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The death throes of a century-old library

  • Published at 07:57 am May 21st, 2018
  • Last updated at 09:06 am May 21st, 2018
Although the library has 160 registered members, none of them appear to have dropped by in the last 15 years

Although the library has 160 registered members, none of them appear to have dropped by in the last 15 years

The Kurigram Public Library is 123 years old. Established in 1895, it is the oldest library in the district and among the oldest libraries in the country. Yet, victim to the lamentable culture of neglecting heritage sites in Bangladesh, it now lies in a sad state of decline.

Despite its enviable collection of exotic books and that rare tranquil seating area for a quiet read, there are no visitors, except for the occasional newspaper reader.

The librarian comes at 10am and leaves at 1pm, and returns at 4:30pm. At 6pm he closes doors to the library. That is all his job stipulates, for a meager salary of Tk2,000.

Although the library has 160 registered members, none of them appear to have dropped by in the last 15 years. No membership fees are collected. Instead, the library earns Tk4,000 per month from the 10 shops set up in front it. Between the rent, government funding, and NGO donations, the Kurigram Public Library manages to get by.

Amid all the irregularities and the gross negligence, it comes as a great relief that a committee to run the library does exist. Mohammad Shahabuddin, the incumbent general secretary was elected over two decades ago. Treasurer Samiul Haque admitted that the committee rarely meets.  The deputy commissioner of Kurigram serves as the president of the committee by default. But Sultana Parveen, the DC, claims she is a newcomer and knows little to nothing about the library.

Unfortunately, they appear unaware of locals encroaching on library properties. A mahogany tree and two eucalyptus trees on the premises were cut down. The library square has been appropriated as a parking lot and storage shed.

Readers have long since turned away from libraries as other more convenient modes of entertainment have become mainstream. But it is a combination of negligence, greed, and lack of awareness that is slowly killing the Kurigram Public Library.

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