that everyone these days has an opinion about the United States.
Some people are negatively inclined while others have a positive
outlook. However, the truth is that many people make their
opinions according to hearsay rather than actually finding
proper information and reading up on it. And while everyone
is entitled to his or her opinion, it is always important
to base one's views on factual and unbiased information.
one of the reasons the American Centre, an offset of the U.S.
Embassy in Bangladesh, is geared towards disseminating information
about the United States to Bangladeshis. On Monday, March
14, the American Centre held a launching ceremony of its newly
renovated and improved library, the Information Resource Centre
(IRC). Present at the ceremony were 2004 Pulitzer Prize Winner,
Edward P. Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Harry K. Thomas
and Education Minister, Dr. Osman Farooque.
located on Road 27 in Banani, started its journey as the USIS
(United States Information Service) in Bangladesh in October
of 1951, in a two-story rented house in Hat-khola. It then
moved to Topkhana Road in 1953, after which the number of
books in the library grew to an amazing 60,000. Unfortunately,
due to the cost-cutting measures and the fact that libraries
are not as vital as they were in the past, the collection
went down to 1,000 books by September 2004. They had six branches
outside Dhaka in Rangpur, Rajshahi, Barisal, Sylhet, Chittagong
and Mymensingh, each of which closed in the 1970s. It then
moved to Dhanmondi before relocating to Banani in 1997.
branch we had in Dhanmondi was the library that people remember
the most," says Mahtab Uddin Ahmad, Director of IRC,
who has been working with the American Centre for the last
20 years. "However, the truth is that even when we opened
in 1951, we had a good impact on the reading population in
Bangladesh. Our library was the first free-access, open shelf
library in the country."
IRC has now expanded its collection to 3,000 books. The resources
in the library are geared mostly towards students and other
people who are curious about the U.S. They will be able to
access information about either going abroad for higher studies
or learning more about life in the United States. The IRC
and the U.S. Department of State have jointly organised and
sponsored a programme, which granted English language scholarships
to 40 different madrassas around Bangladesh. It is also hoping
to host a number of events, such as movie nights twice a month
following a theme and on various different public figures
including Nathaniel Kahn, son of Louis Kahn.
uses a barcode system, which makes borrowing easier. It also
introduces the users to a number of online databases such
as Lexis Nexis and GaleNet. Eight of the computers in the
IRC will have internet access. There is a children's corner
where the Deputy Director of the American Centre, Michelle
Jones, hopes to hold readings of the varied collection of
storybooks available. Apart from storybooks and novels, the
IRC has reference books available with information about ESL
(English as a Second Language), Business Management and Computers.
It is open Sunday through Tuesday from 10 am to 4 pm and will
be open until 7 pm on Wednesdays. Membership costs an annual
fee of Tk. 500.
new IRC is actually an information network of the U.S. in
Bangladesh," says Jones. "It is important for South
Asians to have real information about the U.S. in order to
understand Americans better. There are so many misconceived
notions about the U.S. due to the current situation around
the world. What we want is for people to come here, read many
different sources so that they can get information from many
Americans have to do a better job with informing people about
our country," says Jones. "Rather than believe all
the bad and not know any of the good, we would rather that
people have access to our information so that they can learn
more about the United States and make up their own minds,"
he concludes. We can only hope that students as well as people
interested in America and its culture flocks to the newly
geared American Centre.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005