Library education in Bangladesh: strengths, problems, and suggestions.

Author:Rahman, A.I.M. Jakaria


Libraries are important social institutions. No community is considered complete without a library. The spread of democracy, the extension of education, the intensification of research activities, and the rapid increase in the production of recorded knowledge, have led to the enormous expansion of libraries and the development of their services. The communication of ideas is one of the most significant achievements in the cultural development of the human race. The library one of many means of human communication (Johnson, 1973) and is an important centre for disseminating knowledge.

Library development in Bangladesh is closely related to the library movement in the Indian subcontinent. Libraries in India can be traced from the history of ancient Indian libraries furnished by the travel diary of the famous Chinese traveller Fa-Hien, who visited India in 399 AD (Mishra, 1979). The British settled and stayed on for nearly two hundred years, initially for trading. They subsequently started to establish academic institutions and libraries on a small scale (Kabir, 1987).

Bangladesh emerged as an independent and sovereign country in 1971. It had been part of India until August 1947 and part of Pakistan after that (Islam, 2003). Before the mid- 19 th century, most libraries in Bangladesh were privately owned and available to certain groups (Mannan and Begum, 2002). Years of effort by librarians and other concerned citizens have radically changed this insignificant role and have made the library a widespread and vital service institution. Just one year after the enactment of the public library act in the UK, the first non-government library of the Bangladesh was established at Jessore in 1851 (Alam, 1991). Thereafter, three other non-government public libraries--Woodburn Public Library at Bogra, Barishal Public Library at Barisal, and Rangpur Public Library at Rangpur were established in 1854 (Khan, 1984). During 1851-1955, a good number of private and non-government libraries were established. The first government public library was established in Dhaka in 1955, and opened to the public in 1958 (Foote, 1995). After 1955, the development of the library profession has been closely linked with the efforts made by the Library Association of Bangladesh (LAB) (formerly EPLA: East Pakistan Library Association) since its establishment in 1956 (Hossain, 1980). In 1952, library education in Bangladesh started with the 3-month certificate course-training program initiated by the central library of University of Dhaka (Mirdah, 1969). The University of Dhaka (est. 1921) is commonly referred as Dhaka University.


The study is based on a comprehensive review of literature, computation of secondary information, and treatment of primary data collected by field visits to different library education institutions. This is the result of meticulous literature search, not only of published materials but also of all unpublished sources and archival reports and documents available. A number of institutions have also been visited to examine their situation. Conversation and informal interviews with leading library educators, eminent educators, and scholars interested in libraries and working library professionals were carried out.


Library education in Bangladesh has received very little attention, although libraries need dynamic people with the proper education to achieve their goals. Library science programs have not conducted surveys to determine the needs of the country's libraries and information centers, to determine the qualifications needed to staff such institutions.

Library Education

"Education" and "Library" are two indivisible concepts, fundamentally related to and co-existent with each other. Neither is an end itself; both together are a means to an ultimate end. One survives as long as the other exits. One dies as soon as the other perishes. Education is an aggregate of all the ways in which a person develops abilities, attitudes, and other forms positive value to society. Education is the result of acquired knowledge and the accumulation of observation and experience. Education cannot exist alone in the absence of library, and library has no meaning if it cannot impart education (Islam, 1968).

Library education means educating students to be qualified librarians or information scientists through organized instruction and training. It represents a synthesis of professional action and testifies to the importance, value, and necessity of libraries for the present and the future. According to UNESCO, the goal of library education is to develop professionals who are qualified to established, manage, operate, and evaluate user-oriented information systems and services (Large, 1987). In addition, the program should to familiarize students with the role of information in society and make them fully aware of sources of information and develop skills for exploring these resources.

Library and Information Science (LIS) includes academic studies on how library resources are used and how people interact with library systems. The organization of knowledge for efficient retrieval of relevant information is also a major research goal of library education. At the same time, it should not be confused with information theory, the mathematical study of the concept of information, or information science, a field related to computer science and cognitive science. Library education is interdisciplinary, and overlaps to some extent with the fields of computer science, various social sciences, statistics, and systems analysis.

Development of Library Education Systems in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has had a slow and steady growth of library education, which started before independence. The country has nearly fifty-six years of history in library education. The last quarter of the 19 th century was a flourishing period of innovation in general library practice in the west. After World War I, there was a steady and gradual development of libraries in western countries. The library schools in western countries reshaped their curriculum and soon a new breed of more progressive, positive, and service-oriented librarians was produced. These remarkable developments in western library practice had no impact on Bangladesh (then part of India) during the first part of the 20 th century when the territory was under British colonial domination (Hossain, 1985). Under British rule there was noticeable development in the education in liberal arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, but, paradoxically, absolutely nothing was done regarding education for librarianship. There were libraries in the middle of the 19th century but no growth in the techniques of librarianship, which are the foundation for library development and management.

The first part of the 20 th century may be termed the "dark age" for education and training for librarianship in Bangladesh. There were libraries but not the methods and techniques of librarianship for systematic services by professionally qualified manpower (Ahmed, 1982). The concept of librarianship and the necessity of library science education were felt intensely. The awareness of urgent necessity was discernable in the learned community, but there was a lack of leadership and momentum. Bangladesh had more time to wait even after the partition of India in 1947. No major and consistent steps were taken until 1952.

First decade: 1951--1960

Librarianship training started with the first three-month certificate course in librarianship at the central library of the University of Dhaka in 1952. The university made provision for the institution of certificate course in librarianship under the Faculty of Arts (Khorasani, 1986; University of Dhaka, 1957). The course started with the assistance of Fulbright scholars and has been called "Fulbright Course in Librarianship". Four Fulbright courses were conducted successively under the supervision of the then librarian of University of Dhaka, from 1955 -59 (Ahmed, 1994). The university took the opportunity to broaden the scope of library science teaching so that a number of schools were enabled to send teachers for training as school librarians.

The Fulbright courses drew a large number of candidates who were interested in librarianship. These courses testify to the growth and development of library systems and services in the country. The main objective of the course was to train the service employees of different libraries.

The table indicates that library education in Bangladesh started formally in 1952 with the first certificate course in librarianship. The period 1952--59 is significant for library education, with 110 people receiving formal training.

The four successful Fulbright certificate courses led to the institution of one-year Post-Graduate Diploma (PGD) course in library science beginning in 1959-60 based on the University of London model (Ahmed, 1981). There was no training facility apart from this course available in Bangladesh until 1958 when the LAB instituted a six-month regular certificate course in library science as the University of Dhaka suspended the Fulbright certificate course and took steps to launch PGD (Ahmed, 1990). The certificate course is still in place through eleven institutions that are affiliated with the LAB.

Second decade: 1961--1970

A one-year Masters of Arts (MA) course in library science was formulated at the University of Dhaka in 1962, for students who had completed the PGD (University of Dhaka, 1962). Beginning in 196263 with the services of distinguished American, British and Bangladeshi librarians, the MA course started on a more extensive scale.

The session of 1964-65 was a landmark in the development of library education in Bangladesh. In this session, programs and courses were recognized as a full-fledged "Department of Library Science" under the Faculty of Arts (University of Dhaka, 1965)...

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