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Turkish Garbage Collectors Curate Their Own Library

The sanitation workers have already amassed a collection of more than 6,000 books

Books! (Wikimedia)

Many bibliophiles shudder at the thought of tossing a book in the trash. But tons and tons of books are discarded globally each year, either pulped by publishers, shredded by libraries or tossed out when people empty old houses. Sanitation workers in Ankara, Turkey, however, decided to give some of those abandoned tomes a new life by collecting books off the garbage heap. The result, reports Spencer Feingold and Hande Atay Alam at CNN, is a more than 6,000-book library that now serves their community.

The project began when garbage collectors in Ankara’s Çankaya district began collecting books for fellow workers and their families to borrow. But the collection kept growing and soon there was interest from other people in checking out the growing list of nonfiction and fiction titles. “We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books. And when everyone supported it, this project happened,” the mayor of Çankaya, Alper Tasdelen, tells CNN.

While Turkey does have its own public library system, run by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in 2017 Turkey's Daily Sabah noted that there is currently just one public library for every 70,000 people in Turkey. In sharp contrast, the "Library Map of the World" for 2016 chronicled that there was one public library for every 6,200 people in the European Union

Agence-France Presse reports that the sanitation worker's collection of books is housed in a former brick factory, whose long corridors proved well-suited for a library. The building itself also serves as a community social hub, and includes a barber shop, a cafeteria, a lounge with chess boards and administrative offices (some of which are furnished with furniture and office equipment that's also been rescued from the trash).

The library's books have been divided into 17 categories, including romance, economics and children’s fiction, and the collection is still growing. Not only do the workers continue to collect books while on their shifts, but by last count they still have 1,500 books that they need to catalogue and shelve. Additionally, people are now sending them books through the mail.

In the future, the AFP reports, the sanitation workers have plans to create a bookmobile with their materials to send to local schools.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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