Over the last few years, the British Council have been working closely with the Bangladesh government to modernise the country’s library sector and to build public awareness surrounding it. As part of the efforts to professionally develop library practitioners and strengthening the library network, Libraries Unlimited programme, a British Council project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has undertaken the venture of connecting local librarians to the international platform. Earlier this year, 11 Librarians from different libraries across Bangladesh and one policy maker from Ministry of Cultural Affairs attended the World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) 2018, which was organised by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The week-long prestigious conference took place in late August 2018.

The delegation participating in the conference received exposure to best practices in the library sectors around the world. The sessions and activities of the conference enabled them to learn from these practices, so that the attending librarians can implement their learnings in their local context, and for the betterment of library services delivery in Bangladesh. The conference was followed by a visit to one academic institution and one community library to allow the visitors to observe the day-to-day operations in those libraries.  

There were a lot of takeaways for the Bangladeshi delegation from this conference. The idea of Green Library provoked participating librarians to make their libraries environment-friendly. The discussion on the alignment of library activities with SDGs gave the participants a bigger picture of how they are contributing to national and international growth and stability. E-library and fully automated lending and borrowing system in Malaysian libraries encouraged the delegates to think of something similar for their own libraries, where they go promote digitalisation of library resources.

Mr Sunilmoy Chakma, Librarian of Rangamati and one of the Bangladesh delegation, said, ‘I introduced some resources in my library for children to play and learn, but somehow they didn’t work well. While visiting the community library in Malaysia, I saw their activities with children and realised that I also need to provide some guidance and support to the children in my library to make them play and learn effectively.’

Mr Dilip Kumar Saha, another participant and librarian of Sylhet, said, ‘The most important takeaway from this conference for us is to change our mindset and break away from the conventional learning methods. If we start to change now, we will be able to make a bigger change in the community and society soon.’

Initiated formally in 2015, the Libraries Unlimited programme seeks to improve public access to information and knowledge in Bangladesh and has been designed based on the findings of the Library Landscape Assessment of Bangladesh study, published in June 2015.