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Turkish Trash Collectors Built a Library of Discarded Books

Over the past few months, a team of Turkish garbage collectors-turned-librarians have put a new spin on the term “trashy books.”

After months of rescuing discarded books from curbside refuse piles throughout Ankara, the Turkish capital, sanitation crews created a public library stocked with 6,000 pieces of literature. When residents learned about the project, they donated their own old paperbacks to the library, which opened in September inside an abandoned brick building owned by the sanitation department in Ankara’s Çankaya district.

"We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books. And when everyone supported it, this project happened," said Çankaya Mayor Alper Tasdelen told CNN. "Village school-teachers from all over Turkey are requesting books.”

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The public library features a children’s section and an array of books in English and French for bilingual visitors or those aspiring to learn a new language.

The library not only ensures more people have access to reading materials, it recycles a tremendous amount of paper that would otherwise swell Turkish landfills.

Read More: How Bill Gates Hopes $1.7 Billion Can Transform the US Education System

With one of the world’s highest literacy rates, Turkey certainly has an appetite for more libraries.

About 97% of Turkish citizens aged 15-24 can read and the country provides near universal primary school access, the United Nations reports.

Not all countries share Turkey’s commitment to education and literacy, however.

Though the world has a 91% literacy rate among young people, 115 million children still cannot read and write. Meanwhile, literacy rates vary based on country, gender, and socioeconomic status. In Iraq, which borders Turkey, just 73.7% of girls and women can read and write.

The situation is worse throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

In Nigeria, for example, fewer than 60% of residents over age 15 can read and write, and less than half of all girls and women are literate. In Mali, just 45% of the overall population and 22% of women and girls over 15 can read and write.

Global Citizen campaigns on the Sustainable Development Goals, including Quality Education, to ensure that all people can read, write and share opportunities. You can take action on these issues here.

Read More: These Libraries in Nigeria Are Helping Girls Learn by Giving Them Books — and Sanitary Pads

Fortunately, activists around the world have dedicated their lives to improving literacy rates and providing access to libraries and other education resources.

For example, New York City-based attorney Nguzo Ogbodo, founded an NGO that specializes in building libraries for children in Nigeria. Her organization, Hope and Dreams Initiative, has developed nine libraries at schools throughout her home country.

"I've traveled to places around the world and I know education is the most important thing in life,” Ogbodo told Global Citizen last year. “You don't have to give someone money to empower them, you just have to give them education.”