A night out at Istanbul’s 7/24 library
ISTANBUL – Anadolu AgencyIn a city largely devoid of public libraries, Istanbul’s Atatürk Library has literally become a beacon in the night for bibliophiles, after it became Turkey’s first library to keep its doors open around the clock.
One of the first reference centers of Turkey’s republican era, the Atatürk Library has been offering a 24/7 service since last October, leading to a huge rise in visitors.
The unusual, three-floor hexagonal building was designed in the 1970s by award-winning Turkish architect Sedad Hakkı Eldem who had an important influence on the country’s national style. It is located in Taksim and just minutes’ walk from teeming nightclubs, bars and cafes.
A casual visitor to the library at 10 p.m. might be surprised to see the size of a midweek crowd. It is late and some people are just chatting in the garden; others are studying and some are reading a book, pausing occasionally to look at the Istanbul view outside.
One regular is 31-year-old bank employee Müslüm Kayabaş, who has been studying at the library almost every day for the last three months.
Cramming for a management position exam, Kayabaş says he has stayed over at the library several times.
“One day at around 5 in the morning I wasn’t really feeling well; I remember sheltering near the heating just like a cat,” he said.
Kayabaş works at the library until 12:45 a.m. as the last bus home stops at that time.
Intense demand from readers
The reason why the city decided to open the library around the clock was due to intense demand from readers, said the deputy manager of Istanbul Municipality’s Library and Museums Department, Ramazan Elmas.
According to Elmas, every day around 600 people visit the library, with this figure increasing by 25 percent since October.
Apart from some university libraries that are open during the exam terms, many Istanbulites have to travel long distances to study or conduct research.
“Some of our readers come from Büyükçekmece, 55 kilometers to Taksim, or Kartal, 30 kilometers, as there are no 24/7 libraries in their neighborhoods,” Elmas said.
Istanbul Municipality has 18 libraries across the city, while two new reference centers will open this year, he added.
Turkish libraries have a history of more than a century, according to an information and document management professor at Istanbul University, Işıl İlknur Sert.
“Turkey’s first library was Beyazıt State Library, which was formed by Sultan Abdülhamid II in 1884 in the Islamic-Ottoman social complex of Beyazıt,” Sert said.
Istanbul’s first municipal library was formed in 1924 in the same complex and moved during the 1960s as a result of a lack of space after the library extended its collection.
Today, Atatürk Library is located in a building constructed by Turkey’s largest conglomerate, Koç Holding, for the 50th anniversary of the republic in 1973.
At the start, the library had around 170,000 publications, mainly donated by some of Turkey’s top intellectuals of the time.
Today the library has around 500,000 publications, including books, antique documents, maps, postcards and one of Turkey’s largest newspaper and magazine collections.
Sert believes Atatürk Library’s decision to open round the clock will be followed by some of the 1,200 state libraries across Turkey.
It seems Turkey’s cultural capital will continue to draw thousands of night owls as much now for its intellectual offerings as its colorful nightlife.