Public Library Campaign “Cholo Gronthagare Cholo, Dekhi Somvabonar Alo”

TLT, 26 August 2019

The British Council’s Libraries Unlimited Programme and the Department of Public Libraries have jointly initiated a year-long Public Library Campaign- “Cholo Gronthagare Cholo, Dekhi Somvabonar Alo” (Let’s visit the libraries to explore the possibilities) through a soft launch event earlier this year at the Sufia Kamal National Public Library in Dhaka.

So far, the campaign has taken place in three district government public libraries of Rangpur, Cox’s Bazar and Narayanganj. We have welcomed dynamic debaters, creative artists, fascinating storytellers, builders, youths from different communities, women, children and elderly people to the campaign.

Around 5000 direct participants have been engaged through a variety of competitions and discussion sessions. Around 2,70,000 more people were reached through pre and post-campaign activities. In collaboration with the Department of Public Libraries, the Libraries Unlimited Programme is going to implement this Public Library Campaign across twenty-five districts of Bangladesh. The campaign aims to promote the new services available in the Government Public Libraries of Bangladesh, such as learning to code with the Kano computer and micro:bit, building figures using toy bricks and ensuring proper utilisation of WiFi access and computer facilities.

The Public Library Campaign also aims to help define new roles and responsibilities of people around libraries, facilitating conversations on the role of the libraries in expediting community engagement. The private sectors are now reconsidering their role in supporting the public libraries and micro-entrepreneurs are discussing the role public libraries can play in supporting their ventures. Women, youth and children are finding themselves closer to their libraries than ever before.

An increase in the number of readers has already been reported in these three libraries after hosting the Public Library Campaigns. During the discussion sessions with the youths, it has been found that they were visiting the libraries for the first time through these campaigns, and among these youth over 60% were female.

The Libraries Unlimited is looking forward to the upcoming Public Library Campaigns in the rest of the districts.


Computer coding and programming is bringing more readers to the government public libraries of Bangladesh

TLT, 26 August 2019

As a part of ensuring free access to children to learn 21st-century skills and get creative with coding, the British Council Libraries Unlimited Programme is offering free coding classes in 64 government libraries of Bangladesh. With the inclusion of this, more children are now coming to the libraries. Young students in uniforms of the hilly Bandarban district of South-Eastern Bangladesh are seen leaving the District Govt. Public Library of Bandarban after just having learned computer programming and drawing pictures through coding for the first time. Mashwe Thui Chak, Librarian, District Government Public Library, Bandarban said “People who never came to libraries before are now getting familiar with the services of public libraries after they attended coding workshops.”

The Libraries Unlimited (LU), a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded project and implemented by the British Council, aims to modernise the public libraries of Bangladesh across all 64 districts and improve public access to information and knowledge.

Like the Bandarban workshop, LU has already engaged over 2000 children in coding through 20 workshops organised in between September 2018 to July 2019. The responses of these workshops have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

Sumaya, one of the participants at the Munshiganj Govt. Public Library workshop stated, “I really want to be a part of more workshops like this in future”. Era, another participant of one of the coding workshops in District Govt. Public Library, Cox’s bazar said, “Coding is something very new to me. I really loved it and I will visit the public library again.” The workshops have always been filled with children of different age groups, and a survey among the participants found that 99% said they would visit the library more often if activities like these were available.

These coding workshops helped to initiate relationship building between the librarians and the participants. One of the participants from Cox’s Bazar, Md Zubair who is a science student of 11 class in a local college, was introduced to the librarian of District Government Library of Cox’s Bazar, Mr Hrishikesh Paul by the British Council. There Zubair expressed his interest in volunteering for coding classes in the future with his friends. This motivated Mr Paul to initiate the formation of a coding club at the District Government Library in Cox’s Bazar. He stated, “Through this coding club we will be providing free coding classes to the members of this library twice in a week.” Within only a month, 20 new members registered for the club activities and library memberships.

Director-General of the Department of Public Libraries, Ms. Jahanara Pervin stated “The British Council is supporting us with computer and ITC skills and coding is a part of enhancing the creative learning among the children. I hope that coding will bring more people to libraries.”

Coding is one of the many initiatives being introduced by Libraries Unlimited to broaden the scope of services available in the public libraries of Bangladesh. It is expected that at least 1,75,000 unique library users will be benefitted from these devices by 2020. The British Council is determined to introduce more projects like this to increase the correlation between the UK and Bangladesh.