Library is cultured institution where books, journals, newspapers as well as their information are kept to be used by readers and researchers. Origin of the word library is liber, a latin word which means Books. Another derivative of the word liber is libraium which means 'place to keep books'. In Anglo-French the word Librarie means 'collection of books'.

Before the advent of printing machine written works were done on tree leaf or bark, stone, clay pots or animal skins. These materials were collected and preserved in the libraries. Research on about 30,000 burned clay plates Mesopotamia (Iraq) suggests that those were five thousand years old. The papyrus scrolls found in Amrana and Thebes of ancient Egypt were written in 1300-1200 BC. Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian people established their habitation in the valley of Mesopotamia and contributed to the civilisation by establishing libraries.

During the ancient time kings, members of royal family and elites of the society used libraries. All people did not have any there. With the passage of time, discovery of printing machine, pen and paper pave the way to avail printed books and the practice of library work gradually extended among the common people. For the present knowledge based society, importance of library is immense.

The tradition of preserving manuscript of puthi prevailed in Bangladesh too. These manuscripts were written on palm leaf, bark of trees or on parchment vellum. Sometimes they were inscribed on burnt clay plate. These were generally preserved in religious places of Bihars. Some manuscripts of 3rd BC were found in different places of Bangladesh. Hossain Shahi dynasty established the first royal library in the medieval age. In 1780 Missionaries of srirampur established a library for preserving printed books and manuscript. Soon after, this trend was followed by Kolkata Aliya Madrasah and Benarash Hindu University. Fort William College established a library of arts and science in 1805. asiatic society established another library in Calcutta in 1805.'

In private initiative, four public libraries were established in 1854. These are: Bogra Woodburn Library, Rangpur Public Library, jessore institute public library and Barisal Public Library. Moreover some other remarkable libraries set up are: Raja Rammohan Roy Library, Dhaka (1871), Northbrook Hall Library (1882), Sirajgonj Public Library (1882), Rajshahi Sadharan Granthagar (1884), Comilla Birchandra Gonopathagar (1885), Annyada Gobinda Public Library (1890), Shah Mokhdum Institute Public Library, Rajshahi (1891), Noakhali Townhall and Public Library (1896), Umesh Chandra Public Library, Khulna (1896), Prize Memorial Library, Sylhet (1897), Victoria Public Library, Natore (1901), Chittagong Municipality Public Library (1904), Rammohan Public Library, Dhaka (1906), Harendranath Public Library, Munshigonj (1908).

Trend of establishing libraries went on throughout the undivided Bengal until the commencement of World War II. These libraries acted as learning place for British bureaucrats and a place for leisure time and social gathering. In the 39th conference of Congress held at Belgoan in 1924 is marked by the acceptance of proposal to establish libraries throughout the country. Great Indian Conference on libraries was held in the same year with the decision of establishing library association in each province. In 1925, Great Bengal Library Association was established and in the month of December, library workers and readers got together in a meeting. District representatives from undivided Bengal requested each district board and municipality to establish libraries.

At present, almost each district and upazila has a non-government library. A survey of national book centre (NBC) shows that there are 1600 libraries throughout the country. Yet, most of them are not developed. 31 public and 51 private universities have their own libraries. The library of dhaka university started its journey in 1921 since the commencement of the university. The total number of books in this university is more than 7 lakhs along with 76,000 bound volume journals. About 300 journals are kept in this library. 70 thousand primary schools and 12 thousand secondary schools have their own libraries. Moreover, libraries are found in madrasah centered religious education centres.

During the nineteenth century libraries were established in every district of Bangladesh. In early 20th century, library clubs were set up in villages. In most cases these libraries were about religion and literature oriented. Libraries begin its journey as a specialised organisation from the second decade of twentieth century and Library Science emerged as a specific discipline in the universities.

In 1965, the National Library was established for the first time in Bangladesh. Its aim was to nourish our art, culture, literature, tradition, education and creed; to collect, preserve and disseminate the publication about the state and nation as well as to act as a government information supply center.

Its regular activities are to collect all published journals, books or any other publication being empowered by Copyright Law, preserve and publicise them; to collect, preserve and publicize the publication about our country published outside the country; to produce and publish national booklist; to produce union catalogue; to collect the manuscripts; to coordinate inter-library service; to coordinating the library service throughout the country; to work as an international information exchange center; to provide ISBN and ISSN to locally published books and journals consecutively; to provide information service to the government and so on.

Foundation stone of the new building of national library was laid in Agargoan, Dhaka in 1978 and this institution commenced its journey as Directorate of Archives and Libraries from 1985. It consists of Booklist section, Library section, Binding section, Processing section, Computer section, Microfilm section, Donation section and so on. Our national library preserves more than seven hundred thousand books. It has been providing ISBN since 1996. Besides the National Health Library and Documentation Centre (NHLDOC) was established at Dhaka. Public Library was established in 1958 inside Dhaka University which was shifted to the new building at Shahbag in 1978. This library established libraries in every district and Upazila.'

Bangladesh Parishad was declared dissolved in 1982 by Enam Committee and recommendation was given to form a Department comprising the libraries in the district level. As per the recommendation, Department of the Public Library was established in 1984.'

Libraries under this public library division have following parts: General reading room, Women and Children reading room, Newspaper and Journal room and Research and Reference room.

Many of these libraries have Internet and IT facilities. At present, 68 public libraries are operated under the Department of Public Library division throughout the country.

Among those leading libraries are: Sufia Kamal National Public Library in Dhaka and six others located in divisional headquarters Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Khulna and Barisal. Beside 57 libraries located in different district headquarters, there are four branch libraries, two in Dhaka (Armanitola and Mohammadpur) and other two are located in Rajshahi and Mymensingh.

Under this Department, there are 411 officials and staffs, who take care of 1.6 million books for 600 readers per day.

There are some considerable number of agriculture education and research related libraries. The library of bangladesh agricultural university, Mymensingh is enriched with books, reference books, newspapers, Journals and research papers. This library provides CD-ROM, CABI, AGRIS Database, AV Materials and instruments along with information service. FAO library in Bangladesh maintains all the collections of UNO, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO and IRRI as well as agri-based information from SAARC and other countries.

bangabandhu sheikh mujibur rahman agricultural university, Salna, Gazipur and Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute also located in Gazipur have agri-based libraries. Such specialised libraries are there in different Agriculture universities and institutions located in Dhaka, Patuakhali, Dinajpur and Rajshahi. Besides, there are some specialised libraries where are huge collection of books on rice, livestock, fisheries, forestry, jute, potato, tea, veterinary, animal husbandry, cotton, wheat, mango, silk, soil science, village sociology, village development and industry. Agricultural Information Centre (AIC) is now a part of Agricultural Research Association which as earlier known as National Agricultural Library and Documentation Centre (NALDOC) Library of this centre have information perseveration, publication and reprography division and it provides valuable information. There are some sciences and technology based libraries in the country. These are: Library of bangladesh university of engineering and technology (BUET); Library of Islamic University of Technology (IUT); Library of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC); Library of Dhaka University of Engineering and Technology (DUET); and Libraries of Bangladesh Polytechnic Institutes.

Bangladesh National Science and Technical Information and Documentation Centre (BANSDOC) as one of the most important technology based libraries which is a member of SAARC documentation center.

Leading medical libraries of the country are: National Health Library and Documentation Centre; Library of the Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Madical University; Libraries of different medical colleges; Library of BIRDEM; Library of the Institute of Public Health; Library of the institute of Chest Research; Library of the Institute of Communicable Diseases; Library of the Institute of Heart Research and Cardiovascular Diseases; and Library of some other hospitals and organisations.

There are some research and training related libraries in the asiatic society of bangladesh; bangladesh national museum; varendra research museum; institute of bangladesh studies; Institute of Nutrition and Food Science; Institute of Statistical Research and Training; Bureau of Statistics, Bangladesh; Planning Commission; Islamic Foundation of Bangladesh; Institute of Modern Languages; bangladesh bank; bangla academy; bangladesh shishu academy; Bangladesh Television; Bangladesh Betar; Bangladesh Military Academy; Bangladesh Textile University; Leather Technology Institute and BISIC etc.

Almost all ministries, divisions and departments of the government have their own libraries. Autonomous and semi-autonomous organisations also developed libraries as per their need. Bangladesh Secretariat Library is the largest among the Government libraries. Libraries of FBCCI and DCCI are also enriched with books and resources.

Recently some Libraries have been established with Regional and International help and co-operation. SAARC Agriculture Information Center (SAIC) established within the premises of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC). This information center supplies information on Agricultural Science and the related matter among eight member countries of SAARC.

International Center for Direahoel Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDRB) supplies information from internal and external sources. CIRDAP supplies information on rural matters.

To improve the strength of various libraries and to increase the reading habits Biswha Shahitay Kendra, Community Development Library (CDL), library association of bangladesh (LAB), Bangladesh Association of Librarians, Information Scientist and Documentalist (BALID), Bangladesh Gronthgar Bandhab Samity, Bangladesh Non-government Public Library Federation are carrying out campaigns. There are lots of weaknesses in Library Management in Bangladesh. But Government, NGO and civil society are working together to develop the library and information service. [Md Zillur Rahman]