The plane tree turns fifty: a history of the Department of Librarianship at Ankara University.

Author:Gurdal, Ova

In the years immediately following the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in the early 20th century, there were significant developments, including those in the field of librarianship. The emergence of a modern democratic state and way of life included the Act on Unification in Education, which was adopted on March 3, 1924 . Because of this act, books that had been housed in various libraries and foundations were transferred to the Ministry of Education (Ersoy, 1962: 23). John Dewey, who had been invited to Turkey to examine the country's educational system. Dewey prepared a report that also contained some views on the training of librarians in Turkey and the suggestion to select a few to have training in librarianship in the US (Dewey, 1939; Ersoy and Yurdadog, 1963).


"Training courses"

In the same period, Fehmi Ethem Karatay, who studied librarianship in Paris, can be considered the first representative of modern librarianship in Turkey. While in Paris, Karatay first studied in the Ecole des Chartes, which focused on training archivists, and then completed his studies at the Ecole de Bibliothecaires, an international school with an excellent reputation, founded in 1923 by the American Library Association. Karatay learned the basics of librarianship at this one-year school (Karatay, 1968: 73-74). Returning to Turkey, he established the library of Istanbul University and began the first training course in 1925-26 for librarians in the libraries of Istanbul. (Stummvoll, 1962: 45; Otuken, 1957b: 1; Carnovsky, 1949: 73; Ersoy and Yurdadog, 1963).

Also important is the report on existing public libraries, dated 1926, prepared by Hamit Zubeyr Kosay, who was then the Culture Director in the Ministry of Education, and presented to the Ministry. In his report, Kosay emphasizes the following: the impossibility of having good libraries without first having well-educated librarians; the need for original or translated materials focusing on library management; and the need for introducing courses in librarianship and creating library science programs in universities (Kosay, 1960: 37).

The "Libraries Classification Commission" was set up in 1935 by the Ministry of Education to prepare the printed catalogue of manuscripts in the libraries of Istanbul . The report of this commission comments on the need for educated librarians in Turkey. The commission was first chaired by Prof. Helmutt Ritter, and then by M. Cevdet Inancalp. In his report, Ritter states that librarians can be divided into three groups. The first group is "university graduate librarians completing a specific branch in higher education and practicing in a library for some period of time." The second group is librarians who have some of the qualifications of the first group, and the third group consists of others who have had no university education in this field (Otuken, 1957a: 43). Inancalp states that, "unless special importance is attached to staffing in libraries which, beyond academic posts, serve historians, men of literature, students in philosophy, positive scientists and all faculty staff in short, any method adopted will last at most for three days" (Inancalp, 1955: 192). Ritter also recommends selecting talented young scholars for further education and practice in European libraries.

Following Karatay's program, the second course in librarianship in Turkey was initiated by Dr. Joseph Stummvoll in 1936 at the library of the Higher Institute for Agriculture. Dr. Stummvoll was an expert from the Deutshe Bucherei in Leipzig and his mission was to develop a library for the Institute. His course continued for three months and attended by 30-40 participants (Otuken, 1957b: 6; Stummvoll, 1962: 45). This short-lived course confirmed Inancalp's earlier diagnosis in that our libraries were still trapped by methods effective for only three days.

In 1939 there were significant developments in librarianship in Turkey. The first Education Council convened that year and included Aziz Berker, the Director (a post now called General Director) of Libraries at that time, Mehmet Emin Erisirgil, the Dean of the Faculty of Political Sciences (former head of the Education and Training Department) who described that need to assign a respectable status to librarianship in the country. A draft law for the training of qualified librarians in adequate numbers was prepared in 1941 by a commission working under the Presidency of Istanbul University and sent to the Directorate of Libraries. The draft came at the same time as a proposal to establish an Institute of Librarianship within the Faculty of Literature, Istanbul University (Ersoy, 1966: 21). That proposal did not come to fruition for 13 years, and then it was established in the Faculty of Letters, Ankara University. In years to follow, Berker describes the establishment of the Institute at Ankara University as a promising step forward and also a sign that a significant stage was attained in the overall approach to science (Berker, 1957: 21). Meanwhile Ersoy reminds us of the position of the Minister of Finance on the draft law on the establishment of a National Library in Turkey, which also proposed a school for librarians, stating that, "[t]he rationale behind the suggestion for establishing a school for such a simple service as librarianship could not be perceived." (Ersoy, 1966: 22; Otuken, 1979b: 13).

The years from 1945-1956 saw the appearance of some shortlived library programs and courses. These include the "course for public servants in the libraries of People's Houses" launched in the spring of 1945; "courses offered by the Directorate of Libraries"; courses for those working in libraries with manuscripts launched in 1952; two courses for "children's libraries" attended by teachers in the period 1954-1956 and the "course in librarianship" given by the Gazi Training College (Otuken, 1957b: 33-34). These courses played a role in the recognition of librarianship as a distinct profession in Turkey, but the first regular and longer-term education in librarianship began through the initiative of Adnan Otuken at Ankara University from 1942 to 1952 (Otuken, 1957b: 9, 24). Otuken was then working in the Classification Commission established in 1935. A graduate of the Faculty of Literature, Istanbul University, Otuken was sent to Germany to conduct further studies in librarianship (Otuken ,1957a: 37-38).

Ankara's library program continued until 1951 and those who successfully completed these courses were given their certificates. In 1951, Otuken was officially informed that his program was being cancelled, because its very small budget "had to be transferred to another desk" at the same school. Otuken requested that the courses continue at least until the end of the term, so that students could complete their courses, adding that he would teach without being paid. His appeal was...

To continue reading