Working class is the defender of learning and culture

By Janet Post
May 27, 2019
Cankaya Municipality News Center

When long-time reader Ray Parsons sent us the clipping that this article is based on, he commented it “illustrates that yes, it’s the working class that is the real defender of learning and culture. A point that the Socialist Workers Party and the Militant  often make.” He’s absolutely right.

Sanitation workers in Ankara, Turkey, have been gathering discarded books from the streets and out of the trash. First, they set up a lending library for workers and their families. As the collection grew, they decided to build a library in an old brick factory that serves as the headquarters of Ankara’s sanitation department in the Cankaya district. As word spread, other working people in the area began donating books. Above, sign says, “Book Reading Room.”

The library was opened to the public in September 2017. It has over 6,000 titles, including literature, nonfiction, scientific research, economics and children’s books. And the building now includes a lounge for reading, playing chess, sipping a cup of tea or getting a haircut.

“Before, I wished that I had a library in my house. Now we have a library here,” Serhat Baytemur, a 32-year-old sanitation worker, told the media.

“On one hand, there were those who were leaving these books on the streets. On the other hand, others were looking for these books,” said Cankaya Mayor Alper Tasdelen. The city hired a full-time worker to manage the library. The sanitation workers’ library loans books to schools, educational programs and to workers behind bars. “Village schoolteachers from all over Turkey are requesting books,” Tasdelen said.