December 27, 2003


The title above is the motto of Bishwa Sahitya Kendro (world literature center), a pioneer institution of Bangladesh. It is a benevolent trust, which was set up by Abdullah Abu Sayeed, a professor and a TV anchor almost 25 years ago. The BSK since it's beginning has come up with programs to increase the habit of reading among the people, where only 10% read seriously. Newspaper readers are not considered serious readers as they only collect political and other insignificant news.

Among the programs there is the national edification program. Under this, an area of the country where there are two-three schools and two colleges, a branch of the Kendra is being opened. There are 500 branches so far. These institutions bring young men & women and inspire them to run a program of reading 175 Books (chosen fitting the psyche of each student) in a stipulated time. In the last 20 years about 200,000 students have been incorporated in this program. By June 2004, an additional 100,000 students will come under this project. The library at the main office has 400,000 books and every year it is used by 10,000 readers. The BSK has a publication program and so far 3000 books have been published.

However the program that caught the most attention is the mobile library. The idea is to cover all places in the city and give chance to the juveniles and the old to get the books without having to travel all the way to the library. Centered on the mobile libraries, small area wise reading groups have mushroomed and these will serve the mission of enlightenment in the grass-root level. Now the mobile library also has service that provides dispatch riders known as 'Tirandaj (archer)' who go to old people who are unable to come to the mobile vans.

Mobile library project in brief:

Consists of Eight vehicles: 5 in Dhaka, and 1 each in Rajshahi & Khulna.

Already around 18000 members & over 4000 volunteers.

Big vans usually contains 17,000 books, medium vans 11,000 & small vans 5000.

Plans to set up three vans for each of the 64 districts in the country.

It is remarkable that this whole initiative is supported by donation of individuals and institution. There is no significant government contribution. And the will of one man could create an institute of this magnitude which itself apart from being extra-ordinary, can be replicated in other countries where reading habit is diminishing.

Had there been enough enlightened people around the world, fundamentalism and anarchy would not have been spread. To bring enlightenment among many is an uphill task but BSK's programs are surely the proven ones, which can be implemented with small fund and among a large population. I am proud to be a member of the BSK Library for 10 years. I have to renew the membership and start reading seriously again.


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