The Donkey Library

The fascinating story of a man who in the 1950s started a lending library in the Cappadocia region where he lived, but realizing that the villagers couldn’t easily travel to it, he decided to bring the books to them. (click here for the full essay)

…First [Mustafa Güzelgöz, who died in 2005] turned his hand to improving Ürgüp’s existing Tahsin Ağa Library before realizing the limitations of that for villagers with no easy means to reach it. That’s when he remembered the donkeys.

“Actually, the donkeys wouldn’t have been so special then,” his grandson, Hakan Güzelgöz, pointed out to me as I waxed lyrical over black-and-white images of animals standing patiently with panniers full of books on their backs. “Because of course everything — fruit, vegetables, everything — arrived by donkey then.”…

Just imagine. Back in the 1950s the donkey library network was circulating some 1,500 books a week to 40 villages (including Göreme, then Avcılar). But that wasn’t the extent of Mustafa Güzelgöz’s imagination. Realizing that women were unlikely to visit libraries at a time when their place was firmly in the home he also managed to source sewing machines to be placed in some of them, reasoning that if the women came to learn to use them for work reasons they would be exposed to the books at the same time. Accordingly, one of the most fascinating photographs shows women from Şahinefendi inspecting some shiny new Singer sewing machines….

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