By Nilay Kar Onum and Burcu Arik
ISTANBUL (AA) – Istanbul, a sprawling city of 15 million people, will soon open its doors to the country's largest public library.
The historic Rami Artillery Quarters, built in the 1770s in Eyup district on the European side of the city, will be converted into a library with a capacity of 7 million books.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the project last week during a fast-breaking dinner in the capital Ankara. The project is also mentioned in the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s election manifesto.
“We are making efforts to encourage our generation to [read] books,” Erdogan said at an event in Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul on Sunday.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Coskun Yilmaz, provincial director of culture and tourism, said: "The plan is to construct Turkey's biggest library and book valley. Once [the project is] completed it will also be a candidate for the biggest library in the world."
The library will have reading rooms, exhibition halls, cafes, cinemas, and stores.
"There will be spaces inside where visitors can sit and spend long hours,” Yilmaz said.
The library will host a section for children and collectors, and hold books on art and the city.
A museum will tell visitors the history of books starting from the invention of paper, said Yilmaz.
The parking lot will have capacity of 1,250 vehicles.
The project, expected to cost 200 million Turkish Liras [$43.3 million], will open in 2020.
– Ankara's library project
Another giant library is planned for capital Ankara.
The Presidential Library is being built inside the presidential complex located in the Bestepe neighborhood of Ankara.
Speaking during a rally last week, Erdogan said the library whose construction started in the summer of 2016 will house 5 million books.
It will stay open for 24 hours, he added.
The library will have modern infrastructure and Ottoman and Seljuk architecture.
Turkish Librarians Association head Ali Fuat Kartal told Anadolu Agency: "It is such a nice move that the libraries with unique features are being built with the enriched collection."
When the construction is completed in 2019, the building will consist of separate sections for researchers, children, and students.
It will also enable researchers to access many of the world's leading libraries via digital connections and will be the presidential complex's third building which will be open to the public.
Kartal said the library would also offer employment opportunities for nearly 400 trained librarians.
Last April, presidential aide Ibrahim Kalin said the library would help enhance literacy levels in the country.
According to a 2017 report published by Turkish Statistical Institute, Turkey has around 29,000 libraries across the nation. It includes one national library, 1,137 public libraries and over 500 university libraries.