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61st IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 20-25, 1995

Turkish Librarians' Association: Today and Tomorrow

Selma (Alpay) Aslan, Librarian, British Council Library, Ankara


In this paper, following a very brief history of the development of the profession in the country, the establishment and the constitution of the Turkish Librarians' Association (TLA) is summarized; r ecent years' work and plans for the future are evaluated based on questionnaire surveys conducted by the author in Autumn 1994 and by TLA in February 1995, some suggestions are made.

The TLA was established in 1949. It has 39 branches and over 1500 active members. It mainly works for the development of library and information services in the country.



The history of libraries on our land goes back to very early times, as Asia Minor has been a cradle for many civilizations. I am sure you know about the Pergamum Library (133 BC) and that the earlies t Christian libraries were established within monasteries and churches in Kayseri, Urfa (former Edessa) and Istanbul.

Similar to Western civilizations, early Islamic libraries were also established within religious institutions, that is mosques and schools called "medrese". Originally established by sultans or wealt hy people, these libraries were handed over to foundations in due course, and they used to be run by learned people.

The Turkish Republic modelled its libraries on Western examples. Pioneers of modern libraries were sent abroad for training. Education in librarianship started at Ankara University in 1941 as one yea r courses for university graduates and two year courses for secondary school graduates until the establishment of the Institute of Librarianship, Faculty of Letters, Ankara University, in 1953. Today , there are three Departments of Librarianship, offering Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and PhD degrees.

Turkish Librarians Association (TLA)

The Turkish Librarians' Association was established in 1949, one year after the National Library was established. Thirty-five founders of the association were mostly those working in the National Li brary and the initiative came from Adnan Ötüken, the first Director of the National Library. The Turkish Librarians Association worked within the National Library in the early years. In the following years, the working environment used to be the institution where the president of the Association was working. In 1961, branches started to be opened. In the late 60s the Association was able to acqu ire a flat.

Today the Association has 39 branches and over 1500 active members.

The Statutes

Librarians, archivists and information workers, those working in libraries, archives and information centers and anyone who is interested in library and information services can become a member of th e Association. Students of departments of librarianship can become candidate members.

The mission of the Association is to contribute to the development of librarianship and library and information services in the country. To achieve this end the Association aims to

The Organization

The General Council follows the branch meetings every two years, with the participation of delegates. Each branch is represented by chair person and two delegates for the first 100 members and 1 dele gate for every 50 members above the first 100. Former presidents of the association, members of the general executive board, general auditing committee and general honorary committee are also delegat es. The president and the eight general executive board members are elected by the delegates. Half of the Board changes every two years. Thus the service period is four years for each member although meetings are held every two years. The size of membership in branches varies from 10 in small towns to over 200 in large cities. The average is 37 members.

Achievements and failures of TLA

As we have seen above, the activity areas of the TLA are meant to be quite broad. However, depending on the voluntary work of the executive board members, with the voluntary support of only one stude nt at the centre, against a scholarship, TLA is obliged to concentrate on specific areas. In the last years, these areas have been preparation of reports in problem areas, publications, and tradition ally contributing to the arrangement of Library Weeks every year, establishment of a jury for the assessment of papers submitted for the "Perran Özben Prize" given by the family of a lost colleague w ho was one of the founders of TLA, on an annual basis. One of the most significant achievements of the Association has been to be able to maintain its quarterly journal, former Turkish Librarians Association Bulletin, now called Turkish Librarianship for 44 years without any break. Apart from that some 20 monographs, translations, proceedings and handbooks have been published to date. An overview of the last three periods will give a more clear idea of TLA's activities.

The activities of 1988-90 period were publication of three titles --'Anecdotes for book lovers and librarians', translation of 'An introduction to technical services for library technicians', and 'In honour of Prof. Dr. Osman Ersoy', which is a compilation of papers on various subjects; preparations for IFLA Conference; 40th Anniversary Conference and dinner; preparation of a report concerning university libraries in relation with the revision of the Higher Education Act; presentation of TLA at various meetings; initiation of the establishment of a University Libraries Committee, -- which ended with the establishment of the University and Research Librarians Association; and to have a public opinion poll conducted by a firm on "Why are we reading so little?" in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture .

In the period 1990-92, the main activities were continuation of preparations for IFLA Conference, publication of 'The proceedings of the TLA 40th Anniversary Conference', two proposals to the Ministr y of Culture concerning working conditions, visits to the Minister and authorities in the Ministry of Culture, and an aid campaign for earthquake victims in Erzincan .

In the 1992-94 period IFLA '95 National Organizing Committee was established. TLA became one of the participating institutions. This enabled TLA to diversify its activities a little more. Two trainin g programmes -- one on Internet, the other on quality management were arranged; an active role was played in the libraries and information committees of the State Planning Organization to prepare rep orts for the 7th five year development programme; seven working groups were established, --amongst those, the group to revise the statute of TLA completed its work, the Public Relations Group arrange d an exhibition of the paintings of librarian painters, Group formed to prepare a draft libraries act had several meetings but could not complete the work, the others on depository law, subject index es, standardization could not be activated at all; two 'feschcrifte's for Prof. Dr. Berin U. Yurdado_ and Prof. Dr. _lhan Kum were published and one book reprinted; it became possible for the Turk ish Librarianship to be entered in LISA with the addition of abstracts to the articles in English ; a symposium on 'Turkish Librarianship towards IFLA '95' was arranged and papers presented at th at meeting were prepared for publication; an aid campaign for Bosnia-Herzegovina; participation to reactions on the death of U_ur Mumcu, journalist, for the protection of freedom of thinking; media c overage was aimed by press bulletins, an article and radio talks.

The activities of branches show variations from site to site. Ankara branch which has the highest membership concentrates on training programmes and publishes a bulletin. Istanbul and Edirne branches are active in the field of publications. The others mainly support local public libraries, arrange competitions amongst school children and do some other social activities.

The current management aims to arrange a conference on "National Information Policy" jointly with the Istanbul Branch; concentrate on "Freedom of Speech", "Right to acquire information" and "Ethical Code"; participate in major book exhibitions; review the structure of the TLA and increase the number of the branches; cooperate with governmental and non-governmental bodies in areas of mutual inter est. TLA connected to Internet this year. A report covering "TLA's views on library and information services in Turkey, and suggestions for the solution of problems" has been prepared. Establishment of a foundation and a computing club are under consideration.

The author conducted a questionnaire survey to find out opinions on the Association and expectations from it in September 1994. The number of respondents were 93. Although this is a low figure, the r esults still give some implications. To do a factual evaluation of TLA's activities to date it will be useful to look at the data gathered.

The respondents were asked to put the functions of the TLA in order of importance in one of the questions. The results show that the expectations are prioritized as follows:

  1. Work for the spread of contemporary understanding of librarianship through library weeks, competitions and prizes,

  2. Help professionals to overcome the difficulties they face in their work,

  3. Seek solutions to professional problems and support libraries and information centres.

  4. Work to improve working conditions in libraries, archives and information centres,

  5. Publish professional books and journals,

  6. Support activities for the development of librarianship and cooperate with other institutions in the field for this purpose,

  7. Arrange courses, seminars, conferences and library visits and to give scholarships,

  8. Maintain and improve solidarity and harmony amongst colleagues,

  9. Support and promote research,

A comparison of the activities of the last three periods and the priorities of the members list show that TLA concentrates on 1, 3, 4 and 5 mainly and to some extent 7. However, whatever an instituti on does, impact is the most important aspect. The questionnaire included an assessment of the activities. The responses unfortunately show that the respondents are not satisfied with the activities o f TLA.

The weakest area is "to provide professional help" which is the second priority of the respondents. TLA management needs to consider ways of helping its members. Establishment of an Advisory Desk mig ht be worth considering.

In this list, surprisingly, training programmes have fallen quite low as the seventh priority. However, another question on training requirements shows that 58% think that there is a need for trainin g programmes in IT applications in LIS; 42% in information services, which nowadays require heavy use of IT, and 39% in management, the other areas identified are organizing information (22%), specif ic library types(9%). 3% of the respondents suggested subjects such as marketing, public relations which can be considered under management. Two interesting suggestions were "freedom of speech and ce nsorship" and "history of thinking and history of science".

Even in publishing, where the TLA seems to be strongest, those who consider that publications are insufficient outweighs the number of respondents who say sufficient or good. In fact, in a sense, thi s can be regarded as a self criticism, since a publication can be good only with good contributions.

At this point, it will be interesting to have a look at what the respondents think are their responsibilities in order of importance:

  1. Pay membership fee regularly (40%)
  2. To inform the management of her/his views and make suggestions (32%)
  3. Fulfill responsibilities suggested by the management (30%)
  4. Encourage colleagues to join the TLA (29%)
  5. Inform the management of the areas the member can contribute and offer support (23%)

Other responsibilities mentioned by individual respondents were:

The responses give the impression that members are quite aware of their responsibilities. However, the fact is that even at the basic level, collection of fees is a problem. TLA has always had diffic ulty in finding members for the working groups established who will work in an organized and contributive manner.

Another question investigated the reasons behind this failure. Various comments have been made:

63 % of the respondents thought that working groups should be established. Suggestions to make working groups successful were as follows:

Another question on the structure of the association, revealed that 76 % of the respondents would like a restructuring. Some think that the association should be converted to a chamber and only profe ssionals should register with compulsory registration. Many expressed that they want a more dynamic and active association. The need for a professional secretary who would work full time on a paid ba sis was emphasized. The need for a structured wider organization was pointed out. Professionalism, increasing financial resources, frequent meetings with members, running continuous training programm es are also mentioned.

Indisputably, the profession is aware that a strong business-like professional body is required versus a voluntary small association. For this, more financial resources are required. The response to the question on how to increase the financial resources in order of importance of the source is as follows:

  1. Project work (42%),
  2. Increasing the prices of publications (30%)
  3. Increasing the amount of annual fees (26%),
  4. Increasing the number of members (21%),
  5. Arranging training programmes (19%),
  6. Collecting donations (18%),

Some revenue earning activities suggested were to get more advertisements for Turkish Librarianship, to publish more basic professional books, arrange social activities, run an ISBN service Tu rkey wide, which is currently run by the Ministry of Culture. Project work, as number one with 42%, once more pinpoints the expectation of a business-like approach.

The TLA management established a working committee on restructuring of The TLA and conducted a questionnaire amongst its members in February 1995. It contained a single open ended question: "How shou ld the TLA be restructured?" The response rate again was very low with 91. There were no constructive suggestions on how TLA should be restructured, but respondents expressed their expectations. Prio rities are slightly different compared with the results of the author's survey mentioned above. Improvement of working conditions and protection of professional rights (34) which was 4th priority in the results of the former survey is the 1st priority in this one. Arrangement of training programmes, seminars, conferences is 2nd versus 7th in the other survey (22). Improvement of communication wi th members and helping professionals to communicate amongst themselves (22) and arranging social activities which will generate income (10) (not listed in priorities list for the former survey) form the 3rd and 4th priorities. Apart from these, 67 suggestions are made by a small number of members or individual members.

The Working Committee on Restructuring has produced a detailed first report which includes the following recommendations:

The Group has offered three alternatives for restructuring:

It will be difficult to understand the reasons behind these suggestions if certain points are not emphasized. The way delegations are formed creates a balance amongst branches rather than allowing eq ual representation of all members, as only in 2 branches does the membership exceed 100 and cover professionals from various types of library and information centres. Most branches aim to support the local public library, membership comes from public library workers, chairs are occupied by the management of the public libraries, they want to keep the status quo, and their interests do not match with professional members from various types of libraries in large cities. This situation has caused a growing reaction amongst professionals and some have lost interest in the Association with despa ir. In fact, responses to the author's survey have come mainly from Ankara and only three responses out of 93 were from librarians working in the public libraries. Similarly 60% of the response to TL A's survey came from Ankara. It is also interesting that while these small branches dominate through their votes at the General Councils, their financial contribution to the Headquarter is only 3% of the income .

The Working Group's first report was opened to discussion amongst members and potential members in March.


The success of an organization depends on careful observance and evaluation of the working environment, adopting the right managerial approaches and use of IT skillfully. TLA has been using word proc essing and desk top publishing since the late eighties. Connecting to Internet this year has brought a new dimension, which will help improve communication. As the business grows it should be expecte d to use IT in other areas as needed. With the review of structure managerial change should be expected to take place.

The author's view is that a formal structure should be established for special interest groups and working groups and members should be elected to the General Council, accountable to the General Coun cil and be represented on the Executive Board. Thus expansion of the structure of the association will enable the association to work more effectively on a broader range of areas and all types of li braries will be represented more fairly.

The profession is aware of the need for a more active association and it should be possible to create the infrastructure for this, with the work currently going on, in the near future.

Notes on author's questionnaire survey:

Information on respondence:
Age: 35% were under the age of 25, 39% between the age of 26-35, 9% between 36 - 45 and 12% over 46 and 5% did not mark their age group.

Gender: 35% were male and 65% female.

Background: 80% were professional librarians, 3% non-professionals, and 17% students.

Type of institution: 41% were from university libraries, 19% from university departments including students, 14% from special libraries, 6% from public libraries, and 20% from other types of l ibraries and archives.

TLA membership: 57% were members and 43% non-members.


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