By: Matthew Ismail, Editor in Chief , Charleston Briefings and Conference Director, Charleston Conference
Against the Grain Vol. 33#4
ATG: Emre Hasan Akbayrak, would you please introduce yourself?
EHA: Thank you, Matthew. I first would like to thank you for this opportunity. My name is Emre Hasan Akbayrak. I was born in Samsun, Turkey, in 1968. I graduated from Samsun Anatolian High School in 1988 and then from Hacettepe University as a librarian in 1995. Since 2016, I have been the director of the Kadriye Zaim Library of Atılım University. Until 2015 I was the outreach librarian in Middle East Technical University. Between 2006 and 2015 I held the position of associate director. After that for a year, I was responsible for the Serials and E-Resources Department. From 2000 to 2005, I was a reference librarian. In 2005 I completed my Master’s Degree at Hacettepe University in the Department of Library and Information Science with a thesis entitled, “Service Quality Measurements at the Middle East Technical University Library.”
I have been proudly working and contributing to ANKOS (Anatolian University Libraries Consortium) in various positions since 2002. Since 2006, I have held different responsibilities for the Turkish Librarians’ Association, including as Vice President since 2012. I have been participating in library advisory boards with different international academic and scientific publishers. I have created a blog called bluesyemre.com in order to share my professional knowledge, experience and opinions.
I tend to use social media actively for both my profession and my personal interests. I have published with both international and national publishers. I closely monitor technological developments due to my interests, especially in artificial intelligence, machine learning, mobile technologies, digitization, and aspects of both tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
ATG: Please tell us something about the history of the modern Turkish university system so that we better understand the environment in which you work.
EHA: In Turkey, we have 209 universities which are recognized by the Council of Higher Education (YÖK). The 131 state universities include eleven technical, two fine arts, one technological institute as well as a Police Academy, a National Defense University and 78 private universities and 5 vocational schools.
University enrollments are established by means of an annual higher education exam and an average of three million students take this test every year.
The Turkish university system has been improving in recent years and parallel to this, the university libraries have been developing and growing both technologically and professionally in order to meet the specific needs of Generation Z.
The biggest challenge that the Turkish Libraries face is the currency fluctuations that occur while the collection development budget is being planned and proposed.
ATG: What were Turkish academic libraries like when you began your career compared to now? What’s changed most?
EHA: Of course when I first started in the librarianship profession, we mostly used print sources since electronic resources and databases were just becoming popular. We had many print academic and scientific journal subscriptions and they were very costly. We had to go to a tender bidding for these. Since the establishment of ANKOS (Anatolian University Libraries Consortium) in 2001, we began to establish Big Deals with publishers such as Elsevier, Springer and Wiley. Since we were acting together within ANKOS we were all getting better deals, particularly because the price increases were held within acceptable ranges and we had some relief on collection development budget planning.
Holding many different positions within Middle East Technical University, which is the founder of ANKOS, has given me great professional advantages throughout my career.
When I look at my twenty years of experience in the field, I would list these five career highlights:
A) Open Science – Open Access:
Since the Council of Higher Education in Turkey made it mandatory for all universities, Atılım University has established its open source – open access committee to comply with the requirement.
B) Open Institutional Archives [Institutional Repositories?]:
Open institutional archives are one of the most important recent developments. Turkish universities are playing an important role in depositing scientific outputs in open institutional archives in order to share their work with everyone.
C) Distance Learning and the Support of Libraries:
Distance learning has become very important, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Since the change in regulations that moved instruction online, university libraries have provided many archives and databases to all researchers until the end of 2020.
D) Library as a Third Place:
One of the strongest new ideas in librarianship is the library as a third place, whereby university libraries have sought to provide the best possible service and a comfortable and well-equipped environment for users. Kadriye Zaim Library of Atılım University has been providing services accordingly.
Makerspaces have gained popularity after 2010 in Turkey. Especially after emerging in university libraries, there has been a friendly competition among university libraries to provide makerspaces. One of the best examples is the makerspace area in the Information Center of Sabancı University which is a private university based in Istanbul.
ATG: What aspects of librarianship most interest you? What parts of librarianship do you think are losing their significance?
EHA: The areas that are of most interest to me are consortial arrangements, makerspaces, artificial intelligence software and programs, machine learning software and programs, and the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. City archives and digitization are the first topics that interested me in librarianship. In my opinion it is especially important in historically rich landscapes such as Turkey to preserve our cultural heritage for the following generations.
For the second part of your question: to be honest I don’t think any of the services provided by libraries will ever completely fade away, yet maybe some of the areas like print books, periodicals, and cataloging will in time lose their importance.
ATG: What are the particular challenges of collection development in Turkish libraries? What languages do you collect? What subjects are most popular with students and how do you prioritize your collection funding?
EHA: The main issue for Turkish University Libraries, when it comes to the collection development, is the currency fluctuations. The annual planning of the collection development budget is a constant hassle because of these fluctuations.
English is the primary resource language where the language of instruction is English. Atılım University also collects resources in Turkish, French, German and Arabic. Atılım University’s national and international programs in Law, Engineering, Medicine and Health are the strongest programs and those have been preferentially supported in our collection development.
At the beginning of each academic year, we distribute the collection development funds according to the number of publications in the various departments. Collection decisions are prioritized according to the needs and interests of generation Z so that we can support both their personal and academic growth.
ATG: Is open access a priority in your university and/or your library? How do you deal with issues around scholarly communication?
EHA: As I mentioned before, the Council of Higher Education of Turkey has made open access – open science a precondition for funding among universities. Two years ago Atılım University started an open access – open science committee and we have been supporting the ability of researchers and academics to obtain their ORCID and ResearcherID, uploading their works to institutional repositories, as well as helping them to participate in international collaborations by signing different protocols and deals.
It is important for us to become involved in international scholarly communication projects. During the last three years, we have been using the inCites database to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our university in order to maintain our both national and international competativeness. With the academic reinforcement program we have been using, we have observed an annual increase of articles published especially in WOS and Scopus.
ATG: Do you have consortia arrangements? Read and publish deals? If you could change anything about your relation to publishers, what would that be?
EHA: In order to generate support for open access publishing, ANKOS and Cambridge University Press have made an open access agreement. According to this deal any ANKOS researcher can publish their article free of charge in Cambridge’s gold and hybrid journals. In addition to this deal with Cambridge, ANKOS members also gained the right to publish five free articles with IGI journals. We hope to establish similar deals and arrangements with other academic publishers in the near future.
If I could change anything regarding the relationships with publishers, it would be to have a better communication network. Academic publishers all have different customer relation approaches which sometimes puts librarians in difficult situations. For instance, every time a change of representatives occurs within a publisher, it automatically requires a lot of personal effort via emails to get to know the new person.
On the other hand, I think publishers could acquire more new clients with better marketing strategies and better communication to keep up with the new era that we are in.
ATG: Have Turkish libraries been hit financially by the COVID crisis?
EHA: Like all the other professional areas, of course, university libraries were also affected by COVID 19. We are hoping that vaccines will lead to a healthier and more normal Fall semester in 2021. We all need to overcome and heal the negative social consequences due to the fear of COVID-19.
By addressing aspects of COVID-19, private universities will have a chance to test their financial capabilities. The university publicity days, which are going to be held in August of this year, will have more value than ever before in recruiting new students at the universities.