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History of the Library

In 1863 when Robert College was founded by Dr. Cyrus Hamlin, the library’s book stock, housed in an old building at Bebek, consisted of 200 books that were donated by Harvard University. The sum of $2.000 allocated for book acquisitions by Professor Henry Albert Schauffer contributed to the expansion of the library’s collection.

By 1871 when the College moved to its present south campus at Hisar, the number of books had reached 5.000. In 1873, one of the rooms in Hamlin Hall served as the College library, and in 1897 Mr. Kaspar Tüygil was appointed as Head Librarian by President Caleb Gates, under whose office the first floor in Albert Long Hall became the library’s new site. Books that were kept in college rooms and buildings across the campus were gathered under one roof, and for the first time a registration, cataloging, and lending system were put in place. The steadily rising collection which prompted in the spring of 1931 the construction of Van Millingen Hall that was to become the College’s library building was completed in 1932. A five-storey building, Van Millingen Hall was constructed – just as other college buildings were at the time – from blue limestone at the cost of 75.000 dollars. Half of this sum was provided as a gift by the widow of late President John S. Kennedy, who had served as the Director of the Board of Trustees.

Alexander Van Millingen (1840-1915) after whom the library was named was an eminent scholar and author of several books on Byzantine monuments in Istanbul and was also a Professor of History at Robert College. In his will he instructed that his entire collection of books and 1.000 British pounds be given to the library. The hall, which was originally built exclusively as a library, subsequently accommodated the office of the President and became available for Faculty meetings. Up until early 60s, the main reading room of the library was located in this Hall. During Mr. Tüygil’s office, the collection reached a total of 40.000 books. By 1971, when the Boğaziçi University was established, this number had exceeded 100,000. Unable to house the collection, in 1983, the library was moved to its present location on the North Campus. In Van Millingen Hall, except for a few back issues of periodicals, located on the top floor of the building that serve as a reminder of its former function, the building is used by the University Administration and the Rector’s offices.

The library collection reached 231,000 books in 1990 and approximately 285,000 in 1995. Since 1995, many technological advances in library services were swiftly introduced including state-of the-art hardware and software, as well as measures to improve efficiency in the provision of services to the readers. Since then, the collection has been steadily grousing, and book donations made to the library have shown a significant increase. In 2004, the collection held by the library reached 452.000. The present library which in 1999 was named after the university’s founding rector Aptullah Kuran, finds itself once again short of space as a result of the fact that specialised collections have been formed and also because of the increase in the number of books and readers.

The library, assisted by the academic staff, continues to acquire the most recent publications and contemporary works. The Rare Books Collection on the other hand houses a collection in excess of 20.000 books and printed material dating from the 16th to the 20th century. With the exception of the Rare Books Collection, the open-shelf system adopted by the library enables readers to have access to the library’s entire collection. The Near-Eastern Collection houses historical, cultural, linguistic and literary works that focus particularly on Turkey and neighbouring countries as well as the Ottoman Empire. Another collection that no other library in Turkey has is that of the US Historical Archives consisting of 2.500 rare books and other documents that date back to the 18th century.

The wear and tear that inevitably the books and journals have suffered through frequent use are regularly subject to restoration in the Library’s Binding and Restoration Department. Existing books and those that have recently been acquired are protected by custom-made equipment and by original techniques employed for the very first time in bookbinding. The Library has the largest Braille collection across Turkey for the benefit of its blind readers and provides an extensive service for students with impairments.

The Library no less than 9 distinct collections, strives to ensure, with the help of the university staff and friends of the Library, that readers have access to research material by means of tracking developments, whether it be in respect of electronic journals, internationally cited sources or software developed specifically for library use.


Head Librarians

Kaspar Tüygil 1897-1952   Mary Hoffman 1973-1979
Anne Field Jones 1952-1959   Heath Lowry 1979-1980
Lee Ardon Fonger (v.) 1959-1960   Nurten Çakır 1980-1983
James Van Luik 1960-1963   Ender Altuğ 1983-1995
Annie Scott Duren (v.) 1963-1965   Taha Parla 1995-1998
Lee Ardon Fonger 1965-1969   Gün Kut 1998-2002
Ruth Bradley 1969-1971   Hatice Ün 2003-2017
Tekin Aybaş 1971-1973   Zeynep Metin 2017-