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Writer: Yavuz İşçen
July 2007

The story of Mustafa Güzelgöz, a secondary school graduate born in Ürgüp in 1921, started with his assignment to the Tahsinağa Library in 1944, a time of famine and poverty in Anatolia. It is actually incredible that there was a library in Ürgüp in the years of the Second World War, at a time when even a loaf of bread was rationed.

Hand-written books being dried under the sunlight
The Tahsinağa library, which was founded in 1855 with 817 books, was first located in a single room in a domed building on Temenni Hill. The year Mustafa Güzelgöz was assigned here there were 2300 books in the library. After his assignment the first thing he did was to rescue these books from the damp by drying them out page by page under the sun and repairing them. Mustafa Güzelgöz made a great effort to increase the number of books in the following years as well as trying to establish a bigger library in Ürgüp. After meeting many obstacles he succeeded and in 1952 when the new building of Tahsinağa Library was built the books were carried here in a cart pulled by oxens.

Cultural advance with the help of a donkey
Mustafa Güzelgöz believed that making progress starts with educating the villagers and for this reason he wanted to take books to the villages at any cost. His solution was using chests that can hold 100 books and delivering them to the villages on donkeys, and revisiting these villages 15 days later to change the books. However to achieve this, he needed one civil servant and four or five donkeys. So he went to Ankara in 1957. He virtually begged the General Director of Libraries to be able to get the necessary staff but he was expelled from the Director's room. He couldn't accept this insult and started crying by the door. In the end, the Director felt sorry for him and gave him the staff he asked for.

The Legend of the Librarian with a Donkey
Mustafa Güzelgöz reached the villages where he couldn't establish a library such as Karlık, Yeşilöz, and Agaçören. The villagers called him “the librarian with a donkey”. He became well-known in all the villages in a short time, and his visits were eagerly looked forward to. As the number of books increased, he increased the number of delivery animals from one to ten including five donkeys, two mules and three horses. In a short time he formed a large delivery web with 36 villages.
He kept working with great determination like a missionary. Although he wasn't interested in fame, he became more and more famous. When some librarians from the United States and England came to view his work, they were amazed by what they saw. To be able to understand the degree of his success, it is enough to say that the number of books he delivered to the villages of Ürgüp in 1961 was equivalent to a third of all books borrowed from libraries in Turkey in 1990.

The most creative person of the world in 1963
He became the winner of  “the most creative people of the world” competition that was held in the United States in 1963. After this success many people donated books to him in Turkey. The same year, an American Peace Volunteers Institution presented him with a jeep as a gift. Later on in 1967, he was presented with a pick-up truck as a gift by the American Ambassador.

Early retirement
After the military strike in Turkey in 1971, even a librarian with a donkey seemed harmful to the new military command. In 1972 the Ministry of Education sent an inspector. The inspector required Mustafa Güzelgöz's resignation with the excuse of ignoring his real job of being a librarian and getting involved in unnecessary activities. Even though Güzelgöz didn't think he deserved such a treatment, he couldn't find anyone to support him under the regime of those years. When he resigned in 1972, there were 200,000 books in the library. Even this number is enough to tell the dimension of his works.

We lost “The librarian with a donkey” when he was 84
His loss was announced briefly in some of the newspapers dated February 17th 2005. Perhaps he left broken heartedly like other writers or poets whose values we didn't appreciate enough. A deep sadness surrounds us, when we are sitting in the study hall which carries his name, looking at the books he left behind. Goodbye Mustafa Güzelgöz, goodbye “the librarian with a donkey”.

Note: This article has been published in Peribacası Cappadocia Culture and Publicity Magazine, July 2007 issue. It is under protection of the copyrights of the magazine. No part of this article may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by electronic, mechanical or other means without prior permission from the owner.


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