(Corrects identity of manager in para 5)
By Gergely Szakacs
NAGYKOVACSI, Hungary (Reuters Life!) - On the way home from a hard day’s work, Ferenc Nagy often gets the urge to pop into his favorite boozer for another round of binge reading.
Nagy, 42, is something of a regular at the Gyopar, a small, Communist-era pub in this village just outside Budapest, where customers can quench their thirst not only for ales and spirits but enjoy some intellectual refreshment as well.
“I come in, grab a book and just read into it for an hour or two, depending on how much time I have,” Nagy said.
“I have a cool drink, I see a bunch of colleagues sitting around, so I join them by the table and read a bit. It’s good.”
It is now more than three years since the manager, Laszlo Szabo, and entrepreneur Peter Maurer, came up with the idea of this unique communal hybrid of a public library inside a pub, and, if customer satisfaction is any measure, the project has been a success.
“We just had a lot of unused books and we kept discussing with the bartender how we should not let them go to waste and how good it would be to launch a library somewhere,” said Maurer, 56, himself a former librarian.
After a quick call to a fellow entrepreneur who provided the shelves, the library was launched over a weekend with about 1,000 random titles ranging from biographies from ancient Greece to modern sports encyclopedias.
“We had a debate during the World Cup the other day on who had actually won the first one and we found two books that had the answer ... so the debate was decided,” Maurer said.
The rules are simple. There are no registration or borrowing fees and the library works on a bring one, take one basis, which Maurer said had proved to be a surprisingly workable policy.
“We have people coming who would otherwise probably not go to the library but they do come in here,” he said. “They have a wine spritzer or two and read into a couple of books just like in a cafe in the olden days.”
Nagy, who donated about 30 books of his own to the collection, is one of the more avid fans of the institution.
“In the early days, there was a bit of a scare as to how this whole thing might pan out, because the village has another library,” he said. “They were afraid that this would attract more people and it indeed turned out to be the case.”
Reporting by Gergely Szakacs