Emancipation through Knowledge
Promiti Prova Chowdhury
Photos: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
According to Mahbub ul Haq, the pioneer of the Human Development Theory (HDP), and the founder of the Human Development Report (HDR), “….The most basic capabilities for human development are to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community. Without these, many choices are simply not available, and many opportunities in life remain inaccessible…..” When access to resources is a parameter to determine human beings' intellectual development, libraries can play a huge role in an underprivileged society like ours.
Libraries ensure one's easy access to resources.
Unfortunately, the tendency of going to a library and spending time there seems to have decreased among the students and young people these days. Sanjana Rahman, who is pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Media Studies and Journalism at University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) says, “I had a membership in Bishwo Shahitto Kendro Library when I was young. After getting into university, I never went there and my membership also expired.” When asked why she doesn't go there anymore, she answered, “I do read books but I buy the ones that I need from Nilkhet. It's cheaper than pushing the traffic all the way to the library. There is a well-furnished library at my university as well. But I go there only before examinations.”
Though insufficient in number, there are some libraries in Dhaka which can be utilised by the students and young people, if intended. Let's have a sneak peak of what these libraries have to cater.
A calm and soothing atmosphere to concentrate in reading.
The Central Public Library at Shahbag intersection in Dhaka is a place where you can go anytime and delve into the world of knowledge, irrespective of which age, social class or race you belong to. The library has two sections--one is called the Begum Sufia Kamal National Public Library which is the largest public library in Bangladesh, another one is the Shishu Kishore Pathkokkho, for children aged below 16 years. With the slogan porile boi alokito hoyi, na porile ondhokar e royi (Through reading books, I am enlightened, otherwise I remain in darkness), the Central Public Library has a collection of 1, 87,000 books and a capacity to serve 2500-3000 readers. One can use online facilities provided by the Robi Internet Corner situated inside the library, free of cost. It is open from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, from Saturday to Thursday. The library has books on Philosophy, Religion, Natural Science, Logic, Math, Astronomy, Physices, Chemistry, Earth Science, Medical Science, Engineering, Zoological Science, Agriculture, Home Economics, Accounting, Management, Botany, Family Living and much more. It has a prayer zone as well. However, some students complain about the unavailability of current books in the library. Tania Parvin is a student of Masters in Sociology at University of Dhaka. She says, “I come to this library regularly because it has a suitable atmosphere for studying. But, unfortunately, it lacks in providing a good collection. The authority should try to update the collection. Moreover the internet speed is very dissatisfactory.”
Md Zillur Rahman, Deputy Director, Department of Public Libraries, says, “It is not possible to meet all the needs of the students because this is a public library not a university library. Our target is to serve the mass people. Though we have limitations, we are working on a project to upload four lakh pages of newspapers in the archive of our website. We have a rich collection of illustrious newspapers and magazines from the old times till today. Like, Doinik Ajad, International Herald Tribune, Newsweek, Time etc. While we are weeding out some, we are bringing the new versions of books on different subjects, reference books, journals etc.” The Central Public Library remains open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm on all days except Fridays and national holidays.
A fine collection of DVDs in a library is something the young people look for.
Young people are benefitted by the modern facilities provided by some libraries.
If you want to improve your skills in English in a facilitated environment then British Council Resource Centre is the perfect place for you. It is a unique place with a large collection of materials on various subjects including English literature, contemporary fiction, management and business, IT, the arts, information about contemporary United Kingdom, lifestyle and many more. If you belong to the age group of 4-15, then you can get the yearly Young Learner's membership, and if you are above the age of 15 then you can avail membership in three categories--for three months, six months, or 12 months. If you are a member in the second two categories, then you can borrow books (including IELTS materials), back issues of periodicals, DVDs, etc. In a soothing atmosphere, you can enjoy free access to internet up to one hour in the Cyber Zone and one free hour (per day) access to Listening Practice Zone. The other services include study skill seminars, speaking and conversation practice session, film of the week conversation, counselling session and group discussion, English on web workshops, basic IT and internet training, and reader's development activities through partner institutes. The amount of different membership fees ranges from Tk 1200 to Tk 2000.
|Creating your own space.
Md Fahad Siddique comes to the resource centre five to six days a week. He is studying British Law at the University of London and has been a member of the British Council Resource Centre for a month. “This centre is rich in terms of journals and books related to my field of study. At the same time I am practicing IELTS here as it is my third year in university and I plan to go to London to complete Bar-at-Law,” says Fahad. Another member, Azwad Ur Rahman, says, “I come here almost five days a week. I like watching films and this place has a rich collection of British films. So I often borrow DVDs from here.” Azwad has passed HSC from Notre Dame College this year.
The vrammoman (mobile) library was initiated for the first time in Bangladesh in 1998 by Bishwo Shahitto Kendro (World Literature Centre). Till today it is the only mobile library running in Bangladesh. “People do not want to go to libraries for various reasons. Most of our libraries are outdated; people have difficulties in travelling from one place to another. So the reading habits of people are fading away, day by day. As a solution to these problems and to encourage reading, the mobile library was formed,” says Mizanur Rahman, Assistant Coordinator, Programme and Library, Expansion of Mobile Library Project, Bishwo Shahitto Kendro (BSK). There are 42 cars in total which visit 42 spots inside Dhaka. Every week one car reaches one spot at a specific time and waits for 1-2 hours. These cars also visit 1700 spots all over the country. The cars come in four sizes--small, small-medium, medium, and large containing 4000, 7000, 11000 and 17000 books. When a car halts at a spot, it plays its signature tune of the song 'alo amar alo ogo aloy bhubon bhora' to alarm people about its presence. You can get a membership and borrow books on the spot. All you need is to fill up a form and pay Tk 100-200 as refundable security money. “Our survey says that we have over 1 lakh readers and 42,000 regular readers. The members have to submit a report on what they have read at the end of each month. The regular members get involved with other activities of Bishwo Shahitto Kendro as well and spread the word about the mobile library to their friends and families. In this way the number of our readers is increasing everyday,” states Mizanur Rahman.
The Young Learners' Corner at the British Council Resource Centre.
M D Rezaul Karim, a student of fourth year in the Department of Statistics at Jagannath University, is a member of the mobile library. “The mobile library is a comparatively new concept in Bangladesh but it meets my thirst for reading with its fine collection. It is fun to have the library coming to your own locality every week! Every week you are getting a new book and returning the old one. It is like you are in a continuous flow of reading.”
In this digital age, people are more able to grasp information anytime at an unthinkable speed. And because of this, information is becoming decentralised, and libraries seem less important. But in a country like ours where only 3.5% of the total population have access to the internet, a well-stocked library is undoubtedly an asset. So set your soul free in a library--the store house of knowledge.
Mobile library of BSK, running to facilitate the habit of reading in every corner of Bangladesh.