Mamudkathi is a remote village beside the Kopotakkho River in Paikgachha upazila of Khulna. In this serene village, four local youths founded a library 30 years ago. They named it Anirban (eternal flames) Library as they dreamt that it would be a lighthouse for the people of the country's southern region. That dream has become reality to a great extent. Anirban has become a centre for gaining knowledge and holding educational and cultural activities.
Apart from students, more than 100 people of different ages come to the library to read books and newspapers every day. There are 130 chairs in the library for its users. The library has a varied collection of 7,000 books. The collection includes books on 1971's Liberation War, novels, stories, short stories, essays, poetry, travelogues, plays, childrens literature and Ramya Rachana. Besides, regional and national dailies are kept in the library for its readers. Anybody can read books here. But only the members of the library can borrow books from it and take them home for reading.
The library remains open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm every day.
It collects members all through the year. Students can become members of the library free of cost. Currently, there are around 7,000 library members. The members give the library Tk200 annually.
"Three thousand students, including me, are members of the library. We can read novels, stories and even academic books in the library. We would not be able to have this opportunity if the library was not there." -- Priyanka Dey, a student of Government BL College in Khulna and a member of the library
Abdul Ahad, a retired schoolteacher of the village, said, "Children of this locality have established this library. We feel proud of it. Many of them are now in different important professions, living in different parts of the country, including the capital Dhaka. They help keep the library alive."
Anirban Library is an important place not only for common people but also for local social workers, public representatives, chairmen of upazila and zila parishads, member of parliaments and ministers. MPs or ministers whoever come to the locality must visit the library.
On an evening 30 years ago, four youths were hanging out on the bank of the Kopotakkho River in Mamudkathi village. That evening they decided that they would establish a library in the village. They also decided to name the library Anirban, according to local people.
The youths were – Joydeb Kumar Bhadra (currently serving as a senior police official), Manik Bhadra and Mondol Bhola of Mamudkathi village and Mrinal Ghosh of Horidhali village of the same upazila. To turn their dream into a reality, they dedicated themselves wholeheartedly and involved teachers and students of local school and colleges in the task. They went door to door and started collecting books. The library started functioning in a room of a local temple. It was opened for all on December 10 in 1990.
The journey to success
With the financial help of its initiators, members and well-wishers, 11 decimal of land in the village was purchased in 2013 for the library. In 2016, the library was shifted from the temple to the newly built building on the land.
Recently, the library got recognition as a 'Ka' category library from Jatiya Grantha Kendra (the National Book Centre) of the cultural affairs ministry due to its different social and cultural activities. It has received financial assistance as well as many books on the Liberation War from the Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) Ministry and the Liberation War Affairs Ministry.
Apart from this, many renowned personalities of the country have donated books to it. In June this year, Jatiya Grantha Kendra gave Tk60,000 to develop the library and to buy books.
Besides, the library also got an allocation of Tk10 lakh under the government's annual development Programme (ADP) from the cultural affairs ministry for development.
The money has been spent on building the second floor of the library. Now it is a two-storey building. A healthcare centre and an auditorium have been built on the ground floor. The main library is on the first floor. Besides, there are eight guest rooms on the second floor.
At present, Prof Kalidas Chandra is the president and Probhat Debnath is the general secretary of the library committee. Prof Kalidas Chandra was the first president of the library committee while Manik Bhadra was the first general secretary. The library has an advisory committee comprising of representatives from different professions, including elderly teachers and lawyers of the locality. Ashok Madhab Roy, a former secretary of the shipping ministry, is the president and Ganesh Chandra Bhattacharya, a retired headmaster of a local high school, is the general secretary of the advisory committee.
Probhat Debnath said the library has three types of members – lifetime members, members who donate and general members.
"Anyone, who believes in the spirit of the Liberation War and agrees to the library's objectives, can be a member of the library by filling a form and paying Tk1,000. If anybody wants to be a lifetime member, he/she has to give Tk20,000 at a time. A person who wants to be a contributing member has to donate books worth more than Tk20,000 or the amount in cash at a time," he said.
Social and cultural activities of Anirban
Apart from nurturing knowledge, the members of the library take part in social work. They help people who have been affected by natural calamities. Not only the young generation but also teachers and intellectuals of the locality regularly participate in social work along with the members. The members, who are staying in different parts of the country and foreign lands also came forward to help people affected by cyclone Amphan in the southern region. They also helped tornado-affected people in Brahmanbaria.
The library holds different cultural programmes, including book reading, recitation and music competitions. It also organises different sports competitions. The library helps students in their academic studies and in learning music and poetry recitation. It also provides information on employment opportunities to young people. Information on agriculture related issues are also available in the library. It offers free internet service for its members.
It also provides meritorious students with education stipends. Besides, the library organises free health camps for local people. Physicians, hailing from this locality, come from different corners of the country to participate in the camps.
The library holds tree plantation programmes every year. Besides, it organises public awareness programmes to protect the environment and stop drug abuse.
Prof Kalidas hopes that the library will continue to serve as the centre of knowledge in the region for a long time.