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University Libraries in Turkey
Middle East technical University
In this article a short review of the history of Turkish university libraries is given by
explaining the problems and issues. Recent developments in library cooperation as
consortia building are also described.
The history of libraries in Turkey dates back to the fifteenth century. During the Ottoman
times, the first religious college (medrese) libraries appeared at the end of sixteenth
century. At the beginning of seventeenth century in major cities, mosques and colleges
had libraries with small sized collections. This library system had dominated until the
eighteenth century when the reform movement in the Ottoman Empire started. The first
university libraries of Western type with printed books were established in the Imperial
Naval Engineering College in 1793 and Imperial Military Engineering College in 1795 in
Istanbul. In these libraries the textbooks were in French, which at that time was the
dominating language of the Ottoman elite. These two institutions represent the first
diversion from the traditional education of the “medreses”, and were later merged to form
the roots of today’s Istanbul Technical University. This development continued until the
foundation of Darülfunun((House of Sciences) in Istanbul in 1863, the first university of
western type. Darülfunun had a library which was open to students and to the public. In
1912 several faculties were set up in Dafülfunun, which gained scientific and
administrative autonomy after the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1924. The
naval and military engineering colleges were merged in 1909 as the Higher School of
Engineers, where engineering and architecture faculties were established and civilians
were admitted to these colleges. During the university reform period in 1933 Darülfunun
was converted to Istanbul University, with a big library. In 1931, the government invited
Professor Albert Malche of the University of Geneva to prepare a report on Turkish
university reform. During the university reformation period following Malche’s report in
1944, the Higher School of Engineers was also reorganized to become Istanbul
After the announcement of the university law in 1946, the government started to
establish libraries also in other cities. In his report, Albert Malche underlines the key role
of librarians in the university and describes the Turkish libraries with scattered, poor
collections, insufficient funding, lack of cooperation, restricted access of public to the
libraries, limited opening hours and low salaries of librarians. Even today as Turkey
makes big step towards western civilization, many of the problems and issues of libraries
discussed in this report persist still. A detailed overview of the Ottoman library system
and the libraries in the modern Turkish Republic is given in (Içimsoy 2008). It was
concluded in this article that many of the above mentioned problems had existed in the
Ottoman library system. In the fifties we see the appearance of German library system
with faculty, departmental and institutes libraries in Ankara, Istanbul University and
Istanbul Technical University. In the report prepared for the Ministry of Education by Dr.
Lawrence S. Thompson in 1952, it was criticized that Turkish universities don’t have any
central libraries. The development of modern university libraries started when the Middle
East Technical University (METU) was founded in 1956 in Ankara. METU Library was
the first library that was based on American campus system, thereby providing central
library services for all students and faculty (Tonta 2001). Until 1960 the university
libraries were controlled by the Ministry of Education. After the new constitutional, the
universities gained their autonomy and librarians got the status of “expert” administrative
staffing the universities. In these years in a number of universities Department of
Librarianship and Archival Studies were established. After the military coup in 1980, the
Council of Higher Education (YOK) was established in 1982 to bring the universities
under the government control. The universities lost their autonomy. Within YOK, a
Documentation Centre was established to supply universities with research articles and
related documents by providing photocopying services to the universities. The Centre
subscribed also some databases, where the academics could make searches. The aim
of establishing this Centre was to encourage the universities to spend their budgets to
the acquisition of books and other materials. During this time big university libraries like
METU, Hacettepe and Istanbul Technical University had to cancel many of their journal
subscription due to budget cuts by the Higher Education Council. In the nineties, due to
the increase of journal prices worldwide and a financial crisis in Turkey, the
Documentation Centre of YOK had to reduce journal subscription from about 10.000 to
3.000. In the mid-nineties a protocol was signed between Higher Education Council and
TUBITAK(Turkish Scientific and Technical Research Council) for transferring the
Documentation Centre to ULAKLBIM(National Academic Data Processing Centre). But
the problems still continued within the ULAKBĐM. One of the main weaknesses of
Turkish university libraries was the lack of nationwide interlibrary loan and document
Currently in the Turkish higher education system there are 113 universities. Of these, 94
are state funded and 33 are private, so called foundation universities. 46 of these
universities have been founded in the last ten years. The higher education institutions
had about 1.7 million students and academic staff in the 2006–2007 academic years.
The university population in 2006–2007 consisted of 55% undergraduate, 31%
vocational, 7% master and 2% PhD students. The proportion of academic staff was 5%
of the total university population. Although 27% of the universities are private
universities, these have only 8% of the total university population. The FTE (full-time
equivalent) of the universities varied from 1,000 to over 50,000. University library
collections and budgets are rather limited. For instance, the total number of items held in
all university libraries is around six million. The library collection expenditures varied in
2007 between $200,000 and $3,000,000. The proportion of library budgets to the
university budgets range between 0.2% and 5%, average being 0.6 %. The total amount
of money allocated to all university libraries in 2007 was just about 35 million US dollars.
There has been a big variety among libraries of developed and newly founded
universities in terms of average expenditure per student. Because of low salaries the
percentage of librarians working in the universities decreased in the last twenty years.
Only one forth of the employees in the university libraries are librarians by profession.
The average number of librarians per university is about six. There is again a big gap
between the developed and developing universities in terms of library staff.
Under these diverse university structures and library resources, in 2001 nine libraries,
initiated by METU, established ANKOS (Anatolian University Library Consortium) for
licensing electronic journals. Within few years ANKOS has become one of the largest
consortia in Europe. In 2007, ANKOS members had access to 35 major e-journal
collections, e-references, bibliographic databases and e-books. The total number of
databases times licensing libraries increased from 129 in 2001, to 968 in 2007, which
correspond to 45 % annual average growth rates. Similarly, the number of full text
downloads increased from 1.4 million in 2001 to 11.5 million in 2007. The annual
average growth rate of usage of e-journals with the consortium was about 47 %. All
these developments were in accordance with the rapid increase of Turkish scientific
publication since 1981. According to (Glaenzel 2008), Turkey belongs after China, with
South Korea, Brazil and Taiwan to the most dynamic countries with an average annual
growth rate 14 % in the world share of scientific publications between the years 1997-
2007 and the number of scientific publications reached 16.500 in 2007. The
development of ANKOS was documented in (Karasözen 2004) and in (Karasözen 2007).
ANKOS has created a national site license (TRNLS) and has developed related
licensing principles in 2002 (Lindley 2003). All negotiations and contracts were based on
the model license. Within ANKOS several working groups like licensing, user training,
evaluation of usage statistics and open access were established. In addition to licensing
of databases, ANKOS was actively involved in the open access movement in Turkey. A
brochure was created to raise awareness for OA among the academics and librarians
and an institutional repository hand book was prepared to help the librarians for
establishing institutional repository in their universities. ANKOS is a member of ICOLC,
SEL(Southern European Library Link), SPARC and COUNTER. Recently two
international library conferences took place in Turkey: in 2003 annual IATUL conference
was hosted by METU in Ankara, and in 2008 the LIBER annual meeting hosted by Koç
University in Istanbul.
As a summary it can be concluded, that despite the lack of a national policy for university
libraries, centralized structure of higher education, problems and issues described in this
article, Turkish librarians try to meet the increasing demand of the researchers and
students for scientific literature in the rapidly changing library environment.
Đçimsoy, A. Oguz, Erünsal, E. Đsmail: The Legacy of the Ottoman Library in the
Libraries of the Turkish Republic. In: Libri, 58 (2008) S. 47–57.
Tonta, Yaşar :Collection development of electronic information
resources in Turkish university libraries. In: Library Collections, Acquisitions,
& Technical Services 25 (2001) S. 291–298.
Glaenzel, Wolfgang. Turkey on the way to the European Union? On a scientific power
rising next door. In: International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics (ISSI)
Newsletter (2008) 4 S. 10-17.
Karasözen, Bülent, Lindley, Jane Ann: The Impact of ANKOS: Consortium, Development
in Turkey. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 30 (2004) S. 402–409.
Karasözen, Bülent, Kaygusuz, Ayhan, Özen(Bati), Hacer, Patterns of e-journal use
within the Anatolian University Library Consortium, Serials – 20, 37-42, 2007
Lindley, Jane Ann. The Turkish National Site License (TRNS. In: Serials
16 (2003) S. 187–190.