METU library, which is also considered as a model with its concept of librarianship and has started to serve at full capacity, still has not been able to respond to the students’ need for workspace.
Conserving and spreading knowledge is as much a sacred and difficult process as it is to create and produce it. Libraries, the institutions where knowledge is most clearly conserved and spread, are also one of the most important elements of universities where knowledge is produced, conserved, and spread.
Middle East Technical University (METU), which has been one of the solely scientific institutions in Turkey since its establishment, also exists as a model with its concept of librarianship. Although libraries are perceived as institutions where source books are offered to researchers as a whole, they also meet the need for working space, which is one of the most basic requirements of all components within the university, by means of the workspace they offer. However, the lack of quality and number of study areas has become one of the biggest problems faced by students at Middle East Technical University today.
METU library is at full capacity
METU library, which serves as a working place with a capacity limited to 600 seats until the middle of the spring semester of 2021-2022 academic year, which is the first semester on campus after the pandemic, has got reactions of students not only with its lack of capacity, but also with insufficient measures against the risk of contamination. So much so that the only precaution taken against the risk of infection was a so-called measure by reducing the number of seats, which ranged from four to six, to two to four, but because of the overpopulation experienced in the library during the midterm and final periods, it could not prevent the students from being infected.
While 2021-2022 academic year had not yet started, it was announced in the decision taken by the rectorate that the working hours of the library would be between 09.00 and 18.00. Both undergraduate students, who can officially have class hours until 18.30, and all other components of the university showed a great reaction on social media and took the decision of protest in front of the rector’s Office and hence the rectorate rowed the decision back. However, this still could not solve the problem of the lack of workspace at Middle East Technical University. Middle East Technical University’s library, which started to serve at full capacity in the middle of the spring semester, still has not been able to meet the working space needs of students.
“Are the study halls enough?”
The Rectorate said, “The library is not the only place to study on the campus, there are also study halls and reading rooms of the faculties.”
G.A., a Middle East Technical University Electrical and Electronics Engineering student described the situation of study halls and reading rooms as follows:
“Our department is one of the luckiest departments in this regard because there are multiple study halls in the building that are actively used and the conditions are much better than the study halls in other department buildings, but it is quite inadequate for a department that receives 195 new undergraduate students every year. Although I tried to use it actively, I could not find a place and step in many times, and while I was looking for an alternative place to work, I found myself in private businesses on the campus; this situation pushes me into an even more distress when I am already in a financial hardship.”
Apart from the library and study/reading halls, the situation of working spaces inside the campus is not hopeful. Classrooms, which are places that can potentially be seen as workspaces outside the library and study/reading halls, are locked after a certain time and remain locked except for some department buildings on weekends. The fact that some department buildings remain locked outside of class hours, although some department buildings are kept open, is still another question mark. The areas that can meet the studying/reading space needs of people outside the department buildings consist of private enterprises, which also have various problems within themselves.
The cost of living, which has now become a harsh reality in Turkey, makes itself felt most deeply in these private businesses. Unfortunately, it is not possible for a student who gets a loan from Higher Education Student Loans and Dormitories Institution to stay in the dormitory with the lowest price, and study in these private businesses with 50 liras remaining in their pocket. These businesses, whose prices tripled on campus in just one year, is considered to create an alternative to the studying/reading area needs of the students, however, they fail to be a solution to this problem.
The students, for whom a room of only six square meters in the dormitories is deemed appropriate, even need a special area where they can work. The fact that Middle East Technical University, which has a surface area of 4500 hectares in terms of land, introduces itself as a CEO factory, and has such basic inadequacies, contains a great contradiction.
“All department buildings should be open”
O.B.T, an economics student at Middle East Technical University, says regarding the inadequacy of the study areas at the university, the facilities provided by the library and the situation:
“Even though our school is large, its study areas are unfortunately not enough for the student capacity it has. It is very hard to find a place in the library not only during the final or midterm semesters, but also in other days during the semester. In the final or midterm periods, it is not possible to find a place if a seat is saved early in the morning. In addition, if we try to create a working environment within the department buildings, we encounter various obstacles there. Although the buildings of some engineering departments are open in general, this is not the case for every other department building. I’m studying economics and our building is closed after 7 pm on weekdays and on weekends. Although some dormitory canteens are suitable for studying, the smell of food and, naturally, the noise of people prevent creating a suitable working environment. And the study halls in the dormitories seem to be sufficient in terms of capacity, however, they are not preferred by the students. The main reason for this is the inadequacy of the physical circumstances and the bad conditions. Therefore, we see that the working areas inside the dormitories do not create an alternative. As a solution to this inadequacy, the improvement of the conditions provided by the dormitories and the permanent openness of all department buildings should be feasible, considering the budget of an institution like Middle East Technical University.”
This inability of Middle East Technical University, which has always been known as one of the distinguished universities of Turkey and which has been envied both in Turkey and abroad throughout its history, in providing a study space makes a general picture of Turkey predictable. The fact that the students, who are trapped in a triangle of economic crisis, pressure on social life, and the academy, are faced with such an inadequacy, causes the youth, who is already in despair for various reasons, to be unable to see their future and even to give up on their dreams most of the time. The fact that students who have achieved a degree in the university entrance exam held every year face such a reality and their dreams succumb to economic and social difficulties also deeply effect the future of Turkey.