A beacon with books for all
A schoolboy who started a library in his village with only 10 books back in 2014 now supplies books to 30 salon-based mini-libraries in two upazilas with money earned from part-time jobs.
Jamal Hossain set up Sarpukur Jubo Forum Pathagar (Youth Forum Library) in the Tipar Bazar area of his village Sarpukur, in Aditmari upazila of Lalmonirhat.
In this remote village, books were few and far between.
The library, a tin-shed room measuring 10 feet by 12 feet, has now become a centre of learning for students and teachers, as well as for other villagers, with around 6,500 books.
It has books on science, history, agriculture, and technical matters, among others, as well as two national dailies, a regional daily, and a job magazine.
But Jamal did not just stop here and came up with the unique idea of salon-based libraries. What could be a better place for locals to have access to books than the salons which are often the liveliest spots of village markets?
Jamal's work has spread to other villages in Lalmonirhat Sadar and Aditmari upazilas this past year.
Now an honours student of history at Lalmonirhat Government College, he continues to supply books free of cost and monitor these salon-based libraries.
Each of the 30 salon-based libraries get 10 different books every week and there is clamour for more books as well as more of these mini-libraries in local salons.
Jamal is currently trying to buy more books and set up more of these mini-libraries but doesn't have the funds to do so right away.
"I have a plan to run at least 100 salon libraries in five upazilas in this district, but I need time as I don't have the ability right now," he said.
The son of a farmer, Jamal is doing all this with the money he earns from tuitions and the help of his friends in managing the libraries.
Choosing salons as the base for these libraries was also for a social good, as Jamal saw it.
"I saw people gathered in the salon all the time, spending their time idly, so I decided to set up a library in there where people can also learn something during that time," he said.
Salon owners seem to agree.
Sukumar Chandra Sharma, a salon owner in Tipar Bazar area carrying Jamal's library books, said that his establishment and customers both benefit.
"In the past, customers in my shop used to smoke to pass the time but now they spend time reading books instead," he said, adding it made for a better atmosphere inside. He himself also reads the books when at leisure.
"Customers in my salon are happy to have the opportunity to read books," said Sanjay Kumar Sharma, owner of another salon in the same area. "They want more."
Nando Kumar Shil, an owner of a salon at College Road in Lalmonirhat Sadar, said, "Now, we don't spend our leisure time doing nothing, but rather reading books which makes us knowledgeable."
"I told Jamal to set up a library in my salon several times but I'm not getting the opportunity yet," said Bhabesh Chandra Sharma, a salon owner at Kakina village of Kaliganj upazila.
Schoolteacher Nur Islam of Bhadai village said, "We benefit as the salon library provides us with different books, playing an important role in broadening our knowledge.
"I enjoy the opportunity of reading books while at the salon."
Delwar Hossain, a fellow college student, said he and several other friends help Jamal run the salon-based libraries. They also come together to read books and newspapers in the library at Tipar Bazar, Sarpukur, where this all began.