Long Live the Library Revolution

July 2013, TimeOut Istanbul

gezi library

Lacking in public libraries, Istanbul protesters created a free one in Gezi Park

The Anatolian tradition of imece usulü – people working together for the collective good – pervaded the Gezi Park protests that have rocked Turkey this summer.

From the ban on selling food within the confines of the occupied park (where meals and snacks were distributed for free) to the volunteers who hovered around the Taksim Square area spraying liquid relief into the eyes of tear-gas victims, the protesters grew more defiantly cooperative with every effort made to disperse them.

Exemplifying this spirit, the Gezi Library was one of the first institutions established in the commune-like environment that sprung up in Istanbul’s Gezi Park before it was cleared by police June 15. The library was introduced to the world on June 4, when requests for donations first appeared on social-networking sites. After that, thousands of books began passing through the library’s cinder-block shelves, comprising every genre from novels to textbooks, political magazines to encyclopedias. Similar libraries appeared in Ankara’s Kuğulu Park and İzmir’s Gündoğdu Square, both also hubs for protests.

“Who built the library? You, me, him, her, everybody,” said Ahmet, 38, a Gezi Park occupier who began volunteering at the library when it opened. “There is no system: people freely bring and take books. There is every type of book, because in the park there is every type of person.”

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