Public Libraries in Turkey

Article excerpt

History of Public Libraries in Turkey

Turkey has a library tradition of more than nine centuries, beginning during the Anatolia Seljuk period (1072-1299) and continuing through the Ottoman Empire, 1299-1922. (2) During these periods, libraries were set up in association with private foundations rather than by government and were associated with mosques, Dervish lodges, mausoleums, Moslem theological schools, and other foundations.

Printing was established in 1728 in Turkey, approximately 250 years later than in the rest of Europe. This delay hindered the development of public libraries. In 1869, libraries were connected to the Ministry of Education and obtained civil service identity for the first time. (3) In 1882 the public library service was established by the government. Between 1912 and 1918, many public libraries were established under the title of 'national library'. (4)

With the founding of the Republic in 1923, there was a realization of the social and cultural role of public libraries. One of the most important reforms at this time was the change from the Arabic alphabet to Latin. The government started to promote literacy campaigns and public education programmes in order to encourage the use of the new alphabet and to foster the adoption of a more westernized culture. Essentially, public libraries became one of the principal means of effecting this cultural transformation during the period 1923-1950 and from 1960, they were included in the five-year development plans in Turkey. Public libraries were sometimes at the forefront of educational and cultural issues. However, the military activities in 1970 and 1980 damaged social and cultural development and this was reflected in public libraries. Today, it is difficult to define the functions and cultural role of the public library since there is neither public law nor a national cultural strategy. (5)

Stricture and Organization of Public Libraries in Turkey

Since 1960, all public libraries are administered by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General Directorate of Libraries and Publications. Turkey has a population of around 71 million people and the country is organized into 7 large geographic regisons with 81 provinces. The General Directorate of Libraries is the largest department within the Ministry in terms of its budget and personnel. The children's libraries, which are operated under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, are mainly established in the public libraries. Some children's libraries have their own building, although there has been a recent trend towards having children libraries within the public libraries. There are also a few municipal libraries governed and financed by the local authorities. There are several articles in the regulations of the municipalities regarding the establishment of public libraries.

Public libraries are largely financed by the central government. However, the city private offices provide some financial aid to the public libraries. Most of the local authorities support the Ministry of Culture and Tourism by providing the library buildings. The organizational structure of the libraries in the cities is as follows:

The public libraries provide some services at prisons, care centers, child care institutions, camps, etc. The mobile libraries reach the rural and remote areas where public libraries do not exist. (6)

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However, the present government is trying to change the Turkish public administration. In the frame of these efforts accelerated by the integration period to European Community, Government is issuing new laws in order to make the essential change. Main aim of these laws is to transfer the central public administration from the government to the local administration system. This changing will affect the present public library system in Turkey. If the law passes in the Turkish Parliament, Turkish public libraries will operate under the responsibility of local authorities in the near future. …