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.