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Library of Abandoned Books – Garbage Collectors in Turkey Open Library with Books Destined for the Landfills

An incredible new library has opened in the Çankaya district of Ankara, Turkey featuring a collection of salvaged books once destined for landfill.

Local sanitation workers, who spent months collecting abandoned and discarded books from the streets, established the library to be used by themselves and their families. As the collection grew, however, word spread throughout the community, and locals began to donate books that they would have otherwise discarded. In September of last year, the Sanitation Department decided to open the library up to public use.

Photo: video screengrab

“Before, I wished that I had a library in my house. Now we have a library here and it’s good. I want to read all the books,” Serhat Baytemur, a 32-year-old garbage collector, said.

“On one hand, there were those who were leaving these books on the streets. On the other hand, others were looking for these books,” Alper Tasdelen, the mayor of Çankaya, told CNN. “We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books. And when everyone supported it, this project happened.”

Now the library boasts a collection of over 6,000 books ranging from literature to non-fiction, with a popular kids’ section featuring comic books, and an entire section devoted to scientific research as well. There are also several books available in English and French for bilingual visitors. A previously empty brick factory located at the Sanitation Department’s headquarters now houses the abandoned book library. The building features an old brick façade and long corridors, making it an ideal space for a library. Books are loaned out for two weeks, and borrowers can get an extension if needed. The city government also hired a full-time librarian to manage the library.

Photo: video screengrab

“When we first began, we really had a lot of shelves but not so many books. I actually was a bit nervous as I feared we wouldn’t be able to fill the shelves. I looked at the shelves and told myself, ‘We need at least 3,000 books.’ But then we saw how quickly they were filled and now we can’t even keep up,” Sema Keskaya, head of human resources at Çankaya municipality, told the Anadolu News Agency.

Since its opening in September of last year, Ankara’s library of abandoned books has outgrown the space available, and now it is now loaning some of the salvaged books to local schools, educational programs, and even a few prisons.

“Village schoolteachers from all over Turkey are requesting books,” Tasdelen said.

 

Children of municipal employees and students from nearby schools often fill the library. There is a lounge area for quiet reading, and even chessboards are available. The library is particularly popular among cyclists who rest there for a cup of tea and a quick read after cycling the nearby valley.