Changing character of central public library

Dhaka,  Wed,  23 August 2017
Published : 20 May 2017, 20:58:05

Changing character of central public library

A recent FE photograph of the frontal view of the Central Public Library in Dhaka stands out with its hitherto-unknown character. It shows the desperate attempts by young readers to ensure a place in the library's reading room much before it opens. The photo shows a long snaking line of bags kept on the ground purportedly to work as proof of the readers' presence on the queue. This daily scene, barring holidays, in front of the city's central public library is undoubtedly extraordinary.

The unusual quality of the view carries several elements to ponder on. The prime one is the youths entering the library in crowds are not driven by the pleasure of reading. The sole objective of their visit to the place is, reportedly, taking preparations for different written examinations for jobs including Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS). The library-goers include mostly the fresh Masters-completing students from Dhaka University and a few colleges. The library is currently said to be well stocked with guidebooks and reference publications. This advantage, coupled with the quiet atmosphere, plays a significant role in drawing job-seeking youths to the library. Creative, academic and scholarly books once dominated its collection. Perhaps, their presumed relegation to a secondary position speaks a lot about the dictates of time. After all, libraries have played a great role in the growth of civilisations. In spite of its being the centre of different branches of learning, treating a library as a mere source of functional knowledge and ready references may point to a change in its original character. In Bangladesh context, the new trend may have far-reaching implications vis-à-vis readership in general.

The rush of career-conscious educated youths to the country's largest public library throws focus on another factor. The young university graduates these days look for secure and well-paid jobs in larger numbers than in the past. Of the many, the Civil Service occupies the most dominant area in the preferences. The times of being in government jobs with modest pay and perks after qualifying in competitive examinations are over. The employment under different BCS cadres has lately emerged more lucrative than that in the private or multinational sector. The chief reason the youths are increasingly being attracted to superior service jobs is the wide social acceptance. After a couple of spectacular salary hikes as per pay scales, these government jobs are now unanimously considered highly sought-after. Besides, there is a widespread suspicion that many are attracted by the scope for indulging in corruption. That the middle and lower middle class people will rush for these jobs is quite axiomatic.

In grooming efficient Civil Service officials and other employees, libraries play a critical role indisputably. But libraries have traditionally functioned as a trusted retreat for book lovers, intent on expanding their horizon of scholarship. The rush of aspiring civil servants to the central public library is obviously prompted by a cogent fact: the absence of big libraries that can help them in their exam preparations. Against this backdrop, the need for specialised libraries comes to the fore. In accordance with the need of the career-conscious youths, these knowledge centres ought to be equipped with myriad types of reference books complete with easy-accessible internet facilities. The library authorities' proposal to the Planning Commission to provide funds for turning it into a 13-storey complex merits serious consideration. In an expanded space, readers of all types can find their preferred books and informative materials. The crowding out of genuine book lovers by coincidental readers may lead to a kind of intellectual hiatus.      

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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