In today’s world it is difficult to go anywhere and not see someone with a cellphone. Technology has grown exponentially. While some places had trouble even getting landline phones everyone there now has cellphones and can call or text relatives half way across the world. Of course with the growth of cellphones also comes the growth of smartphones and internet usage. In Bangladesh, about 33.43 million people are using the internet, according to the Bangladesh Business News. This is about 21% of the population; a huge increase since 2013 when only about 7% was using the internet.
This increase in the internet is leading more students and younger faculty member to conduct a majority of their research online and many libraries are unable to compete with the attraction of readily accessible information. However, today we were able to meet with the University of Dhaka and the librarian there has accomplished some terrific things.
To begin with, the library does not offer print journals but instead has subscribed to JSTOR and publishes all University of Dhaka journal online. Additionally, they are members of the Digital Library Consortium in Bangladesh which grants them access to 26,000 e-books. The library is also mainly buying e-books thanks to a World Bank grant, and is working on digitizing all their manuscripts and student theses. Of course this project has taken time and they are still having issues with their online search system and have not been able to effectively categorize their online journals in their system. However, this initiative is very impressive.
This move to online resources is the next step for many libraries in order to become relevant again for the students. Libraries need to work on their websites, offer online catalogs, e-books, and journal articles along with other digital resources. A lot of this has to come from the fact that libraries can no longer handle the increase of students attending college. The library at the University of Dhaka was built for 600 students and yet their are 35,000 that attend the university. The computer labs do not allow public access and don’t provide printing. Often most students enjoy working on their own laptops in order to be able to save articles and research. It is often easier to research on one’s own rather than go into the library. However, management of online databases and the advertising of digitized resources can make libraries increasingly relevant for students.
Due to the advancements of the University of Dhaka, it is unlikely that TEEAL would be of much benefit for them. While it may be nice to access the TEEAL journal articles from one’s computer on campus; TEEAL would not be accessible at their houses, and since internet access tends to be reliable in the city it is unclear they would need to use it on campus when they have access to JSTOR. However, I think it might be worthwhile to still pursue this venue; especially due to the trainings TEEAL provides. Many undergraduates and some Master students don’t have the opportunity to conduct research since most classes are based on exams rather than papers. TEEAL trainings on scientific writing, publishing, and research might be of great use for the students.
After our meeting we were able to explore the campus more and met with some faculty. I was surprised at how gorgeous the buildings were, many of which were built under British occupation of the country. As we walked around we also made some friends as I stopped to pass out some gum to some children. I need to remember to carry more gum.
After our meeting we were able to spend some time shopping. We visited two different venues. One was a shopping center near Dhaka that appeared to be used by relatively many different people. The second was a giant shopping mall. I must admit I am always shocked entering malls in developing countries because they are huge! The mall in Dhaka was 8 floors with countless stores. Bright signs and advertisements were everywhere and instead of the passive store clerks in the states, everyone was out in the walkways trying to entice you to enter. Of course, malls like these are mainly only accessible to the middle class and a majority of the people I saw there tended to be younger. However, this is a good sign for the upward income mobility that appears to be occurring in Bangladesh; especially since this is only the second largest mall in Dhaka.
I think everyone enjoyed the afternoon of shopping and we all got to buy some items from Bangladesh, Hill even bought his own tailored suit (very fancy!!) For lunch we went to the top floor of the mall which is a giant food court where many people gathered with friends to talk and enjoy a meal. I think we all enjoyed the shawarmas there.
Tomorrow being a religious day in Bangladesh the offices will be closed. This will give the team the perfect time to catch up on some work and perhaps get to visit the National Museum (keeping my fingers crossed for that)!