with radio, tape recorder and a new sound system. All these help the librarians provide information about the books and popularise them. The book collection is composed of 17,000 books, a third of which are children books, 40% of which are non-fiction books while the rest of them are fiction works. The mobile library circulates in 9 districts and stops at 13 stations where readers can get access to the collection of the library for 2 hours.”


The system of the library bus was extended in the 1980s when 2 buses circulated in the city.  An interesting thing to add is that if the book that the reader wanted was not in the library, for the following week, they procured the desired piece.

By 20 November 1983, buses operated in 12 Budapest districts and also in other towns, like in Érd, Pécs, Kaposvár, Székesfehérvár, Tatabánya and Győr.

However, in the first half of the 1990s, the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library finished offering this kind of mobile service. Although the mobile library enjoyed its Renaissance in the beginning of the 2000s, when they started to circulate again in the countryside, these were more like trucks and not the original libraries.

Featured image: Fortepan


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