Libraries are an integral part of universities as those offer access to all the academic resources to their teachers and students. But Dhaka University (DU) libraries are "definitely" not what they should be.
The DU that boasts of being the best among the country's public universities has failed to bring its libraries in the flow of teaching and scholarly efforts although academic libraries are evolving with the advancement of technology.
The university stepped into its 100th year in 2021 and is celebrating its centenary with a yearlong programme, keeping its many issues unresolved -- its libraries are one of those.
Now it is a daily fight for students to get quiet spaces at its libraries to study. No initiative has been taken in the last 11 years for the expansion of the libraries to meet the growing requirements of its students, many students told UNB recently.
It is quite surprising that the university authorities have no separate plan to expand its library facilities other than having a 15-year "Master Plan", said a university official. "The Master Plan obviously has a component to expand library facilities. But to see that happen, the students will have to wait for nearly 15 years," the official said, wishing anonymity.
The number of students at the university is increasing each year but the libraries have not been expanded accordingly, making the regular students reluctant about entering the libraries, said some students while talking to UNB.
They alleged that outsiders and irregular students usually keep library tables occupied to take preparations for Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) examinations and other govt recruitment tests, depriving the regular students of reading facilities.
Besides, insufficient books, lack of access to resources and washrooms have made the libraries unpleasant for many.
There are only 3,400 seats at three DU's libraries - 2,300 in its Central Library, 400 in Science Faculty Library and 200-250 in e-library -- for its 3,7000 students, resulting in a fight of 11 students for one single seat at a library.
There has been no expansion in the central library's sitting arrangements over the last 11 years after an extension of 500 seats in early 2009 at its extension section on the 2nd and 3rd floors, said Professor Dr Md Nasiruddin Munsi, the librarian of the DU Central Library.
"Inadequate library facilities have long been a major problem. Two students have to share one table that hampers their concentration on study. There're only two washrooms on each floor for a large number of students," said Tamanna Tarin, a master's degree student.
"It's the responsibility of the authorities to ensure a good atmosphere and facilities at the central library as we don't have easy access to books, and the number of books is also inadequate," she added.
The primary function of a library is to provide access to books for studies and research. "We've to come to the central library since we don't get many things online. And even some articles aren't free there. Library books are very important," Tarin said.
Saifur Rahman, a second-year student of the Arabic Department, said, "We've to come early in the morning to have a seat in the library. If I go there at noon, I won't be able to study in the library as seats are already occupied."
"Besides, the problem I face most is the unavailability of necessary books as the book collection in the library is quite poor. As the oldest public university of Bangladesh, it should enrich its collections," he added.
"More worrying is the uncongenial environment inside the libraries because of noise pollution and poor light," said another student who preferred not to be named.
The DU central library has lost its calm and cool atmosphere over the years with the installation of various food stalls in front of it and the parking of a huge number of bicycles on its corridor. "A suitable place could have been designated for parking bicycles. Allowing students to park their bicycles in front of the library and their haphazard parking has harmed the beauty of the library," said Faria Alam, a master's degree student.
She said the university students will continue to face the problems as the university authorities have no plan to expand library facilities before the implementation of the 15-year "Master Plan".
"Inadequate library facilities have been a big problem for the students. We've included a multi-storey library in the Master Plan to bring an end to the problems though it'll take approximately 15 to 20 years to be implemented," said Librarian Nasiruddin Munsi.
He also expressed doubt whether all the problems will be resolved with the implementation of the Master Plan as the budget allocated for the libraries is too inadequate.
Apart from the Faculty of Business Studies, there is an opportunity for about 2,400 students to study in their own seminar libraries in 72 departments of other faculties, but it is much less than what the students need.
The departments under the Business Faculty have their own computer labs but no other library except e-libraries.
Abu Tayab, a second-year student at the Department of Organization Strategy and Leadership (OSL), said: "I've never seen enough facilities, equipment and environment to study there. If we're neglected right from the beginning of our academic life then how can we flourish our talents?
Jobayer Ahmed, a first-year student at the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, said: "When we go to the Central Library, we hardly find any vacant seat over there, no matter when we go -- in the afternoon or in the evening. Besides, there's not enough net facilities in the Central Library."
Abdur Rab Nasim, a first-year student at the economics department, said: "The number of seats in the department's seminar library is not enough compared to the needs of the students."
Prof Mufizur Rahman of Mass Communication and Journalism said, "A library is an essential part of any university. It's important not only for students but also for teachers. For the sake of academic dynamism, our library needs to be reshaped as per our master plan as soon as possible. Or else, we'll face the consequences. "
Asked about this dismal situation, Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzaman said, "Students can study in the central library, departmental seminar libraries, hall libraries and reading rooms even though there's a shortage of seats."
He added that the better the library, the better for the university. The master plan that has been prepared is in our hands; it'll solve these problems.
However, the VC parried the question of how many years it will take in implementing the master plan.
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