“A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft, and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination.”
- Caitlin Moran
The other day my editor assigned me to cover a story on a library located in an area (Beraid) near Badda. At first I was not sure what to do as the area was not familiar to me. However when I was on my way to the library I came to discover that it was so remote an area and so far from the capital. I was totally shocked to find out that there was a time when people used to go there by boat. For me the idea of establishing a library in such an area was beyond my thoughts, let alone making it a fully functional one. When I arrived there, I saw a small shabby room, slightly disorganized, filled up with several bookshelves. At that time local boys and girls, and others of the vicinity were reading books and newspapers. Despite the fact that the library is not well constructed, there is no denying that such an initiative deserves some appreciation and limelight as well.
At the age of sixteen in 1981, Emdad Hossain Bhuiyan (a journalist by profession) thought of doing something for the people living in the community so that they get enlightened. With that in focus he established a library, out of personal initiative and eagerness, in the same year. Later on, the library got registered as ‘Beraid Gonopathagar’ with the Department of Public Libraries under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. In 1985, they formed ‘Beraid Grontho Shurid Samity’. From then onwards, Emdad, the initiator of the library, did not have to look back.
However as simple as it may seem, actually the journey was not easy at all. Emdad Hossain Bhuiyan had to face a lot of obstacles to ensure the smooth journey of the library and persuade others to come to the library and read books. He shared, “People did not receive the idea of beginning a library in a village warmly. They threw different abusive words at me and some of them even labeled me as a ‘crazy man’. However I did not stop because of their taunts.”
Well, the situation has taken a complete reverse now after all these years. People are now very much aware of the benefits of having such a library in an area. Emdad went on to say, “With the passage of time, negative words have turned into words of appreciation. Now I can feel the respect and support of the common people.” When asked about his intention behind taking such an initiative, he retorted, “Reading habit should be developed from home, then from school. After that, a library can help the common readers. I have built this library to motivate mass people to read books. Apart from this, youths are often diverted to negative things (such as drug addiction) owing to the lack of enough extra-curricular activities in the community. So, I thought that a library can keep youths content with their lives.” When it comes to managing such a place, the question of funding automatically pops up in our mind. Emdad said about funding, “I run this library with the help of my family contribution. At the moment I am not receiving any financial contribution from anyone. However AKM Rahmatullah, the representative from our constituency, nurtures very positive attitude towards this library and he even once donated Tk. 50,000 for buying books.”
After overcoming all the impediments the library has now turned into a hub for almost two hundred teachers and six thousand students of eleven educational institutions located nearby. They can read any book from its collection of almost 3000 books. There are books on myriads of genres such as literature, liberation war and science. Book lovers come here and read whatever they want. They can also read national dailies kept in the library. According to the librarian, everyday the library remains open from 9 am to 9 pm for the readers and on an average as much as one hundred readers visit this library.
Meanwhile Emdad Hossain Bhuiyan and other people related to the library take different initiatives with a view to motivating readers and local people. For example- they provide free membership card to the enthusiastic people and students so that they feel encouraged to read books regularly. Moreover they have kept a provision of borrowing books from the library if anyone wants to read books at the comfort of home. Apart from that ‘Beraid Grontho Shurid Samity’ arranges readers’ conference and teachers’ conference to enlighten the readers. For instance- a programme styled as ‘Literature Lecture Series - 2’ was arranged in 2017 to discuss the trends of contemporary literature. They also arrange reading competition and the best readers are awarded. Many of their best readers have already made their marks in different fields.
In short, started off as a personal initiative ‘Beraid Gonopathagar’ has earned repute among people from all walks of life dwelling in that area. However Emdad Hossain Bhuiyan, the man behind such a noble idea, has something more far-reaching in mind. Under the banner of this library he envisions a greater stage where all the private and public libraries of the country can be brought under a single platform.