The National Library Day 2021 is being celebrated today with the theme of building library at every home. In collaboration with the Department of Public Libraries (DPL) and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, all library professionals in Bangladesh have been celebrating National Library Day each year on 5th February since 2019.
The idea of the national library day observance has come to light after two years of non-stop advocacy of the library professionals. The Department of Public Library works as a focal body in this regard. Besides, the British Council, UNESCO, BRAC, LAB along with other eminent library professionals were involved with this movement. They pushed-forth a proposal to the cabinet division at Prime Minister’s Office justifying the importance of the Library Day to build a knowledge-based society.Finally considering the importance, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has approved it and declared that each year 5 February will be celebrated as The National Library Day of Bangladesh. Through this the Prime minister has shown respect to the library professionals who think of themselves as much marginalised professionals due to many reasons such as their salary, grade and social status. The people who work here feel discriminated.
This year the Ministry of Cultural Affairs Bangladesh along with the Bangladesh Library Association and other library professionals are going to organise colourful rallies, seminars, symposiums and cultural programmes in all districts including the capital Dhaka.
The foundation stone of the Central Public Library was laid on February 5, 1954. So, this day has been chosen to observe as National Library Day.
This year's celebration of National library day is different from other years’ because of two important reasons. One is “Mujib Borsho” and another is coronavirus pandemic. On one side the whole nation is observing a year-long celebration marking the 100th birthday of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the architect of independent Bangladesh. His birth centenary is also being celebrated all over the world in line with the initiative of UNESCO. On the other side, this is a new normal situation due to the pandemic. So the government has decided to hold many small-scale functions throughout the year to avoid any huge public gathering.
So celebrating The National Library Day in such a situation gives the right message that library should be present at every home. The slogan has rightly been chosen.
One may ask, what contribution had Bangabandhu made for the development of Library? I have good reasons for it. Firstly his nation-wide speech through Radio and TV in 1970 was fully complied with Ranganathan’s 5th law. Secondly, he has given special emphasis on college and school teachers’ salary which is still our concern. We are struggling to establish it in a proper manner. Thirdly, Bangabandhu’s vision was not to deprive any poor meritorious students of the opportunity to pursue higher education which is synonymous with education, which is not an opportunity; rather it is a right. We as library professionals feel very proud of his thoughts and policies regarding education and knowledge.Bangabandhu was not only a founder of the state but also a visionary leader, who wanted to make Bangladesh free from hunger, poverty and illiteracy. He dreamt of making Bangladesh a secular democratic country with a vision to make Sonar Bangla (Golden Bangla). To achieve such vision, Bangabandhu has given the highest priority to education. Let us go through Bangabandhu's Thought of Education and Policy Initiatives, only then we would realise his far-sightedness about education as well as the intention to create a knowledge-based society.
After the general election in 1970, Bangabandhu’s nation-wide address reveals the thought on it, as he mentioned,
“No investment is as vital for the healthy development of the society as in education..... Primary education is denied to more than half of the nation children. Only 18 per cent of our boys and 6 per cent of our girls complete first five years of elementary school. We believe that at least 4 per cent of the Gross National Product should be committed to education. The salary of the college and school teachers particularly school teachers must be substantially increased. Illiteracy must be eradicated. A crush programme must be launched to extend free and compulsory education to all children within 5 years. Secondary education should be made readily accessible to all sections of people. New universities including medical and technical universities must be rapidly established. Poverty should not be allowed to deprive meritorious boys and girls of the opportunity to pursue higher education.”
Do you think that Bangabandhu needed to address anything particularly on Library? I do not think so. Because library is in-built in each sentence of his address as library is the heart of the educational institutions. We believe that development without education bears no fruit, similarly education without knowledge has no root. There is no doubt that development is a product of education and library is the heart of the educational institutions from where people acquire knowledge. Library is the vast accumulation of knowledge and acts as a living apparatus. It preserves all the information of the past for use of the present generation and it creates a link between the past and present generation for the utilisation of information to the future generation.
Bangabandhu wanted to make Bangladesh a knowledge-based country eradicating illiteracy. From his address, it is clear that education must be free for all where everyone can access it without any distinction of occupation, creed, class or race. His declaration ‘new universities including medical and technical universities must be rapidly established’ completely complies with Ranganathan’s 5th law which is ‘Library is a growing organism’. New universities mean new libraries as well. So, it is a fact that Bangabandhu desired the expansion of education means the expansion of library. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that library is like the light. It extinguishes all kinds of darkness from the mind and heart of a recipient. It makes a person self-conscious, self-confident, creative and innovative and sensitises to one's surroundings or environment, imparts moral values, inculcates human virtues leading to develop a secular universal mind.
Not only the wisest among us, but even the layman of the society could also realise the importance of library as its demand has been expanding rapidly throughout the country after the declaration of the present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On the occasion of the Bangladesh Library Association Conference in 2012, she pointed out that library is the part and parcel of our everyday life. No educational institutions will be affiliated with the government if it has not a quality library with a professional librarian. Just after her declaration, Ministry of Education (MoE) has circulated a government order creating 28, 500 vacant posts for School, College and Madrahsa libraries throughout the country. They have fixed specific criteria that every candidate must have either Honours/Masters or Post-Graduate Diploma Degree in Library and Information Science from any recognised university or other educational institutions affiliated with the National University. It has brought radical changes in the current job market and the demand of the library profession got momentum. Thus, its demand side has been created. But the supply side is very deplorable due to not having the quality degree providing educational institutions available in Bangladesh. As of today, there are only three public and two 2 private universities which offer Bachelor and Master degree in Library and information Science out of 150. Around 200 students are coming out each year with this degree. Due to not having proper counselling, most of the students enrol here at Bachelor level ‘by chance’ not ‘by choice’.
Due to the consequences of the poor supply side, maximum professional positions are being occupied by unqualified people. Some dishonest people have established fake educational institutions for selling certificates. The less-qualified or even the people who are totally unaware of this discipline are entering into this profession. If these continue, the profession will simply be worst within a couple of years in the near future. The government and allied bodies need to take care of it.
No doubt, this discipline is quite different from others. In terms of its service pattern, it is fact that Library and Information Science is a technical subject that needs professional knowledge with a practical education. Without having a particular course curriculum and suitable logistics, achieving a proper degree is impossible.
Policymakers should come forward to monitor the issue strictly and LAB and other library professionals should enlighten how libraries of the future can be designed to deal with the problems of today.
If we could introduce the concept of ‘library everywhere’ and could ‘embrace the digital lifestyle in our everyday life’, the slogan of the Mujib Borso will succeed despite the pandemic.
The writer is Dean, National University Bangladesh and Professor, Dept. of Library and Information Science, National University Bangladesh.
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