Around two months ago Adam approached me with the idea of establishing a comics library. He had a vision of a bookshelf of comics donated by nice people. I immeditely loved the idea. We worked on it for two months. Discussed stuff. Made a Facebook page. The next thing we realized was that there are so many comics donated that there is no more place on our bookshelf and we need a new one. And within two days, someone donated a new bookshelf. This is how Hungary’s first comics library opened on 13 Dec.
Here are three things I particularly like about this project and that make me proud:
- It is a community initiative. For me, this means two things: everything is done on a voluntary basis, and this initiative has the potential to create a community around comics. If you have followed the news about Hungary recently, you could not have missed the political dissatisfaction that is shared by most Hungarians, even by those who do not protest. The biggest challenge in living in Hungary now, the way I see it, is that communities have been eroded. People do not work together, do not discuss stuff. Everyone is an island, alone (as in Houellebecq’s novel), isolated by what he or she presumes about others, but has never discussed. Moreover, in Hungary people are often suspicious about causes: politics has way to often preyed on causes and gutted them. I have high hopes that this library can be a place for some people to be part of a community and that we can transform the cause of making this library happen into maintaining this library.
- The library is located at Nem adom fel café, which translates as I don’t give up café. This is a special place, a community in itself: it is the first café of Budapest run by people with disabilities. They have been extremely welcoming from the first minute. Just like us, they would not have expected that we would open with nearly 400 copies of comics, really good ones, all donated. When it turned out that we need a second bookshelf, they immediately offered extra space for us to place it. I see a parallel between the perception of comics in Hungary and the perception of people. As comics are not visible (few bookshops sell them), people have only stereotypes about them: they are presumed to be non-serious and childish. But comics is more diverse than that. It is rich and interesting and multivocal. Just like people — and this is what Nem adom fel café shows to the world so perfectly. Get rid of your stereotypes, get to know the people and comics around you!
- The third thing I like is personal: the experience of working with Adam. He has more experience of community initiatives than I do. I learn a lot about trust. And about the risk involved in trusting a community with making something happen: they might not take part, or some comics might mysteriously disappear. But so far everyone has been positive: we had a lot of shares and positive comments on social media, 3 major news sites shared news about us. And, the best of all, the people who came to the opening really understood what this thing is about: they stayed for hours, they were browsing the collection, and strangers started discussing comics. It was an amazing experience.
We are planning to have some programs, but I think just to announce some dates of silent reading together is as much fun as a more organized program.
Here is our Facebook page, link. You can also find a lot of photos of the opening ceremony, or, rather, opening comics reading.
Here is our online catalog, link.
I would like to show you our logo and promo picture. The logo is the work of Gyula Németh, a Hungarian comics artist, and the promo pic is by Canadian Michael DeForge. Thank you, guys!