I’m a reader, I love books – real books, not eBooks – and I tend to want to buy and keep them. But when I do clear some out, I make sure they go to a good home – a friend, the local library, etc. I can’t imagine throwing a book in the trash. But apparently people do throw away books, and sanitation workers in Ankara, Turkey, decided the books they found in the trash deserved a new home, resulting in a community library full of thousands of books.
The trash collectors began to gather the books found in the trash for their use and to loan to friends and family. An initial collection of about 600 books kept growing, and more and more people in the community expressed an interested in borrowing books. As word of the collection spread, people donated their unwanted books to the cause. The workers started to discuss the idea of a library, and once they had enough local support, the library happened.
The collection is housed in a former brick factory and now consists of more than 30,000 fiction and nonfiction works, sorted into 17 categories. It has a section of children’s books, scientific literature and books in English, French and German. Not only do the workers collect books as they come across them while working, they work during off hours to catalogue and shelve the books.
The workers have converted a garbage truck into a small mobile library to bring books to nearby schools and other district libraries. Books from the vast collection are now regularly donated to schools, educational programs and prisons in other districts of the capital.
The building housing the library also serves as a social hub with a barber shop, cafeteria, and more. Visitors can play chess there or grab a cup of tea in a lounge. University students come to read books as a group. Not only were the books on the shelves destined to be thrown away, the furniture and artwork in the building was also rescued from the trash.
This story inspires me. These garbage collectors saw the value of these books. Just a few people deciding to do something good – to rescue and share books – grew into something that now impacts an entire community. Never underestimate the power of small acts.
Written by Michelle O’Brien, Manager of Marketing & Communications
Sources: Turkish Garbage Collectors Curate Their Own Library, smithsonianmag.com., Books Rescued From the Trash Fill Libraries Across the Country. Popupcity.com.