Erdoğan inaugurates Istanbul’s largest library.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan inaugurated the largest library complex in Istanbul on Friday, saying that it would serve as a cultural center for book lovers.

“The Rami Barracks, which we have renovated as a library, has an important place in our country’s history in the past 200 years,” the president said at the inauguration ceremony.

Vice President Fuat Oktay, Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop, Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, other ministers and prominent artists attended the inauguration.

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Dating back to the middle of the eighth century, the Rami Barracks is revived as the Rami Library after restoration, renovation and rebuilding works that lasted for around four years. The project for converting the Rami Barracks, which was registered as “cultural property” in 1972, into a national public library was announced by President Erdoğan in June 2018 during a fast-breaking dinner in the capital Ankara.

The Rami Library, which will be the largest library in Istanbul with a history of more than 250 years, has been designed as a large campus with individual and group reading halls, activity areas, workshop spaces and a disability center prepared for people with disabilities. It will also serve as a space for seminars, exhibitions and conversations.

The campus is set to appeal to everyone from children to young people, from university students to academicians, and will serve readers and researchers around the clock, with the library set to be open 24/7.

It is already possible to see the new look of the former barracks from the air, which have been transformed into a library.

Saliha Yıldız, who resides in Eyüpsultan, close to the area of the new library said, “I hope this will be evaluated very well because there are not many people around me who read books, but I want the library culture to become widespread among young people. We have our children. I (hope) they (gain) knowledge and wisdom. I think if they hang out in libraries, they would learn something,” she said.

Student Muhammet Talha Solgun, who said he plans on coming to the Rami Library with friends, noted, “My school is right across from the library.”

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According to the information obtained from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Rami Barracks were built in the period of Sultan Mustafa III (1757-1774) and renovated and expanded by Sultan Mahmud II between 1828 and 1829. The Barracks were used as Sultan Abdülmecid’s military headquarters during the Crimean War and gained their last form during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II.

They continued to serve the army during the first years of the republic and ended its military function in the 1960s. Later on, the building, which was transferred to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) in the 1980s, was used as a parking lot, football and sports field, and food warehouse.

The library is the newest addition to the spectra of significant cultural projects undertaken in the last couple of years, aiming to raise awareness of reading more, and is imagined as a unique “book valley” in the heart of Istanbul.

As of 2021, data published by Turkish Statistical Institute (Turkstat) shows the number of libraries operating in Türkiye increased by 1.7% compared to 2020 and reached 34,555, Anadolu Agency (AA) reported. This number kept increasing over time since Turkstat’s report for 2017 revealed the country had around 29,000 libraries across the nation at the time.

In addition to the Presidential Library, which covers 125,000 square meters (1.35 million square feet) and has a seating capacity of approximately 5,500 people, some 612 university libraries, 1,252 public and 32,690 other libraries affiliated with formal and nonformal education institutions operate throughout the country.

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