By Guc Gonel Sagiroglu
ISTANBUL (AA) – Turkey's Beyazit Public Library is working on a project worth 3.5 million Turkish liras ($419,470) to digitalize its vast body of resources, the library's acting director said Tuesday.
Beyazit is the oldest public library in present-day Turkey, opened on June 24, 1884 by a decree of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II.
Its original name, Kutuphane-i Umumi-i Osmani (Ottoman Public Library), was changed to Beyazit Public Library with the decision of the seventh National Education Council held in 1961, roughly 39 years after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire
Opening its doors with several volumes of historical annals known as "Naima Tarihi," penned by Ottoman historian Mustafa Naima, on its shelves, the library was filled in a short time with books transferred, purchased or donated from various places, including the nearby Beyazit Mosque.
A 1934 law on compiling printed texts and pictures issued on the order of Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk required one copy of all published materials in the country to be collected in the library.
Due to a lack of space, the building was expanded in 1948 and again in 1953.
The library's readers swelled along with its collections, making it necessary to also expand its service areas as well. For this reason, a building of Istanbul University's Faculty of Dentistry built between 1867 and 1876 was given to the library in the late 1970s thanks to the efforts of Muzaffer Gokman, the library director at the time.
Beyazit Library served as trailblazer in its field in Tukey, opening the country's first bookbinding workshop, as well as its first fully-equipped children's library and spearheading the first modern library cataloging efforts.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ramazan Minder, the acting director of Beyazit Library, said it was the first of its kind in Turkey.
"We most recently registered our 1.2 millionth book," he said, adding that apart from books, the library also had vast newspaper and magazine collections.
"Researchers who come to our library can find Ottoman periodicals and books, as well as Turkish books, newspapers and magazines," he went on to say.
Minder added that the library had been open for 24 hours a day, seven days a week before the novel coronavirus pandemic, after which its hours were limited to between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays.
He said that due of the virus outbreak, they only hosted a fourth of the library's reading capacity of 160 people, adding that all necessary measures were being taken to prevent infections.
He also noted that the library was mostly visited by young people studying at university or preparing for the university entrance exam.
"Our library's newspaper and magazine collection is particularly rich, with Ottoman Turkish newspapers and magazines. Local and foreign researchers who study these materials, university academics or people who work in this field frequently visit our library," he added.
"Although our library is rich with these resources, one of our deficiencies is that they have not yet been fully digitized. This year, we're preparing a large-scale project with the Istanbul Development Agency. In particular, we're preparing a project to fully digitalize the Hakki Tarik Us collection, tagging and repairing them."