President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan inaugurated Ankara’s Turkish Presidential Library last week, a lavish, ambitious effort that spans 125,000 square meters and features more than four million printed materials in 134 languages, and which stands as the largest in the country.
However, the majority of schools in the country lack libraries, and the number of people using libraries in Turkey’s major cities has declined substantially during the tenure of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), according to a report in the daily Birgün.
188 libraries have closed down between 2003 and the present, while the number of those using libraries in 26 provinces including including big cities like Antalya, Bursa and Mersin has decreased by just under 2,000,000 people.
Meanwhile, just 29,690 of Turkey’s 65,568 schools have libraries, meaning 55 percent of students attending schools that are operated by the Ministry of National Education are studying in environments that lack libraries. Of the country’s 922 districts, 121 lack a single library.
The presidential library reportedly acquired 800,000 books from Ankara’s centrally-located Adnan Ötüken public library, leaving the latter with just 60,000 left.
“This number is very small for a city with a large population like Ankara. Students use the Adnan Ötüken library to study for their classes. They need places in which they can study. The local administrations need to focus on this subject. The [presidential] library, from a transportation perspective, is not in an ideal location,” said Turkish Librarians Association President Ali Fuat Kartal.
While speaking at the opening ceremony, Erdoğan said that a similar library will be opened in Istanbul.
“This will be a library that will make Istanbul jealous. But Istanbul residents should not be sad, we are going to build a similar one in the Rami Barracks [in Istanbul’s Eyüp district],” Erdoğan said.
He added that visitors to the new presidential library in Ankara would be treated to tea, coffee and cake.