METU Library and Furuzan Olşen

Starting to work in the three-story building of METU on the Milli Müdafaa Street in 1957 in a 6 square meter room and with 50 books, and working with a great devotion to all stages of the development of METU Library until her retirement in 1981 and granted an outstanding service award by METU, Furuzan Olşen, who lost her life in 2010, tells us the establishment story of METU Library in the following interview:

F.G.: How did you start working at METU and can you briefly tell us about your background?

F.O.: After I graduated from the Department of English Language and Literature at Ankara University in 1946, I worked as a teacher and an administrator at Ankara Girls’ High School for 8 years. In 1949, I stayed in the UK with a one-year scholarship given by the Ministry of National Education to study the British education system. I started to work as a research assistant at the Faculty of Languages, History and Geography at Ankara University in 1955 and earned my Master’s degree in librarianship from the University of Illinois, USA and worked at the library of University of Illinois for a year and a half.

In June 1957 I participated in a conference jointly organized by the American Library Association and the Canadian Librarians Association in Montreal. I found out during the conversations here that a university was being established in Turkey with the help of UNESCO. I was planning to return to Turkey at that time and I found METU in a three-storey building on Milli Müdafaa Street. I introduced myself to Mr. Thomas Godfrey, and he jumped out of his place  with great enthusiasm and hugged me saying, “Perfect timing!" and added “I have been looking for a librarian for a year in Turkey, I am glad you came, you can start working immediately.” and added He said he wanted to clarify something. He requested a librarian from UNESCO when he could not find anyone in Turkey and the position was allocated for five years, and asked me if I wanted to work with an international specialist. I said there is a lot to do and that everyone’s contribution would be beneficial. So, I took office right after this conversation.

F.G.: You are the first person to start working in this area, who else was assigned after you? How was your working environment and possibilities? Can you tell us about those days?

F.O.:After taking office on October 15, 1957, the deceased Solmaz İzdemir received his Master’s degree from the US and returned to Turkey. He also applied to this position and appointed to the library. We had a 60 square-meter room and 50-60 books donated by UNESCO in there. We did not have even a typewriter. We were working in a warm and friendly environment. I spent my childhood in the garden of this house on Milli Müdafaa Street. This building was the home of the National Defense Minister Zekai Apaydın and his deceased daughter, Turkan Apaydın, was a close friend of mine from the primary school. I have beautiful memories in the garden of that house. Our janitor Mr. Veli and his family were living on the 3rd floor of the building. Mr. Veli was undertaking many tasks. In the first month of 1958, we moved to the barracks behind the Turkish Grand National Assembly. During these days, Ms. Natelle Isley, a librarian sent by UNESCO, joined us. Gülsevin Arun, one of the first graduates of the Department of Librarianship at the Faculty of Languages, History and Geography of Ankara University, was also appointed to the library. So, she became the first core staff of the library.

Ms. Natalle Isley was organizing tasks and orders related to UNESCO’s financial assistance. We were organizing all technical work and we were working with enthusiasm in every respect. We were constantly working on the purchase of the books and the subscription procedures of the journals required for the Faculty of Engineering, Construction, Electrical and Chemical Engineering and the Faculty of Administrative Sciences established in addition to the existing Department of Architecture. In this new place behind the Assembly, a lounge and an office were allocated to us. As the collection of the library increased, we kept the library open until 22:00 in order for our students to benefit from the library, and our students started to work on a part-time basis. This was a very new practice and the number of students working in the library was more than 50 as the library became more developed.

M.G.: What steps were taken to bring the library to its current state?

F.O.: When setting up the library, three important decisions had to be taken:

- a central library and establishment of a library in the faculty;

- application of the Open or Closed shelf system;

- selection of the classification system of books.

Most of the faculty members wanted faculty libraries to be established. It was extremely costly at that time in Turkey. This means both the duplication of the collection and higher building and personnel costs. After Mr. Kemal Kurdaş took office as the President of the University, these discussions were concluded with the decision of establishing a Central Library. The open shelf system widely applied in the USA was deemed appropriate. This decision was a great novelty at that time in the libraries in Turkey. For the classification system, “Library of Congress” system, the most advanced and open for improvement, was accepted.

M.G.: Were there any foreign staff working in the library besides Ms. Natalle Isley?

F.O.: Ms. Natelle Isley left Turkey in June 1959. Mr. Donald Redmond, D. R. Kalia and W. W. Bennett from UNESCO took her place and this program ended in 1965.

In September 1959, I went back to the library at the University of Illinois where I had worked before. I gained experience in the needs of a newly established library and I got prepared in this regard. I returned to Turkey in September 1961.

F.G.: Was there any other financial assistance other than UNESCO assistance in the METU Library? How did the University administration contribute to your work?

F.O.: In 1963 we moved to the current campus. Some parts of the Faculty of Architecture were allocated to the library. The interest of Mr. Kemal Kurdaş, the President at that time, in libraries and books was very useful for the development of the book collection. The library collection started to develop rapidly with monetary aid provided domestically and especially from international organizations.

While UNESCO assistance was about to end, the library received financial asistance from CENTO, OECD and later from AID. The most important of these is AID assistance. Mr. Kurdaş allocated 1,5 million out of 4.5 million US dollars granted to the University to the library. Considering that the average price of a book was around 8-10 US dollars at that time, this was a huge amount of money. AID sent an expert to Turkey from US to determine the money would be used by the library. Robert Downs, the Dean of Department of Library Services and Director of the Library, University of Illinois,  came and wrote a quite positive report. In his report, he assured that our library had no drawbacks compared to the western libraries and that there would be no disadvantages in executing this project. During the project period, this money was used until the last penny. Books were also donated to the library other than money. A collection of German books by the German Government, a collection called ‘JFKennedy Memorial Library’ by American publishing houses, and the donation of the British Government in memory of Winston Churchill were worth mentioning due to their numbers and importance at that time.

F.G.: How was the library building constructed? What contributions did you make in this regard?

F.O.: The library’s collection started to increase so rapidly that Mr. Kurdaş envisaged the construction of a library building immediately. They paid attention to the construction of the building in western standards. We were very fortunate, an architect like Behruz Çinici drew the layouts. Mr. Behruz went to the US to review the library buildings. Within the same program, Dr. A. F. Kohlman was invited to METU to help with the library building and worked on this issue for a month. He made a report about the building. For one year, they discussed with Mr. Behruz about the plans. Finally, a superior building came out thanks to the vast creative abilities of Mr. Behruz. It was in the cover of the 10th issue of “Bauen+Wohnen”, a German journal, in 1973 and the building was entirely introduced in the issue. We mutually told our ideas in the design of the building and reached a conclusion. The library would be built in two stages. 1. part started in 1966 and was completed in 1967. We moved to the new building from the Faculty of Architecture. The moving of a library is not as easy as you might think. Boxes in the size of shelves were made to  keep the order of the books and students were lined side by side between the two buildings and books were passed from hand to hand and placed in their new places. So, we had a five-storey building with a usage area of ​​12,000 square meters, which provides service in accordance with western standards.

M.G.: Are there any other libraries that were set up besides the central library and that you helped with their establishment?

F.O.: Yes. All the operations of the books of the campus library established in Gaziantep under METU and the Institute of Marine Sciences Library established in Mersin and the training of the officers working in the library were carried out by our library.

M.G.: Can you tell us about your library staffing policy, relationships with students and some of your memories?

F.O.: Two types of staff were employed in the library. Those who had a specialization in librarianship and auxiliary staff. METU students also undertook some tasks by working on an hourly basis. As the collection began to expand, the library started to provide services throughout Turkey. The M.S and Ph.D. students of other universities also used our library. The library staff and the students had such a good relationship that there was a family atmosphere. The deceased Solmaz İzdemir took care of MS and Ph.D. students individually and worked to provide the journals, articles and books they wanted from all over the world. She was a sister to all of them. Mr. Kemal Kurdaş visited the library at least three times every week and showed his guests around proudly. On a rainy day in autumn, the foundation of the library was laid. Who was addressing the guests was generally Mr. Kurdaş. However, he turned to me when the mortar was being poured to the foundation and said “Ms. Füruzan, please address the guests.” I was very touched and my speech made them cry. Mr. Kurdaş said “I asked you to make a speech not to make us cry.” . That day, a bottle that included the names of me and Solmaz was placed at the foundation of the library. And they made me feel honored by letting me do the opening speech at the groundbreaking ceremony.

F.G.: How was the library collection in 1981, when you got retired, was there anything that you thought it would have been better to complete before your retirement?

F.O.: By the end of 1982, when I was retired, the library collection reached about 250,000 volumes. The number of periodical subscribers was around 2300, and there were a total of 85 staff members, 40 of whom were professional, and the rest were part-time employees. One of the tasks that I wish I could have succeeded while I was working is “Personnel Affairs”. I could not convince the university administration that librarianship is a specialty. Librarians were considered in the same category as the other administrative staff of the university. Therefore, none of the seven students we sent to the US to get MS in librarianship stayed in the METU library after they returned. Other institutions offered more money and got them. The second issue is the failure to ensure automation. The conditions that Turkey and the university had at that time and the fact that computer experts in the university did not show the required interest in this issue caused it to fall through.

A library is the heart of a university. This is the first thing taught in librarianship schools. Sadly, I see that the adverse conditions in 1980s damaged this heart. I believe young people will protect METU and its values.

*Published in the third issue of ODTÜLÜ Magazine.

Corporate History Of METU Library

METU library was launched with 50 books donated by the United Nations in 1956. The library staff included Furuzan Olşen, who received a Master’s degree in library services in the Librarianship School in US, and Solmaz İzdemir in 1957.

On January 4, 1958, a UNESCO expert Natelle Isley was appointed as the director of the library to ensure that the library was organized in a contemporary sense. In March 1958, it was decided to implement the American Library of Congress Classification System within the framework of the main principles of the library’s organization. With this application, METU Library became the first library to use this system, which has been used now in many universities and research libraries in our country today. 

In July 1959, UNESCO expert Donald A. Redmond  was appointed as the library director and while the UNESCO expert D. R. Kalia was working as the third director in 1961, the idea that the university should have a central library within the campus was introduced and this was accepted in October 1961.

In 1962, the fourth and the last UNESCO expert William W. Bennett took office as the director of the library. Paul Wasserman, the Director of the Library of Cornell University, who came to Turkey in September 1962 wrote a report reviewing the development of the METU Library. In this way, a financial support of 30,500 USD was provided to the library under the AID/Cornell project.

The library moved to the present campus on September 15, 1963 and continued its activities in a part of the Faculty of Architecture until the library building was constructed.

Under the leadership of Behruz Çinici, the architectural work of the central library building was initiated in 1964, the foundations were laid on 03.01.1966, completed on 30.06.1967 and moved to the current new building. Thus, the first campus library was established in our country to serve at the contemporary library science standards.

The donations given during its foundation years played a major role in the creation of the library collection. In 1958,the British Government and in 1959, the US Government donated books. The library received its first important financial support, 25,000 USD per year, from the United Nations in 1960, which lasted four years. The German Government in 1963, the American Government in 1964, and the British Government in 1965 donated books and magazines. From donations made in these years; J.F. Kennedy Memorial Library (220 volumes) and Winston Churchill library (1000 volumes) are one of the most important ones.

Furuzan Olşen, who was appointed as the library director by proxy in 1965, worked as the principal Library Director from October 1, 1967 to August 1981. At the time of Furuzan Olşen, the ibrary collection developed rapidly, great importance was attached to the training of the personnel, and some personnel were sent abroad for education.

The library building was planned to accommodate 250,000 volumes of books and 2000 people. However, in 1970s, the building fell short of enough space due to the rapidly growing collection. Therefore, the construction of the second part of the building was designed in 1973 and completed in 1975.

From 1981 to 1988, Prof. Dr. Tekin Aybaş presided over the Library. In 1981, a change was made in the organization of the library, and the library staff and their operations were divided into four main departments and an assistant director was assigned to each department. According to the new arrangement these departments were set as reader services, information, technical and administrative work and technical operations.

In 1982, Library Directorate was renamed to Directorate of Library and Documentation.

In 1988-1993, Filiz Çermen worked as the Director of the Directorate of Library and Documentation. At the time of Ms. Çermen, the automation actions of the library were initiated and in this context, the bibliographic records of the books were transferred to the electronic medium.

From 1993 to 2007, Prof. Dr. Bülent Karasözen from the Department of Mathematics was the Head of the Library and during his administration, he worked on automation of the library, expansion of electronic books and journals collection, and establishment and development actions of Anadolu University Library Consortium (ANKOS).

As a result of the joint work of the Computer Center and Library, Virginia Tech Library Systems(VTLS), one of the major library automation systems, started to be used in 1995. At the first stage, the bibliographic tags of the books after 1980 were opened to access both from inside and outside the campus through the library automation system.

In parallel with the developments in electronic environment in the world, a CD-ROM network was established in the METU Library to provide access to electronic databases from the campus for the first time among the Turkish libraries.

METU Library who guided the work on sharing resources in Turkey met with Hacettepe University, Gazi University and Bilkent University and decided to carry out CD-ROM and journal subscriptions jointly.

A new project on the joint use of printed resources was initiated in 1998 in line with the joint resource sharing activities. Within this scope, OBES (Common Documentation) project was started in 2000 after a agreement between ULAKBIM, Hacettepe, Gazi and ODTÜ was reached.

Cooperation efforts between universities gained momentum in the 2000s; and at the end of negotiations with Hacettepe, Gazi, Bilkent Universities and ULAKBİM, the first consortium in Turkey was founded under the name ANKOS (Anatolian University Libraries Consortium) and METU Library presided over this consortium for many years. Established in 2000, the consortium began its activities with a joint subscription to three member databases of 12 member institutions. ANKOS is a now consortium accepted in an international platform with over 180 member universities and research institutes and almost 50 staff.

In 2001, METU Library was selected as one of the six pilot institutions in the framework of the “Project for the Restructuring of the Continuous Quality Improvement and Public Budgeting System” jointly conducted by the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance. The mission, vision, goals, objectives and action plans of the library were established. In this direction, a five-year strategic plan was initiated and a Performance Based Budgeting System was established.

In 2003, a directive was issued for making the Master’s and Ph.D theses produced in the University available within the electronic environment and approved by the University Administrative Board. Therefore, METU Library established an open access electronic thesis archive by making another breakthrough in our country.

Cevat Güven was appointed as the Director of Directorate of Library and Documentation in February 2007. Mr. Güven was elected to the board of directors of ANKOS (Anatolian University Libraries Consortium), founded by METU, in May 2007, and took place as a founding member during the association process of ANKOS on 27 January 2012; and he is still a member of the board of directors.

Smart gate applications started to be used to help the disabled benefit from the Library more effectively and devices connected to LCD screens were put into use for visually impaired users.

In 2011, the mobile library was started and access to library services and resources started to be provided via mobile phones. In the same year, Millennium's catalog scanning module was integrated with QR code, enabling direct access to catalog records via mobile phone. In library; the RFID system (LibREF) was established on December 14, 2011 in order to facilitate lending, collection management and security and inventory studies. Digital safe boxes for users were put into service in 2012.

The author workshop performed by the Library with the Computer Center was broadcast live for the first time. Within the lending service of the Library, the required infrastructure for payment of delayed fees by credit card or remotely was established and put into to service in 2013.

Self-check kiosks were put into service in 2015 to enable users to make lending transactions on their own. The periodicals in the main building of the Library were moved to the new archive building in 2015 and the publications started to be shared with faculties. As of March 2, 2015, the Reserve Section began to provide service to users on a 24 hours basis.

From April 2017 onwards, the closing time on weekends has been extended to 23:30 and the number of closed days on religious and public holidays has been reduced to allow users to benefit more from the library during academic semesters. From June 2017 onwards, the main building has been providing 24-hour service during the final examination period.