Libro Futuro

Sharing, digital libraries and education. Being a librarian in Bangladesh. Mario Coffa interviews Dilara Begum

Intervista in italiano

Dilara Begum is Associate Professor and Chairperson of Information Studies and Library Management Department and Librarian (In-charge) at East West University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. She served as a full-time lecturer at Maldives National University in 2011. She was a former fellow of IFLA, ALP (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand). She has been elected as Professional Division Committee Chair and Asia Oceania Regional Division Committee member of International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) for 2021-2023. She works as the information coordinator of the Asia and Oceania Section at IFLA and is a member of the standing committee of the Management and Marketing section of IFLA. She has served in a number of significant and diverse roles including the UNESCO-sponsored Country Coordinator of Information Literacy Consortium as a member of the ECIL Standing Committee since 2013 to organize the European Conference on Information Literacy. She is also acting as General Secretary, Digital Library Network of South Asia (DLNetSA). She was elected Senior Vice President and Women’s Affairs Secretary of the Library Association of Bangladesh (LAB) from 2009-2014 and was acting president of the Library Association of Bangladesh (LAB) in 2012. She was invited by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) premier professional exchange program as foreign leader and scholar to attend the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) for meeting American colleagues and become better acquainted with the United States, its culture, and its people. Recently, she has been awarded the prestigious, “Prof. Indira Parikh 50 Women in Education Leaders” in recognition of her contribution to her own sector nationally and internationally. She is considered one of the pioneers of Digital Library development in Bangladesh as well as an international expert on the mentioned fields.

Dilara, as a first question can you briefly explain us about what do you do and what does your job consist of?

Thank you for inviting me and I am so excited to become a part of this wonderful project. Various change drivers have an impact on academic libraries. I would highlight three which are the state of the economy and its impact on higher education; students’ changing needs and quickly expanding technology. Due to the rapid transformation of the ICTs, the roles, responsibilities and activities of academician as well as professionals are also being changed with time. It is quite obvious that to cope up with this flow of modern technologies library and information science (LIS) professionals need to reshape and rethink regarding their roles as knowledge facilitators, mentors and coaches. The government of Bangladesh embraced in the National Education Policy 2010 about the significance of lifelong learning and the premise of lifelong learning is framed by media and information literacy (MIL) which is deemed an effective weapon for all educational level. Being a University Librarian as well as Associate Professor, I have been emphasizing to educate my community how to become media and information literate citizen and develop digital literacy skills. I am also working as a facilitator, advocate, and consultant for different institutions in home and abroad for promoting the value and diversified activities of libraries as well as LIS professionals.

For 20 years you have been involved in training. In a specialized and heterogeneous profession such as that of the librarian, how important is training and how much is it necessary in order to give greater value to this figure?

I always think practitioners are paramount coaches who can identify a gap between theory and practice in every sector of education. So, I strongly believe that collaboration between academicians and practitioners assist us to develop lifelong professional skills and meaningful professional education in every sector of our life. Academicians can identify areas in which their own research plans match with practitioners and explain the relevance of their research findings to implement them in institutions or where they work. I have a broad and deep knowledge of the need of providing and seeking training and professional development for the underprivileged people. Training experiences in library management fields teach me that the role of LIS professional is not limited to the pages of books. Today’s libraries are acting as a social hub, full of collegial, collaborative, innovative services, and contemporary technologies are the blessings for transforming libraries as information hubs in a society. Our contribution can be effective for bringing about various social and economic reforms. My persistent initiatives for arranging training are aimed at transforming the roles of LIS professionals from a conventional to a progressive approach.

You have been Secretary General for the Digital Library Network of South Asia (DLNetSA) and are considered one of the pioneers in this area; What impact in your opinion has digital technology (social media, databases, open access) had on libraries in Bangladesh, especially after the experience of the pandemic?

Digital Library Network of South Asia (DLNetSA) is a regional consortium of South Asia Region. The objective is to create an operational and sustainable digital library network with focus on providing support for integrated library system and digital library activities. The financial and technological infrastructure of Bangladesh’s libraries is not in such a state that all of them will quickly adopt digital technology. It is difficult for Bangladeshi libraries to build digital libraries due to a lack of sufficient understanding, technological skills, and resources. The government of Bangladesh’s motto, “Digital Bangladesh,” is indisputable for national progress. The Digital Bangladesh Vision 2021 aims to increase the country’s use of digital technologies. Several digitization initiatives have been completed, while a large number of others are in the works. Bangladesh’s libraries are working to make the country’s motto a reality. Libraries in Bangladesh are using digital technologies to improve their services by digitizing their materials so that they may be accessed by anybody, regardless of time or location. However, building long-term digital libraries is a major challenge LIS professionals in Bangladesh. We are realizing that pandemic has no doubt caused massive problems in higher education. However, COVID-19 taught us how to become tech savvy. Libraries around the world have been facing lockdown challenges in providing access to its collections and services. All types of libraries have promoted their digital services during the corona virus pandemic situation. Digital libraries, e-resources and social media have had a significant impact during this pandemic situation. Similarly, to other libraries, the East West University library is working to provide online services to our users so that they can continue their academic journey at the current situation. Times are tough right now, but we believe we can help, and these platforms are the greatest way to assure users that the library can continue to operate.

Your role at IFLA has allowed you to have a broader international vision that goes beyond the borders of your country. In what direction have we been going in recent years in our information service and as promoters of reading, culture and training?

Today’s libraries around the world are acting as a social hub and East West University (EWU) library has been offering new services by organizing diversified programs to making the environment for our users that library is not limited to the pages of books. Here, I would like to mention about the observation on International Day of Peace to emphasize my views. Our library invited patrons to come together to form a human chain of peace sign as well as engage patrons to understand the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to get their opinions on Right to Peace. As I mentioned before LIS professionals are responsible for bringing about various social reforms. For example: contributing to the UN 2030 Agenda and the SDGs; offering real and virtual civic spaces where citizens can speak freely, realize their citizen rights and educating them about the laws they must abide by. However, when I am trying to execute our roles in my community, I have been facing challenges to change the views about library. I have joined in international activities and these platforms have broaden my perspectives about the roles of LIS professionals and help keep me informed of the latest global library trends. 

You have recently been awarded the prestigious “Prof. Indira Parikh 50 Women in Education Leaders”. What did this award mean for you?

It is a great honor for me getting this prestigious award, “Prof. Indira Parikh 50 Women in Education Leaders” on 05th July 2018 in Mumbai at the World Education Congress. The award is given to 50 women who contribute for the upliftment of their sectors. The World Education Congress focuses on influencing the culture of education and educational pedagogy, building a vision and strategies for higher education institutes, providing exposure to latest education tools, technologies, and solutions, and encouraging collaboration and partnership among institutions.

This project, the Library World Tour, has among its aims that of creating a large network of sharing with librarians (and not only) from all over the world. What do you think about it?  

This project is really a great initiative. The valuable voices, thoughts, and experiences of the LIS professionals from different parts of the world will make a strong contribution to the work of many libraries as well as the work of LIS professionals. Hope this project will be a great platform for sharing the thoughts, knowledge, LIS technologies and expertise of LIS professionals around the world.




Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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