Young people are large stakeholders in the month-long Amar Ekushey Book Fair as the Bangla Academy premises and nearby Suhrawardy Udyan get filled by mostly students from schools, colleges and universities. But the youth also play a pivotal role in manning the array of stalls and helping as best they can to match booklovers with their favourite books.
Across 770 stalls and 24 pavilions in the fairgrounds, the workforce hired by the publishing houses as sales staff is mostly made up of students. They consider it a good opportunity for a part-time job alongside their regular studies to make some extra income, or to gain some experience of managing inventories.
Miftu Mou, a final year student of Dhaka University, describes her experience as ‘practical’, as she started working for publishing house Priyomukh as a salesperson at their stall for the first-time. “Being surrounded by books is indeed enjoyable. Alongside handling the visitors I myself can read a few in spare times,” she added.
Indeed, these precious opportunities to spend time with and among books acts to motivate many who take on these roles. They are mostly lovers of books themselves.
Mou also told UNB that she is allowed to choose shifts based on her class schedule.
But this is often not the case in case of the other stalls, as many of the students have to work continuously.
Mohasin, a final year student of National University, said his work schedule consists of six hour shifts every day, and climbing up on holidays.
“Although we are given overtime for holidays, it’s not enough for the pressure we endure,” he added.
Students who have worked previously in stalls are preferred more by the publishing houses. One such is Israt Jahan, a third year student of Begum Badrunnesa College, who has been working as a sales staff at Boi Mela for the past three years.
“I first came to know about this job from my friend. Now, I personally have been working here for past three book fairs, as my experience in customer handling is valued by my employer,” Israt explains.
She also said the job is a great way for her to supplement her income.
Over and above everything else though, this temporary job during the annual event is valued by the students for bringing them closer to the writers.
A second year student of Kabi Nazrul Government College, Akash stated that this opportunity is the main concern for him. “Sure my job is tiring, but I got the chance to meet many noted writers and poets in the fair, which is why I like it,” he said.
The salary these students get for their services vary among publishing houses. According to them, the salary can be as low as Tk 5,000 and reach up to Tk 12,000 depending on the stalls.
Publishing houses mostly prefers students for working in stalls, said Liakat Ullah, a sales executive of Student Ways publishing house.
“Main visitors of the book fair are students. We try to employ students in stalls as they can communicate better with them,” he said.
Liakat also said as students keep themselves up to date about new books, it helps the publishers to sell more.
Not all is positive about student salespersons according to Humayun Kabir, a sales manager for Charulipi publishing house.
“Inexperience of some newcomers sometimes results in poor customer satisfaction,” he said.
After the month-long session of works, these students hope to take away a better knowledge about practical life and also rejoice their opportunity of working with books.unb