In the internet age, information is not only essential to survive, sustain and prosper, but a lack of information can lead to social, cultural and economic failings. Nowadays, opportunity is increasingly dependent upon internet access.
In Bangladesh, equality of opportunity in the digital age requires that all individuals, especially those living in remote and impoverished areas, have access to online information along with the skills to navigate the internet. Public libraries, with their existing infrastructure, staff and mission to connect people to information, are uniquely positioned to provide this opportunity.
The landscape of Bangladesh’s Library and Information Services (LIS) has undergone very rapid yet somewhat disproportionate development. The Government of Bangladesh is trying to revive traditional access points such as the post offices under a new e-post office scheme, and is trying to digitise other service centres and government offices.
However, public libraries—which were the forerunners and champions of ensuring access to information for centuries— have remained largely neglected during the ICT-driven campaign for information services and now need critical support to move forward into the digital age. If libraries in Bangladesh can reinvent themselves and embrace an expanded role as online information and cultural centres, the impact on individuals and communities will be huge.
For that reinvention to happen, we need to better understand the current landscape of LIS in Bangladesh, and how this can match the actual information needs of the people.
The Library Landscape Assessment is a series of three inter-connected pieces of desk and field research, which taken together will create the data needed to fully understand the information needs of the people of Bangladesh and the current LIS provision. The key objectives of each piece of research are:
- To conduct detailed research into the information needs of the people of Bangladesh, in both urban and rural contexts - understanding how different demographic segments are accessing the information they need; assessing the current effectiveness of public libraries and information centres in providing public access to meet those needs; assessing current perceptions of public libraries and information and identifying what is needed to change those perceptions.
- To assess the current status and capacity of public libraries and information services in Bangladesh - assessing the availability of ICT and connectivity in public libraries and the effectiveness of library staff in facilitating public access; understanding government and national policy and prioritization for effecting improvements; and identifying the opportunities for (and barriers to) building a national programme to radically improve LIS provision in Bangladesh.
- To assess the current availability of ICTs to support access to information in Bangladesh - surveying current initiatives of the government, INGOs/NGOs and the private sector for ICT development, connectivity and access to information; and indicating prospects for further expansion of public access.
This study has undertaken a multifaceted yet inter-connected research approach, using the following methods:
- desk research and a literature review
- key informant interviews
- exploratory research using the grounded theory approach
- a field survey of 7000 respondents across 35 districts
- an online survey
- in-depth case-studies