The Hungarian Electronic Library (abbreviated in Hungarian as MEK) first appeared on the Internet in 1994 - in the beginning as a shared information service scattered over gopher-servers of Hungarian universities. In the year 1995 the collection was merged on the host helka.iif.hu and became one of the projects of the National Infrastructure Development Program. A year later its first Web-interface was created: www.mek.iif.hu, and that was the central service of the Hungarian Electronic Library for years. In 1999 - in accordance with the significant change of perspective of electronic publishing - the MEK project was integrated into the structure of the Hungarian National Library, thus achieving its due place and significance within the hierarchy of library services.
In the past few years the MEK has become one of the basic information sources of Hungarian education and culture (both in Hungary and abroad) and an ever-growing number of users keep returning with a certain fondness to its virtual "reading-rooms" - summing up to 40-45 thousand visitors every day. We operated mirror-servers in Transylvania, Slovakia and Voivodina for the Hungarian minorities and co-operate their organizations to develop their own digital collections.
Due to the exponential increase of interest towards on-line sources and the rapid growth of the collection, in 2000 we began to build a new library, called MEK v2.0, on the mek.oszk.hu server (English interface: www.elib.hu). During the course of this upgrade both the collection and the user interface got into a completely new, state-of-the-art shape. The most important progress is being made in the field of library standards concerning metadata: each of the documents uploaded to the MEK v2.0 receives a thorough description in accordance with both the guidelines set in the Dublin Core and common bibliographic standards (MARC) as well, which enables integrated library systems and automated web-harvesting engines to easily interpret the metadata of the documents. Uniform methods are implemented for more advanced access and search of the collection: PHP-engine, XML-format; URN identification, and Z39.50 and OAI protocol for data distribution. The library's collection was one of the first searchable databases of the National Digital Data Archive in 2004. In the same year we made available the free version of the eleMEK (elemek.oszk.hu) integrated e-library management system, based on the experiences and technology of the MEK v2.0 development.
Since the start of the project, the Hungarian Electronic Library has been striving to establish good communication with its users, and is open and appreciative to their feedback. The new service that has been completed in July 2003, is chiefly based on comments and suggestions offered by our visitors: that is the idea behind the user-friendly and graphically enhanced Web-pages; the alternative, text-based interface for people with visual or manual disabilities (vmek.oszk.hu) and the optional text-to-speech conversion; the upgraded search- and browse-functions, the new types of descriptive information attached to each document, and the metasearch capabilities in other on-line libraries and book stores.
The Hungarian Electronic Library collects, preserves and provides free of charge digital material in all fields of science and art. In the initiative phase of the project the accession mostly relied on sources already available in some kind of digital form or ones that could be digitised with relatively small effort. The range of sources was (and continues to be) rather wide: besides original Internet-sources, volunteer digitisers, publishing houses and authors could act as donators. The new status of the MEK project enables us to use significant financial means to acquire documents, thus adding more high-quality and voluminous documents to the collection. In 2004 we have launched our largest digitisation project: the Digital Library of Hungarology, aimed at converting and publishing hundreds of important reference works in electronic form.
You can find information in generally all fields of interest in the MEK, and all kinds of document types: novels, poems, scientific books and papers, lexicons, dictionaries and even musical scores, maps and paintings. As of June 2009, the number of catalogued items is about 7.000; containing ten thousands of individual works. While the majority of the documents are in Hungarian, you can find sources in foreign languages as well, with special respect to the products of Hungarian science and culture translated to other languages.
All documents that are selected to be added to the collection undergo a thorough quality-check, are converted into the most popular formats (HTML, XML, PDF, RTF, DjVu) with standard features, and are described according to current library standards that can be applied to digital items, before going on-line. Our goal is to make the documents available in the most convenient and economic formats thus reducing download time. Due to the extensive and detailed metadata attached to each item, our documents are thoroughly indexed and can be found easily via the major search engines.
The Hungarian Electronic Library project persists in experimenting with new technologies, applying international standards, co-operating with institutions and initiatives on national and European level to build the Library of the Future.