The Academy was initially a government institution and was run by a committee. Mohammad Barkatullah was appointed secretary and special officer of the Academy. On 1 December 1956, Dr Muhammad Enamul Haq took over charge as the first Director of the Academy. In 1957, the Bangla Academy Act was passed, giving the academy the status of an autonomous organization, financed by the government.
The functions and structure of the Academy have been devised on the model of the French Academy. The main function of the Academy is the promotion and development of Bangla. It is also involved in research and publication on Bangla language and literature. It has five divisions: Research, Translation, Compilation, Publication and Library. It has a considerable folklore collection, including Puthis (manuscripts) of ancient and medieval periods, folk songs, Folk songs, rhymes, puzzles etc., some of which has been published. It has published textbooks and reference books in Bangla, collected works of major Bangla writers, textbooks and reference books in Bangla, Bangla translations of books on literature, history, sciences, social sciences, etc, as well as translations of major works in Bangla into foreign languages.
One of the Academy's major contributions to Bangla has been its work of compiling and publishing dictionaries and encyclopedias. The Bangla Academy is the biggest publishing house of the country, and, had published more than 5000 books and journals. The printing press of the Academy is quite modern and equipped with computers. The Academy has more than two hundred officers and employees to conduct its business.
Apart from publications, the Bangla Academy also holds seminars and discussions on different subjects, cultural functions, etc. It arranges Bangla language courses for foreigners as well as technical training and Bangla word processing. It has a young writers' project and also provides research scholarships. The annual book fair held in February has become an important literary and cultural event, for which writers and publishers strive to publish new books. Lectures are arranged during the month on various aspects of Bangla language and literature. Cultural functions are also held throughout the month, highlighting Bengali culture. The Bangla Academy Literary Award given on the occasion of 21 February is considered a very prestigious award.