International Workshop on Libraries and Literacy

As part of its efforts to assist countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) convened an international workshop on ‘How Libraries Support National Literacy Efforts’ from 5 – 6 April 2016 to explore how countries can best use their library systems to improve literacy outcomes.

Download: How Libraries Support National Literacy Efforts: Workshop Report (17 pages)

Twenty-eight participants from all world regions, including library representatives and literacy stakeholders from the government and civil society sectors, discussed ways in which countries can harness the potential of public and community library systems by integrating their literacy activities with national literacy efforts and strategies at local and national levels. Good practice examples from around the world showed that often libraries have the long-standing trust of communities and are well positioned to provide a wide variety of literacy opportunities, including intergenerational and family literacy activities, that reach out to children, youth and adults.

Participants emphasized that in order for libraries to fully meet their role as literacy resources, governments need to include them in the dialogue for the creation of national literacy plans, alongside other literacy stakeholders. Further, resources need to be catalyzed to assess the existing situation of libraries in the region in order to tailor services to beneficiaries’ literacy needs, provide staff with relevant training opportunities, and promote libraries as safe places for people to develop literacy skills to their fullest potential.

To provide participants with sufficient background knowledge, the workshop addressed the following topics:

·         How libraries in different countries are currently addressing literacy challenges

·         How government policies can be adapted to promote the inclusion and use of libraries

·         How libraries can effectively mobilize communities around reading

·         How countries can maximize existing literacy activities in libraries in order to reach their literacy goals

The workshop was organized by the UIL Library and members of the Literacy and Basic Skills team of UIL, in partnership with IREX / Beyond Access.


Policy Recommendations

During the workshop participants developed eleven recommendations on how governments could empower libraries to serve as national literacy assets. These recommendations were condensed after the workshop into the following five policy recommendations that will be used in an upcoming policy brief on the workshop topic:


o   Involve libraries in the policy dialogue surrounding literacy and ensure that libraries are an integral part of local and national literacy strategies and efforts.

o   Enable libraries to provide a literate environment for everyone to develop, enhance and sustain literacy skills within a lifelong learning perspective.

o   Ensure libraries are inclusive and have the knowledge and resources to provide relevant literacy materials in a welcoming space for marginalized, vulnerable and minority language groups.

o   Institutionalize professionalization and invest in ongoing training for all library staff.

o   Collect and analyze the data provided by libraries for better informed policy-making and coordination of the various literacy efforts of different stakeholders.


To comment or question, contact Lisa Krolak,

UIL Library Head, Feldbrunnenstr. 69, 20148 Hamburg, Germany

Tel. ++49 (0)40 44 80 41 33 / Fax ++49 (0) 40 4107723

Skype for business:


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