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

Library Buildings in Turkey

Prof. Dr. T³lin Sa-lamtunþ, Hacettepe University, Dept. of Library Science, Ankara / Turkey


I. Introduction

Lawrence S. Thompson who has written a Report on Turkish Libraries 43 years ago points out that "the lack of suitable buildings is a handicap for Turkish librarianship"1. Fortunately this statement no more reflects the present situation: There are now modern library buildings in Turkey. There are also many historical buildings used as libraries. Some buildings are adapted to library buildings.

The buildings of some distinguished public and academic libraries, the National Library and the Library of the Turkish Grand National Assembly will be analyzed. Focus will be on Istanbul and Ankara a s the greater number of libraries are in these cities. The situation of the library buildings in the country will also be described generally.

II. Ottoman Era

During the Ottoman Era libraries were founded by Sultans, Statesmen and wealthy people by private endowments, which were charitable pious foundations called "waqfs"2. Those libraries were usually situated among a collection of buildings, composed of a mosque, a "medrese" (high school of theological studies) a primary school, a hospital, and a kitchen for the poor, called "k³lliye"3.

The first library with a separate building in Istanbul dates back to 1661 and is called "The K¸pr³l³ Library" after the founder. "At²f Efendi Library"

(1741)4. "Koca Rag²p Pana Library" (1762/63)5 and "Nuruosmaniye Library" (1755) are outstanding examples of separate Ottoman library buildings.

The most beatiful library with a separate building is the famous "Enderun Library" or the "Library of Ahmet III." (1719) in the Courtyard of Topkap² Palace6. Sultan Ahmet, who reigned during the "Tu lip Age" (1718 1730), which is characteristic for westernization and reforms in cultural life such as the foundation of the first Printing House in Istanbul, was very fond of books.

The Library, which is a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture, does not serve as a library any more.

The outer walls of the building are clad with marmor slabs. The inner walls are covered with beatiful blue china tiles. The dome and the vault are decorated in an artistic style. There are many cab inets for books which are set into the niches between windows. They are covered with silver wire to let in air circulation. The door and windows are marvellous examples of carpentry inlaid with moth er of pearl7.

Another example of a beautiful library building, which is also a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture is the "Ayasofya Library" (1739/1740) built by Sultan Mahmut I.8. It is built in Ayasofya Mosque b etween two stanchions. It has a bronze door of extraordinarily beautiful lattice work. The walls are inlaid with exquisite china tiles, especially a panel composed of beautiful china tiles is inval uable. In the reading room there used to be gold laid cushions as sitting facilities. The library has also beautiful cabinets for books and a separate room for books. It has traces of baroque style .

A distinguished example of a separate building in late baroque9 style is the "Nuruosmaniye Library in the "Nuruosmaniye K³lliye". It has 2 rooms. It is interesting to note, that the library has 2 d oors, one of which is only for the entrance of the Sultan reserved. The reading room is in the shape of a clover with many columns. The book stack is in another room with many windows for the airci rculation.

The most famous library in Istanbul concerning the manuscripts is the "S³leymaniye Library", which is a world famous manuscripts centre. It was not built as a library originally, but afterwards the buildings of 2 "Medrese"s were adapted to a library. The library houses many valuable manuscript collections of Turkish libraries10. As S³leymaniye Library also has a Dept. for Book Pathology and R estoration, serving for Turkish libraries, it was necessary that it should have a separate building for this purpose. The building of the new "Research Center for Book Pathology and Restoration Cent er for Manuscripts and Rare Books" will soon be completed. It is designed as a restitution model of an Ottoman Kiosk, which stood formerly in the same garden.

Another important library from the Ottoman Empire Era is the Beyaz²t State Library (1882)11. It is a good example of a building (originally a kitchen for the poor people of Beyaz²t K³lliye) adapted i nto a library. The historical building of the Highschool of Dentistry next to the Beyaz²t Library is also converted into a modern library building. Thus both buildings serve as a depository library with many facilities for the users. It is a typical example of a classical library in 3 parts: 1. Administration, 2. Facilities for users, 3. Bookstack. Books are shelved in multitierstacks.

An example of a commercial building converted into a library is the "Simkenhane Han"12 where gold thread was manufactured. City (Public) Library of Istanbul is situated in this building, which is not a functional building.

The typical characteristics of the library buildings of the Ottoman Era are:

  1. The plan of the building is either square or rectangular.

  2. The library is built in a courtyard surrounded by high walls so that the readers should not be disturbed by any noise.

  3. There are lodgings for librarians in the courtyard.

  4. As the opening hours are regulated according to sunrise and sunset, day lighting, by a great number of windows was sufficient. Nevertheless some libraries have beautiful ornamented lamps.

  5. The reading room and the bookstack is on the ground floor, which is built on a basement with vaults to let in air for ventilation against humidity.

  6. Inside the building there are ornamented pillars to carry the load of the cupola or the dome.

  7. The buildings are usually built in the direction south east to shelter from the sun. To keep away sunshine there is often a portico attached to the building, supported by columns or piers.

  8. The roof is built as a dome erected over a circular or many sided base, decorated inside and sometimes with a valuable pendant hanging down13.

  9. Readers used to sit on cushions on thick oriental carpets, which were laid on mats and read the books on low reading desks14.

  10. Books were kept either in niches in the walls or (like in Koca Rag²p Pana Library) in the middle of the library in a beatiful bronze lattice work cage or sometimes they were kept in another roo m like Ayasofya and Nuruosmaniye Libraries.

  11. An incense box was used to regulate air conditioning15 besides windows.

  12. For fire protection and against thieves the libraries had iron shutters.

  13. For heating braziers were used.

  14. Sometimes the libraries had 2 floors.

Many of these old historical buildings are still used as libraries: Public and children's libraries, manuscript libraries etc. Generally they are unsuitable for modern library usage. They have also heating, ventilating, humidity, fire protection and security problems. Restoration is often very expensive.

III. The Republican Era

The reforms in the field of education and culture influenced the development of libraries and consequently their buildings:

Especially in the field of university libraries the trend is to establish central libraries on a university campus as opposition to the numerous faculty or seminar libraries scattered all over the ci ties. Also there is a tendency to build modern functional public libraries.

The building of the Turkish National Library and the Turkish Grand National Assembly were built in this period.

1. The National Library
The Turkish National Library was founded in 1948 and its building was originally planned as a nightclub for officials. In 1983 the National Library moved to its monumental new building16. It has 39 .000 m2 space for usage. Its book stacks, users and administration units are separated but has horizontal and vertical connections with each other. There are book conveyors and book lifts. It is v ery well protected against fire by means of modern technical facilities.

Interior of the building is decorated with pink marbles, soft carpets and comfortable furniture.

It is estimated that it would house a collection of 3.000.000 items. The building has extension possibility. 1200 users can use the library in the same time. In 1993 a very modern printing plant i s also built in the library. It is the largest library building in Turkey. It has also parking facilities and a beautiful garden surrounding the building. As a national and a depository library the building houses the richest collection in Turkey.

2. The Library of the Turkish Grand National Assembly
The Library is housed in the monumental building of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 2 floors and has a multitierstack of 4 floors. It is also a depository library. The Library is situated ce ntrally in the building. It is significant that the Library has many technical facilities for documentation and information service, which is very important for the deputies.
3. University Libraries
In Turkey there are now 57 universities17. All of them have libraries. Some of them have separate buildings. Many of them are in a transition period to library automation. The Documentation Centre of the Higher Education Council is in cooperation with the new libraries concerning building problems.

The Middle East Technical University Library (METU) was a pioneer in the field of university libraries on a campus in Ankara (1967)18. Afterwards

Hacettepe University Beytepe Central Library and Bilkent University Central Library followed the same pattern.

The METU Library consists of 2 buildings and an additional building with 5 floors. It has been estimated that it would house 5.00.000 books and facilities for 2000 students19. It has open access an d a separate reserve area. The Library has a total space of 12058m2 for usage. It has extension possibilities.

Hacettepe University Beytepe Central Library20 (1977) has an open plan and is built according to the modular system and the principle of flexibility. There are about 77.000 vols. in open shelving. The Library has a total space of 5570m2. It is in the middle of the campus and very easy to reach. It has extension possibilities.

Bilkent University21 was established in 1986 on a campus. The present library building is converted into a library. As the University is growing rapidly an additional building is constructed. Alto gether the library will be have a total space of 13.890m2 with reading area, conference hall, open shelving and facilities for users and the staff. It is a monumental but a functional building. The lay out of the library is modern. The brief was prepared in close cooperation of the librarian and the architect.

In Istanbul the Bo-aziþi University Library22 is built on the North Campus of the University in 1982. It is a very modern building with a light well in the middle. The Library has a capacity t o house 300.000 vols. The inner decoration and lay out is designed in modern style.

|stanbul University has 2 library buildings: One of them is the older building established 1924 in a "Medrese", which is an example of the I. Architecture Period23 in Turkey. It houses in the presen t the rich manuscript and rare book collection of the Y²ld²z Palace. There are valuable bookstacks in the Library, which are said to be made by the Sultan as a hobby. In 1987 the new library build ing24 was inaugurated. The modern collection is in the new library, which has 6 floors (3 underground). It has a total space of 8500m2. It has a light well in the middle of the reading facilities. It is a depository library and the books are shelved on multitierstacks. Being situated in the centre of the City, the Library has limited extension possibility and the traffic noise is a problem. The lay out of the Library is in modern style. It is a typical example of a Central University Library with many small libraries scattered in the City.

The Marmara University (1983) is a typical example of a traditional University with numerous departments, faculties all over the City25. It is extremely difficult to administer a Central Library. T he present Central Library has no room to work properly. Fortunately it will move to the new Campus in a modern library building very soon.

Anadolu (Eskinehir), 19 May²s (Samsun), Ãukurova (Adana), F²rat (Elaz²-), Erciyes (Kayseri), Atat³rk (Erzurum), Dicle (Diyarbak²r) etc. are among university libraries which have modern buildin gs.

4. Public Libraries
Many public libraries are still situated in old "waqf" buildings from the Ottoman Era, which have serious building problems. Some public libraries are situated in schools, some are in buildings whic h are converted into library buildings. Public Libraries are administered by the General Directorate of the Ministry of Culture26. The General Directorate and the Ministry of Public Works and Reset tlement plan the library buildings together. There are 1184 public libraries27 in Turkey and only a few are situated in proper library buildings. In the recent years, however, there have been a cha nge in this field: Prefabricated library buildings, especially for branch libraries are preferred: The costs are not too high and the construction process is short. They have an open plan suitable f or open access.

The usual public library building is a standart project and it is applied all over Turkey regardless of the differences of the climate, environment, site, population, socio cultural and socio econom ical factors. The outer appearance is typical for an official government building. The building is not functional and unsuitable for modern public library service. It has 4 floors, facilities for users and the staff. The furniture and other equipment are usually supplied from the State Supply Office. In 1992 the prisoner carpenters of the Ankara (Open) Prison produced modern library furnit ure for the public libraries. The library furniture catalogues of german and english libraries were adapted.

The result was satisfactory. Especially children's furniture for children's departments were appreciated both by parents and children. It is a good solution as western furniture is not suitable for the anthropometric characteristics of Turkish people.

In 1992 the General Directorate chose 3 public libraries in Ankara, Mersin and Antalya as a pilot project28. These libraries were decorated in a modern way, pre school age children's depts. with toy s etc. were designed and attractive conference rooms for interesting cultural activities were organized. Bright colours were used in interior layout. Also a room for local history collection was d ecorated with typical local cultural products such as kelims, carpets etc. was found to be very attractive. As a result both children and adults frequented the libraries.

Municipalities and private people sometimes want to build a library or they want to donate a building. They are accepted if they seem to be suitable for the purpose. Usually the name of the donator is given to the library which stimulates many people.

The |stanbul Metropolitan Municipality Atat³rk Library is a significant building in the style of an old Turkish house29, which is reorganized as a public library. It has 3 floors and the entrance is on the 3rd. floor. It is not designed for open shelving, the book stack has a capacity of 500.000 vols.

5. Conclusion
Turkish librarians prefer the modular system with the principle of flexibility in library buildings. Neither users nor librarians want the government office type of buildings with dull coloured deco ration:Attractive appearance and modern layout in functional libraries with ergonomic conditions are preferred. The librarians and the architects work together at the planning of the University libraries. The tendency is to build university libraries on the university campus, when a campus is available.

Different types of buildings are still adapted into library buildings according to the standards of modern librarianship.

Starting with library automation is a problem in many libraries with old buildings because of the installation of technical devices.

There are various firms which started to manufacture modern office furniture and library furniture, which would change the interior of libraries soon.

Lighting and airconditioning are usually not problematic but heating is a great problem, especially in public libraries because of the high costs.

Book detection systems in some libraries reduced the number of stolen items.

Fire protection is done by fire alarms, extinguishers, and modern detection systems.

Some new library buildings are still being built in the classical 3 parts system, which limits the quality of service, and produces boarders between users and librarians.

Recreation areas are still looked upon as luxory by many librarians.

To build a Students' Library Centre in the library is not appreciated generally.

The topic of "Library Buildings" is taken into the curriculum recently, in Turkish Library Schools, which is a good sign that young Turkish librarians will be able to have power on the planning of th eir libraries in the future.


  1. L.S. Thompson: "The Libraries of Turkey". The Library Quarterly 22(1952)3, p.271.

  2. |.E. Er³nsal: T³rk K³t³phaneleri Tarihi II 2.ed. Ankara 1991, pp. XIII XIV.

  3. B. Ünsal:"T³rk Vakf² |stanbul K³t³phanelerinin Mimari Y¸netimi"
    Vak²flar Dergisi (VD) 18(1984) p.97.

  4. H. Koþ S. Eyice:"At²f Efendi K³t³phanesi" D³nden Bug³ne |stanbul
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  5. |. Mutlu: "Rag²p Pana K³t³phanesi 200 yan²nda" T³rk K³t³phaneciler
    Derne-i B³lteni (TKDB) 12(1963) 1/2, pp.1 16.

  6. F. Ãa-man: "The Topkap² Collection". Aramco World Magazine (1987),
    March/April, p.31., Ì. Yenal: "Topkap² Saray² M³zesi Enderun Kitapl²-²",
    G³zel Sanatlar 6(1949) Jan., p.86., S. Eyice: "Ahmed III. K³t³phanesi"
    DBIA. Vol.I, p.115.

  7. Nurhan Atasoy: Splendors of the Ottoman Sultans. (Exhibition Cat.)
    Memphis. Tenn. 1992. p.269.

  8. E. Y³cel: "Ayasofya Kitapl²-²" T³rkiyemiz 42(1984) Feb. p.11. N. Y²lmaz:
    "Ayasofya b³nyesinde bir Osmanl² K³lt³r Kurumu: I. Mahmud K³t³phanesi", Art Decor 22(1995) Jan. p.75. S. Eyice: "Ayasofya K³t³phanesi" DBIA. Vol.I. p.460.

  9. H. Koþ: "Nuruosmaniye K³t³phanesi". DBIA Vol.VI. p.104., D. Kuban:
    "Nuruosmaniye K³lliyesi" DBIA Vol VI. p.103, Ünsal op. cit. 103.

  10. H. Dener: "S³leymaniye Umumi K³t³phanesi", Ist. 1957, p.1., N. Bayraktar
    "|stanbul'daki Vak²f K³t³phaneler ve S³leymaniye K³t³phanesi". TKDB
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  11. S. Eyice: "Bayezid K³lliyesi". DBIA. Vol.II, pp.93 94. R. K²r²k (ed.) Kitaplar
    aras²nda 44 Y²l. Muzaffer G¸kman'²n an²lar²..., Ist. 1977, pp.291 298. H. Duman (ed.) Beyaz²t Devlet K³t³phanesi 100 Yan²nda. Ist. 1984, p.3.

  12. G. Cantay: "Simkenhane". DBIA. Vol. 6, p.561.

  13. A. V. Kubilay: "K³t³phaneler". DBIA. Vol. V. p.176, Ünsal op. cit. 105 106.

  14. Er³nsal, op. cit. 274 276.

  15. Ibid. 138.

  16. |. Evliyao-lu: "Milli K³t³phanenin aþ²l²n t¸reni takdim konunmas²". TKDB
    32(1983)3, pp. 99 102.

  17. Üniversite K³t³phaneleri Tan²t²m Katalo-u. Samsun 1994. s.1.

  18. T. Ayban. ODTÜ. K³t³phane Etkinlikleri 1977 1982. Ankara 1983, p.4.

  19. B. Ãinici: "Bibliothek der Middle East Technical University in Ankara"
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  20. Hacettepe Üniversitesi B³lteni. 79/80. Ankara 1980. p.1., Sezgen. op. cit.
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  21. Sezgen. Ibid. 62 69.

  22. Bo-aziþi University Library Handbook. 1992 93. Ist. p.1. "Bo-aziþi Üniversitesi" DBIA. Vol.II. pp.289 290.

  23. Y. Yavuz: "Medreset³'l Kuzat". DBIA. Vol.V. pp0. 326 327.

  24. M. Alpay: "Bir temel atma t¸reni ve d³n³nd³rd³kleri". TKDB 20(1971)1, pp.
    31 34. Alpay: "Istanbul Üniversitesi K³t³phane ve Dok³mantasyon Dairesi".
    K³t³phane... 2.ed. Ist. 1991. pp.254 255.

  25. "Marmara Üniversitesi". DBIA Vol.V. pp.303 304.

  26. T. Sa-lamtunþ: "Cumhuriyetin 70. Y²l²nda Halk K³t³phanecili-imiz". in:
    Ãa-dan K³t³phanecilik ve D³n³nce Ízg³rl³-³. Ist. 1994, p.220.

  27. T.C. K³lt³r Bakanl²-² 1994 1995. Ankara 1994, p.74.

  28. Sa-lamtunþ: " XXIX. K³t³phane Haftas² Aþ²l²n Konunmas²". T³rk K³t³phanecili-i. 7(1993)2, p.229.

  29. A. Polato-lu: "Istanbul B³y³knehir Belediyesi Atat³rk Kitapl²-²".
    K³t³phanecilikte Bilgi, Belge |nbirli-i Milli K³t³phaneleraras² |letinim...
    Sempozyum. (22 25 Eyl³l 1992) Ankara 1994. p.257, N. Haseki: "|stanbul
    B³y³knehir Belediyesi Atat³rk Kitapl²-²n²n Halk K³t³phanesi olarak
    d³zenlenmesi amac²yla yap²lan þal²nmalar". TKD 40. Y²l K³t³phanecilik
    Kurultay². Ankara 1990. pp.48 53.