Bangladesh is known as a tea-loving nation. Along with tea, the “adda” is an integral part of Bangladeshi culture. Adda is an informal conversation or an unscheduled meeting where no-one is invited but everyone is free to join. There is no specific schedule for an adda but everyone enthusiastically comes together to talk about almost anything in an informal setting.
What is this adda about and how is it different?
Divisional Government Public Library, Rangpur has introduced an Adda over red tea – known as Lal-Cha Adda – and it is quickly becoming the labour room for new and innovative ideas related to library services and the best tool for the community engagement. In other words, the Adda basically is a monthly consultation meeting with local influencers, readers groups and cultural personalities organised by the libraries to discuss development issues.
The gathering has proved to be a solution hub for community issues relating to the library. Last year, when the City Corporation proposed the establishment of a public toilet near the library premises, they had to defer their idea as a result of protests from the members of the Lal-Cha Adda. Through this establishment, the Government Public Library, Rangpur also attained a commitment of 24K pounds to extend the reading hall. The community invited the then-cultural minister to visit the library and during this visit, they requested for this renovation work, which was approved. Divisional Government Public Library, Rangpur was the first establishment to successfully organise the British Council’s “Public Library Campaign” in association with the members of Lal-Cha Adda.
Mr Abed Hossain, the Librarian of the Divisional Government Public Library, Rangpur and innovator of Lal-Chaa Adda, first learned about community engagement in libraries in September 2017 in a brainstorming session organised by British Council’s Libraries Unlimited programme. Two months later, he was on a study visit to the UK, organised by the same programme, where he enjoyed a ‘Coffee Morning’ session in Handsworth Library, Birmingham. Saleem Ayub, the Library Manager of Handsworth said that the gathering was initiated by a charity called “Aquarius”, which supports people with alcohol addiction. Ayub also added that it’s a local sociable space for the community which is self-sufficient and self-supporting.
Mr Hossain decided to replicate this idea when the Department of Public Libraries (DPL) invited innovative ideas from the librarians on library development. Upon his return, he immediately pushed for his idea for a local adaptation of the initiative - Lal-Chaa Adda. Through an official order by the DPL in May 2018, all 64 Government Libraries of Bangladesh were instructed to replicate the Lal-Chaa Adda considering its impact on community engagement. Mr Ashish Kumar Sarker, the then-Director General of the Department of Public Libraries of Bangladesh stated, “I am very happy with the impact of Lal-Cha Adda in the development of library sector in Bangladesh through community engagement. The Cabinet Secretary of Bangladesh Government highly appreciates this intervention.”
Ms Selina Syder, Service Development Officer of Handsworth Library said, “The staff of Handsworth Library appreciate the Lal-Cha Adda of Bangladeshi Libraries and we are very happy that they carried this good practice back to their country from the UK.”
The British Council’s Libraries Unlimited (LU) Programme is a five-year intervention started in 2016, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). In partnership with the Department of Public Libraries and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs Bangladesh, LU is working for the improved access to information and knowledge for the mass people of the country.