Béla Hatvany

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Béla Hatvany is a pioneer in the automation of libraries and the information industry. Companies founded by him have been responsible for the first Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC),[1] the first CD-ROMs, the first networked CD-ROM,[2] the first client-server library databases, and some of the earliest internet library database retrieval engines.[3] In addition he was a key investor in the first streaming music databases for libraries (Classical.com), Credo Reference and JustGiving. He is recognized as a visionary in library information.[4]

He was born in 1938. His father was a Hungarian Jew, his mother Spanish. They emigrated to England where Béla spent his childhood. He received a scholarship to attend University of St Andrews from BP. In 1956 he began his career as a customer service engineer, a computer programmer and a salesman.

In 1965, he moved to the United States to get an MBA at Harvard University. He founded his first company, COMSISA in Mexico City in 1968. It served sugar mills and local businesses.

In 1971, in partnership with Dennis Beaumont, Computer Library Services (CLSI) was started in Boston. This was the first company to develop the minicomputer for use in libraries, in effect building the Online Public Access Computer (OPAC) market. Hatvany then went on and sold it to Thyssen Bornemisza in 1985 and returned to live in London.

In the early 80s, along with Henry Ng, he invented an early version of the touch screen which is now used in many table and other computer devices.[5]

In 1983, he started a small organization that became SilverPlatter Information Ltd. The company published the first CD-ROMs in 1984. The company thrived developing a number of innovative products including networked CD-ROM, client-server delivery for bibliographic databases and was one of the first companies to deliver databases on the internet.[6] In 2001 it was sold to Wolters-Kluwer for $113 million.

Since then Béla has invested in a number of early-stage, internet-based companies including Classical.com, JustGiving, Credo Reference,[7] Productorial, Mustardseed Charitable Trust and Coreweb.

In 1987, Hatvany received the LITA/Gaylord Award for Achievement in Library and Information Technology. In 1991, he received the Entrepreneurial Excellence Award from the Optical Publishing Association. In 2000, the National Federation of Advanced Information Services (NFAIS) honored him with the Miles Conrad Award[8] for his outstanding contribution to the information industry.

In 2013, Hatvany announced an alliance where organizations, individuals, businesses and entrepreneurs can join to collaborate, share information and experience. Named 'The Bela Initiative', its purpose is to give and to receive in ways that empower oneself or others to develop a clear purpose to serve the whole – in short to enable a world that works for everyone.[9]

Béla has been married since 1964 to Ellen and has six children and seven grandchildren.


  1. ^ The Australian library journal: Volume 53, Library Association of Australia - 2004 "One of the first such entrepreneurs in the library field was Bela Hatvany who founded Computer Library Systems Incorporated (CLSI)"
  2. ^ The electronic publishing maze: strategies in the electronic publishing industry, Harry Collier, Infonortics, 1998 "In 1983, inspired by the arrival of optical disc technology, Bela Hatvany, a British entrepreneur, began a development project to store and read data on compact disc"
  3. ^ The Internet unleashed: Volume 1, Philip Baczewski, Privately Published. 1994.
  4. ^ More on the 'Rocket eBook' Library Administrator's Digest, Nov 1998 by Robinson, Charles W.
  5. ^ http://www.uk.iofc.org/serving-whole-enabling-world-works-everyone
  6. ^ http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/SilverPlatter-Information-Inc-Company-History.html SilverPlatter Company History
  7. ^ Reference tool helps organise scholarly resources, Research Information, April/May 2009.
  8. ^ http://www.nfais.org/page/46-Béla-hatvany-2000 Miles Conrad Lecture
  9. ^ http://www.uk.iofc.org/bela

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