Turkish Statistics Institute has declared numbers on reading materials and libraries for the year 2014, and the numbers do not look bright. According to the statistics, 2,899 libraries in Turkey have been closed down in the year 2014 and the number of books available in the country has seen a decrease of 10.9% in the same year. This is the first time statistical data has been made public by the institute regarding the number of libraries in the country, and the report encompasses schools, private schools, tutoring houses that are required to have libraries. Currently, there are 27,948 libraries in Turkey for a population of 77 million. Among the nation, only 1,209,948 people have membership for a library.
In Turkey, there is one national library, 1,121 public libraries, 559 university libraries, and 27,948 school & education institute libraries, making up to a total of 29.629. Among these libraries, the National Library has increased the number of books by 12.8% compared to the previous year, and other materials by 4.8%.
University libraries have reached the number of 559 in 2014, with a 4.9% increase compared to the previous year. Number of books available in university libraries has seen a 7.1% increase reaching 14.5 million books available. There are 33.6% more university library members compared to 2013, which makes a total number of almost 4 million people.
Controversies in Public Library Statistics
Public libraries across the country have increased by 0.3% to 1,121 with an increase of 6.3% more books available, making up the total number of books available to 17 million. Membership numbers -although very low- have shown an increase of 17.9% making the total number of library members 1.2 million. The estimated number of people making use of public libraries has increased by 2.7% and 20 million people are thought to have benefited from public libraries in the year 2014.
Before state’s National Statistical Institute declared the numbers, the national library association used to declare number of libraries and books available; according to those numbers there used to be 1,367 public libraries across the country in 2004, and by the end of 2012 this number had dropped to 1,112. Yet the numbers declared by the state show 1,121 as of 2015 with a supposed increase of 0.3% compared to 2013. In the same manner, the number of library-goers have seem to not changed much compared to 2005 (~20 million then and now), even though there is now about a 10% bigger population.
The government between 2001 and 2011 has followed a policy of handing over management of public libraries to local municipalities without extra funding. The municipalities which already had been suffering major economic problems, could not possibly go through with sustaining the libraries thus left the institutions to their destiny. As a result, over a decade 321 libraries had to close down and the number of library-goers did not increase really. Combined with the thousands of books and websites still banned in Turkey, the approach to libraries and public’s access to information seems controversial.
Another significant number to be reminded of is the result of other statistical data supplied by the same institution; ratio of regular readers in Turkey is only 0.01% compared to EU’s 21%, and an average Turkish person only spares 6 hours per year for reading, and the budget allocated to books per capita is ~2$ a year.