9 December 2017
Emptying Libraries Weakens Democracy – IFLA Statement on the Destruction of Library Books in Turkey
The below statement was agreed by the IFLA Executive Committee on 5 December 2017:
IFLA is deeply concerned by the announcement of the destruction of 140 000 books held by public-controlled libraries in Turkey1.
As established in IFLA’s Statement on Libraries and Intellectual Freedom, decisions on the selection and availability of library materials and services should be governed by professional considerations and not by political, moral and religious views. Such broad and indiscriminate withdrawals of books from libraries risks challenging the principle that the right of freedom of access to information should be guaranteed in all but the most extreme circumstances. While such freedoms may not be absolute, any restrictions should be applied in a targeted and proportionate manner. This does not seem to be the case in Turkey.
IFLA also regrets the exclusion and destitution of librarians working at those establishments of higher education which have been closed. Preventing skilled information professionals from doing their jobs can only impoverish society as a whole, as they are unable to fulfil their mission to meet the human need – and right – to share information
Turkey successfully resisted an undemocratic coup attempt in 2016. It is therefore regrettable to see the government weakening, rather than strengthening democracy, by damaging the institutions and services that help uphold and sustain it.
1. See, in particular, Hurriyet Daily News (16 October 2017) 140,000 books collected from Turkish libraries over ‘Gülenist propaganda’ (link), Asianews.it (13 October 2017) 139K books removed from 1,142 public libraries since failed coup: ministry (link), dw.com (14 November 2017) Books come under suspicion in post-coup Turkey (link).