A new drive to improve the image of crumbling public libraries may make them appealing again. The Culture and Tourism Ministry plans to keep libraries open around the clock, particularly for students staying up late and offer free tea and coffee for library-goers.
Public libraries in 30 major cities will also add a new function as places to inform the public on social issues. Experts will give seminars and educate people on matters ranging from how to fight obesity to awareness about cancer.
Turkey is among the countries with the least public libraries compared to its population, although libraries have started to thrive in recent years. Few libraries offer 24-hour service, such as Istanbul University Library, while some like the Turkish Diyanet Foundation Center for Islamic Studies library, remains open until 23:00 p.m.
The country has long sought to increase reading among the public despite the rise in book sales. During his election campaign earlier this year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan introduced what he called public kıraathanes (Turkish for reading house) that will be a more culture-savvy version of kıraathane. Originally started in the last days of the Ottoman Empire as a place for intellectuals, kıraathanes devolved into teahouses where men gamble, sip tea and watch TV. "We'll build the nation's kıraathanes. ... These places will be filled with books, and there will be cake, tea and coffee," Erdoğan pledged in a campaign speech. Erdoğan said people young and old alike would go there to read books, newspapers, magazines and enjoy free treats and that these venues would be open 24 hours a day.