Sufia Kamal National Public Library, better known as central public library, at Shahbagh in the capital is failing to attract researchers and common readers for various reasons, including lack of enough facilities.
The library is far away from fulfilling the demand of researchers as it could not adapt to contemporary knowledge on various disciplines and it also has no separate space or proper environment for conscious readers.
During a recent visit to the library, it was found that reading rooms were dominated by job seekers while no senior citizens and researchers were found inside the library.
Md Jamal Hossain, a regular visitor to the library since 2019, observed that the seniors were not visiting the library due to an abnormal competition among the job seekers to grab seats.
“Most of the visitors to the library are job seekers who come for taking preparations for recruitment tests. Most of the 500 seats are grabbed by them. Sometimes chaos is created over grabbing seats. The senior citizens and researchers are hardly seen in the library,” he said.
Habibur Rahman, a job seeker and regular visitor to the library hailing from the capital’s Chankarphul area, made a similar observation.
“Before the pandemic, it was tough to manage a seat in the library. We had to come before daybreak to get a seat here. Now, most of the seats remain vacant but still the researchers and senior citizens are not seen in the library,” he said.
Noted researcher and chairman of Centre for Urban Studies Prof Nazrul Islam said he last visited the library when he was a teacher of Geography department at Dhaka University long ago. “Senior citizens don’t go there as the environment of the library is not congenial to them. I study in my own library. I have an assistant to find books and newspapers but the facility is not available in the public library,” he said.
He observed that researchers were not going to the library as it was not organised to meet their demand. “The public library should have books for both the common readers and researchers. But the authorities don’t organise the library for researchers. They keep some novels, short story compilations and biographies and books on history, but books on urban issues like urbanisation, urban planning and regional development are not available,” Prof Nazrul added.
He said he suggested that his students and co-researchers visit the library of Bangladesh University of Science and Technology and Bangladesh Institute of Planners which have a rich collection of advanced books and journals. “Researchers and students go to the library where books on relevant subjects are available. Therefore, they like seminar libraries where they can get reference books, collection of thesis papers and latest journals,” he said.
Professor of Political Science department at Dhaka University Dr Gobinda Chakraborty said the library is failing to meet the demand of researchers. “New subjects and disciplines are flourishing all over the world and a new realm of knowledge is being created through advanced research. We have no collection of advanced contents of knowledge. Earlier, the research topic was the government, then governance and now it is governmentality,” he said.
“The gathering of job seekers is growing in size and we need more space for others. The library needs to fulfill the taste of readers from all classes,” Dr Gobinda added.
He urged the authorities to consider the demand of readers of all types for enhancing the space and improving the environment.
Talking to the Daily Sun, Director General of the Department of Public Libraries Md Abubakar Siddique said, “We’ll build a 10-storey building demolishing the existing library to enhance the space and modernise the services to attract more readers. We’ll add all the facilities to the new library building that the researchers and readers are seeking now.”
“We’ll enrich our reference section with advanced books, international journals and magazines and it’ll be separated from the common readers’ room with digital facilities. We’ll enhance the space of the reading room as well,” he said.
Librarian Md Shaheedul Alam said the library has now 2.93 lakh books on various subjects. It also offers the readers 14 Bengali and English newspapers, and 14 English and Bengali periodicals.
“Alongside the collection of huge books, we offer numerous facilities to our readers, including providing photocopies of books and articles, free internet service, food and water and adequate number of toilets. We have also a children’s corner,” he said.