What do you do with a book when you’re finished reading it?
Do you put it back on your bookshelf or do you hand it off to a friend? Or maybe if it was a book you weren’t particularly interested in you—bibliophiles, brace yourselves—throw it out.
A group of sanitation workers in Ankara, Turkey, regularly came across discarded books, and rather than let them end up in a landfill, they started to collect them. Within a few months they had collected thousands of books.
Sanitation workers often encountered books in the garbage.
After collecting book after book, a number of sanitation workers had an idea. Why not collect them all and create a library?
For months the employees separated the paperbacks and hardcovers from the trash and put them aside. When they had a sufficient amount they opened a library to be used by the employees and their families—but then word spread.
“We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books, and when everyone supported it, this project happened,” Çankaya Mayor Alper Tasdelen said in a CNN report.
Initially the library was strictly for sanitation employees and their families.
When local leaders realized there was a need for a library in the community, they moved the books to a previously vacant factory at the sanitation department and opened it to the public.
“On one hand, there were those who were leaving these books on the streets,” Tasdelen said. “On the other hand others were looking for these books.”
What started out as a little library turned into a massive project.
The public library, which is accessible 24 hours a day, is now home is 6,000 books of varying genres and languages.
According to an Agence-France Presse report, since the library opened in 2017, not only have Turkish citizens been willing to donate their books via the mail, but the library has also received donations from around the world.
Books are loaned out two weeks at a time.
Over the past year the library has become so large that books are loaned out to schools and prisons.
Emirali Urtekin, the site’s manager, explained every day they continue to grow and in the future they hope to repurpose a garbage truck in order to collect and distribute books as a mobile library.
The sanitation workers have plans to create a mobile library.
“We have given a new lease of life to those books that have been thrown away … and the books are available for free,” he said. “We are happy. It has given us a different identity.”