With a view with strengthening cooperation among the existing libraries in the government and private sectors of the country, extending reading facilities to the readers and popularising book reading habits of the citizens, February 05 has been declared National Library Day. The Public Library authorities and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs deserve praise for deciding to observe the day. The slogan of the day goes thus ‘let us read books and build up the country’. On February 05, 1954 the foundation stone of Public Library was laid and on the basis of it, the national library day has been declared the same day.
On the occasion of the day rally in the morning and in the evening seminar, symposium, reading circle, discussion and cultural functions were arranged in Dhaka National Museum Auditorium and district towns to highlight the significance of the day. The Ministry of Cultural Affairs runs 71 libraries in Dhaka, divisional towns, district towns and in two upazilas. BRAC Education Program also runs about three thousand libraries popularly known as ‘Gonokendras’ and five thousand adolescent centres that have reached to fourteen lakh readers. Different kinds of reading, academic and cultural activities go on all the year round in these centres of BRAC Education. Bishwa Shahitta Kendra has established six thousand libraries in the school premises. They have developed a network across the country where 90 lakh readers are included. British Council in partnership with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Public Libraries delivers a transformational project in the Public Library Service. The Libraries Unlimited project of BC seeks to improve public access to information and knowledge in Bangladesh. We have more libraries in the private sectors as well. We do hope through the declaration of the day, a good coordination and communication will take place among all sorts of libraries in the country to gear up the library related activities and introduce newer initiatives.
On the occasion of the day the president says in his message, “Libraries are the mirror of civilisation. There lies a close relation between the libraries and the education of mankind, their taste, culture and change. This is why it is said that libraries are the connecting link between the present and the past.” The Prime Minister says in her message, “Libraries are the storehouse of knowledge. They play a significant role to acquire knowledge, conduct research, bloom the sense and values of humans, practice cultural activities for enlightening men and ensuring the reading habits of people.” Really libraries have a great role to play to enlighten human mind and it is possible through reading books. Books give humans power of life, humans captivates knowledge in them. The readers are to undertake the trouble to choose quality books for reading. The present day world is flooded by e-book, internet, facebook and so many social media. Still the reading of hardcopy and paper books takes us to a different world and its taste is different from reading anything online. However, we must have alignment with this medium of books as well and on this day of ‘National Library Day’ we should settle the matter. We should be careful enough to send books to the libraries scattered across the country as low quality books may cause harm to the readers.
The secretary of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs says in his message on this day, “In developed countries libraries are like oxygen that is essential for living beings. The people of those countries make time to read books in spite of their being extremely busy.” Our government has taken several steps to make people read books. It really sounds good. The director of BRAC Education gives a message where he says, “The hope we rest on and also the probability we see in our young generation and also the anxiety we have for them can be relieved of if we can engage them in reading books. It can save the youth from the deterioration of values and morality. This is why books need to be piled in libraries so that readers can have their books according to their age and choice. It calls for increasing the number of books. Also different cultural activities should be introduced that will extend opportunities to the young boys and girls so that they can nourish their heart and mind.”
Kristy Crawford, Project Director, Libraries Unlimited, British Council said on this occasion Libraries really can change lives. They are often the only readily available source of comprehensive information needed by people for personal, family and job-related purposes.
They have health and well-being benefits, economic benefits, and they are safe spaces for people to meet, accessible to all.” The principal discussant of the day Abdullah Abu Sayeed said in his speech, “In the last ten thousand years humans have become successful to retain their knowledge through books that they could not do because of not inventing ‘letters’. They used to lose whatever they gained and achieved. The next generation could not learn what their previous generation did. “He also said ‘It is not easy to be a reader. It’s a difficult task to read books. Books need to be felt by our sixth sense, beyond our five organs. Real books are those that take the readers beyond their own limit. Songs can be heard through ears. It sounds sweet. Books may not be sweet like songs. To take the taste of books we must have sense beyond our existing senses. Books make our dream bigger and larger. Only one people out of ten can be a reader.’” If one of every ten people reads books, he/she is enough to bring about changes in the society. If we want to banish the ills from the society, we must read books. If want to remove the extremism from the society, we must read books. If we want to love our country we must read books. If we want to develop the country, we must read books. There lies no alternative to reading books.
The family that has a library and the members read books, those family members cannot get themselves engaged in extremism, uncultured activities. Families are the fundamental and first school of the society.
This school must be enriched with books and children should be encouraged to develop the habit of reading books. If we can do so, society will be liveable. We experience and observe with great remorse that the pupils of the highest educational institutions brandish them with lethal weapons and hockey-sticks to chase their fellow students. What a barbarous activity it is! Definitely these pupils didn’t have the opportunity to read books to enlarge their heart and enlighten their mind. We must have a vow to enlighten the society with real light of knowledge that will save the future generation from the deterioration of moral values. Today both students and guardians hanker after leaked questions. Why? They don’t believe in reality, they don’t believe in honesty, they are not enlightened with real light of knowledge.
The people who leak questions are not educated; they are just certificate holders, not real educated people. In order to be real educated, we must read books beyond our text books. Only text books cannot promise to build us complete human beings. It’s a matter of great sorrow that many teachers and guardians still believe ‘if their children read books beyond their texts, they will not make good results. So, it’s wastage of time.’ This serious wrong notion must be banished from the minds of teachers, students and guardians and from the society.
To cultivate the culture of real education, we must bring about a revolution in reading books. Books should be read in primary schools, secondary schools, colleges, universities, in any government and private organisation for building the nation. If people belonging to all level read books then the slogan of the day, ‘let us read books and build the nation’ will be materialised.
The writer works for BRAC Education Programme