The idea of going into a library and issuing books to read has been slowly fading, as most of us prefer to access books online or from shops nowadays. Becoming a library member, borrowing books and returning them on time can be a tedious task for many.
Keeping that in mind, Nishat Tahiat, an avid reader, recently started, "Pother Pathagar," a street library in Uttara. It is a beautiful home for books, accessible from the street. It is an invitation to share the joys of reading with others. People can simply reach in and take what interests them; when they are done, they can return the book to the street library. If anyone wants to take a book permanently, they need to leave a book in the library in exchange for it, for other readers.
"The street library concept is quite popular in other countries, and I wanted to try it out in Dhaka to see how people react towards it," shares Nishat. "The location I chose is popular among young students. There are a few shops around and also a parking spot nearby. Some of the drivers and shopkeepers have been taking the books and reading them in their spare time as well."
Nishat started this venture on her own and in a very short time, the response has been overwhelming. People from different areas of Dhaka and also from around the country have been reaching out, offering donations and volunteers.
"Before I started the library, a lot of people advised against it, stating that people might steal or damage the books," says Nishat. "But I chose to trust people. After all, they are all from my country."
The current library setup is in a plastic box, surrounded by a wooden frame. The colorful box features traditional rickshaw paint and Nishat aims to keep this lost form of art alive through her venture. Steel boxes will be used for the next setups, keeping the unpredictable weather changes in mind.
Anyone can borrow books from the street library, after providing necessary contact information in a logbook. "Someone borrowed two books last week and safely returned them in two days, leaving a comment about the overall experience as well," smiles Nishat.
However, only days after Nishat started the library, another organisation started a similar initiative, copying the name and logo of Nishat's venture.
Disheartened by the scheme, she is currently campaigning online to raise awareness on such fraudulent activities.
A graduate of Peace & Conflict Studies at Dhaka University, Nishat has been a book lover since childhood. Known for gifting books on special occasions, she finds solace in books written by Shahaduzzaman, Bibhutibhushon Bandopadhyay, Ernest Hemingway and Kazuo Ishiguro among others.
"I want to build a career in community development and aim to work for the betterment of women and children across the country," shares Nishat. "I want to serve the society to the best of my abilities."
Nishat plans to establish the street library in two more spots in Uttara soon, before building them in other parts of Dhaka. Due to the ongoing global pandemic, Nishat prefers not to hire any volunteers at the moment. She plans to involve others once the situation improves.