Monthly Archives: May 2018

5 ways to celebrate the World Day for Cultural Diversity

21 May is the World Day for Cultural Diversity established by the UN in 2002. The day promotes cultural diversity and dialogues among nations, people and cultures.

In 2015 IFLA, in partnership with UNESCO, published The Multicultural Library – a gateway to a cultural diverse society in dialogue. Libraries serve diverse interests and communities, they function as learning, cultural, and information centres, addressing cultural and linguistic diversity serving all members of the community.

This day is an opportunity to learn and understand the value of cultural diversity. Here’s five things you can do to embrace cultural diversity

1.Visit a library exhibition dedicated to other cultures

Libraries around the world support cultural diversity and have large collections and even exhibitions on a variety of cultures and cultural heritage. For example at the National Library of South Africa the exhibition ”Treasure House of Knowledge” show cases 300 of the institutes national treasures including a 10th century illuminated gospel book, Solomon T Plaatje’s translation of Julius Caesar into Tswana and letters from Olive Schreiner to Mahatma Gandhi during a time of turbulence in South Africa.

2. Talk to someone from another religion or culture to share views on life

They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover! The Human Library is a place where real people are on loan to readers. There are Human Library events in libraries all over the world, where you can meet books such as the Refugee, the Muslim and the Convert. The Human Library supports dialogue between people, and let you learn more about other religions and cultures.

3. Read a book from another country than your own

There a plenty of languages that have nothing translated into other languages, and in countries such as the UK only 4.5 % of poetry, fiction and drama works are translations. In 2015 a movement started, having one goal: to read one book from every country in the world. The aim was to learn about different countries, cultures and people. Watch the TED talk how it all started and find the list of books from all over the world.

4. Learn about the diversity of cultures in your own country

In many countries libraries provides a historical glimpse of the country and its indigenous people. At the Native Hawaiian Library they offer services such as story telling, oral history and book launches. You can browse through Hawaiian language newspapers published between 1834 and 1948 and learn about history and language.

You can of course also ask your local librarian help you seek out the most important texts from thinkers of other cultures such as Socrates, Aristotle and Rumi.

5. Explore music from a different culture

Your local library will have a wide range of music pieces that you can borrow. Try to pick up something that you wouldn’t usually listen to, or browse through the online collection of Europeana where you can explore music recordings and other music items from across Europe.

Commonalities and Convergence: Celebrating the International Day of Museums

Adapted from British Museum Reading Room Panorama Feb 2006

Adapted from British Museum Reading Room Panorama Feb 2006, CC-BY 2.5 Diliff

‘Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples’.


In its description of the core value of museums for International Museums Day, the International Council on Museums (ICOM) makes it easy to draw parallels with the work of libraries. Our institutions are far from just being storehouses, but are places where ideas, creativity and knowledge are accessed, shared, and applied.


As ICOM sets out, this contributes to understanding, cooperation and peace. IFLA’s own work underlines the contribution that heritage and information can make to building stronger, more cohesive societies, better able to achieve their development goals.


To celebrate International Museum Day, it seems fitting to look at what libraries and museums share, in their activities, in their values, and in the challenges they face.


Common Actions

It is hard enough even to develop comprehensive definitions of what libraries and museums are, and of course they hold highly varied collections. Yet in their core activities, there are key similarities, with acquisition, preservation, and access to works in the public interest.


The materials they are collecting, safeguarding and exhibiting may vary, with museums often focused on objects and artifacts and libraries on documentary heritage. Yet these all require both expertise and dedication, and a responsible and imaginative approach to engaging the public. And the subject of how we preserve our digital heritage is becoming increasingly pressing as the share of creativity and knowledge produced online grows.


Increasingly, both libraries and museums are exploring new possibilities for people to use their collections, both for research and creative purposes. The emergence of the digital humanities offers new possibilities to show the value of the materials held by our institutions, and inspire new works.


Common Values

Underlying these actions is a shared commitment to heritage, and understanding of the contribution it can make to broader societal goals. By collecting and giving access to ideas and innovations, they are an early manifestation of the sharing economy.


Both institutions helped break away from the old world of art and literature funded by, and reserved for, the elite. Libraries and museums are fundamentally democratic institutions.


Yet alongside this, there are important professional considerations concerning collections. Libraries and museums are conscious of the impact of the choices they make today, as well as of those made in the past.


In these choices, both libraries and museums require both independence (as set out in the recent ICOM statement, as well as in IFLA’s 1999 statement on Libraries and Intellectual Freedom), and strong attention to ethical principles. Both IFLA and ICOM have developed codes of ethics for use by their members.


Common Challenges

In a world where many people’s first instinct when looking for information or entertainment is to switch on their computer or phone, libraries and museums are both working increasingly through their websites. With the exception of the most high-profile institutions, the importance of the platforms that can host or at least bring collections together is growing.


These platforms come in different shapes and sizes. As well as those which are publicly or independently supported (such as Europeana or Wikipedia), the importance of commercial platforms such as Google (and even pirate sites) cannot be underestimated. There is value in thinking together about where there is experience to share, in order to ensure the public interest is protected and maximised.


Similarly, and topically with the upcoming meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), the copyright challenges faced by libraries and museums (as well as archives) are also similar.


This is partly due to convergence in the digital world, but also the fact that the work of the institutions is often difficult to separate. As IFLA’s statement at the last SCCR meeting set out, ‘libraries and museums contain archival collections, museums and archives house libraries, and archives  hold library and museum materials’.


In their work to preserve, organise, give access to and use cultural heritage, more harm than good comes from trying to treat these institutions separately.



So congratulations to friends and colleagues in the museums sector on the International Day of Museums, and here’s to more discussion, exchange and cooperation in the future!

Keeping the Information Society Social

17 May is World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, marking the anniversary of the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865. Communications have clearly changed a lot since then, and in doing so have changed economics and societies.


As in any situation of rapid and radical change, it challenges us to find ways to defend values and principles that are timeless, in new circumstances. To consider not just economic questions, but also social ones that go beyond making money, and focus on how we can best live together.


In short, the information society must be truly social, and libraries can help make this happen.


Access for all

A first key principle of a healthy society has to be inclusion. In the case of the information society, this means that everyone should have the possibility to access the possibilities created by information technologies to improve their own lives. 2018 is the year that we are likely to see 50% of the world’s population connected.


However, while growing wealth and the falling cost of connectivity is helping boost access, it should not be economics alone that determines who can go online. Indeed, such an approach will tend to bring greater benefits to those who were already better placed.


Public Internet access in libraries – a priority set down in the original WSIS agenda in 2005 and reaffirmed in 2015 – has a major role to play both in bringing people online, and as a complement to ‘private’ access at home. Libraries around the world are offering both connection, and the necessary devices, to allow people to start to benefit from the Internet.


Fort Worth Computer Lab. CC-BY 3.0 Informationwave

Meaningful access for all

For many, simply getting online is all that’s necessary. We know that when users are motivated, they can often learn how to use technology themselves. However, this will not be the case for everyone, including those who may not see the value in access, or who can be discouraged by frustrations or failures. There is a real value in intermediaries – in particular libraries – who can offer the guidance, support and simply encouragement needed to create confident and knowledgeable users.


It is worth highlighting yesterday’s decision in the US Senate to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to end net neutrality. The move increases the chances of ensuring that all websites can benefit from the same access speeds as each other, instead of giving preference to those who can strike deals with Internet service providers. This is a good result for libraries, who have been arguing in favour of this for a number of years.


Defending social principles

Beyond access, there are also more complex questions around behaviours and attitudes online. There is a recurring fear that the Internet is undermining many of the rules – written and unwritten – that help people live together. It is true that in facilitating greater freedom of expression and access to information, new technologies have also facilitated crime and attacks on human rights.


A smarter approach is needed than simply cracking down on the Internet, or the services that make it work. Fears about motor transport at the beginning led to very low speed limits and tough regulation, but it was soon accepted that education (i.e. driving lessons) was the best way forwards, with punishment for genuine offenders. The Information Society should work in the same way.


Libraries argue for the defence of key principles – the right to privacy should be observed, that free speech should not be unduly curtailed (and that education is the only sustainable response), and that information users have rights, as set down in exceptions and limitations to copyright – that should be respected. Through their own activities they can set examples, educate users (the subject of a side-event held today at RightsCon, in Toronto, Canada), and advocate for better laws.


As Vint Cerf underlined last year, the principles that underpinned the development of libraries are sorely needed in the further development of the Internet. The Internet Society must be social.


Find out more about IFLA’s work on the information society.

5 May 2018 – African World Heritage Day

The African World Heritage Day is an opportunity to celebrate, in Africa and around the world, the cultural heritage, but it is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the urgent need to protect and safeguard endangered African heritage.

Despite the richness of Africa’s heritage, Africa remains underrepresented on the World Heritage List, yet accounts for 42 % of all listings on the List of World Heritage in Danger. More encouragingly, it represents a large part of the listings on the Memory of the World Register, which focuses more strongly on documentary heritage.

The Manuscripts of Mali

Over the last years the ancient city of Timbuktu has been frequent media attention for crimes not only against people, but also against Mali’s cultural heritage. During the occupation of northern Mali, extremists destroyed cultural heritage sites and set ablaze the Library of Timbuktu, burning around 4500 manuscripts and with it an important piece of Mali’s history. Already during the Jidhadist occupation, thousands of manuscripts had been transported in secret to Bamako, in the now famous rescue operation organised by the Timbuktu librarian Abdel Kader Haidara. Some librarians chose not to take part in the rescue mission, but instead chose to hide their precious manuscripts in secret desert hiding spaces around Timbuktu.

UNESCO formed a working group in response to Mali’s emergency situation, with IFLA represented by former President Ellen Tise. The group formulated an action plan to rebuild Timbuktu’s cultural heritage, with IFLA focussing on guarantee the safekeeping of written cultural heritage, as well as the restoration and adequate training for the cultural custodians in Mali. Today The British Library, through the Endangered Archives Programme, and in partnership with the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library in Minnesota, USA, are undertaking the digitisation of the libraries in Timbuktu.

PAC Centres

The IFLA Strategic Programme on Preservation and Conservation (PAC) was officially created during the IFLA annual conference in Nairobi in 1984 . The PAC Programme has one major goal: to ensure that library and archive materials, published and unpublished, in all formats, will be preserved in accessible form for as long as possible.

There are two PAC Centres in Africa: the South Africa PAC Centre located at the National Library of South Africa, and the Cameroon PAC Centre located at CERDOTOLA (the International Centre for research and documentation on African traditions and languages). The two PAC centres have a wide range of expertise concerning preservation and conservation as well as safeguarding cultural heritage. The centres host events, trainings and workshops and support librarians and others on preservation of documentary cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage both tangible and intangible, natural and cultural, and consisting of both movable and immovable assets inherited from the past, is of extremely high value for the present and the future of communities. Access, preservation, and education around cultural heritage are essential for the evolution of peoples and their cultures. The preservation and restoration of cultural heritage has always been a priority for IFLA, as a key element of the contribution of libraries to humanity.


Join the Copyright and Other Legal Matters Network!

In February, we blogged about copyright reforms that were upcoming or ongoing in 2018 and whose outcomes were likely to have an impact on libraries. As such, copyright remains one of the core elements of IFLA’s advocacy work, both at the global level, and in support of its members nationally and regionally. Our goal is to ensure that libraries benefit from laws that respond to their, and their users’ needs.

The most obvious forum for IFLA’s advocacy here is the World Intellectual Property Organisation, where discussion on exceptions and limitations to enable access to information are on the table (see here for the latest developments). However, many changes are happening at a national and regional level.

To keep track of – and react to – these changes, IFLA relies on a large group of experts from all over the world, gathered on the CLM Network. It is currently composed of over 90 volunteers from over 30 different countries. Their input and collaboration are fundamental for IFLA to identify current copyright reforms and act where needed.

The blog post “Copyright for Libraries – Part 1” is an example of this cross-border collaboration in monitoring copyright reforms. Network members are invited to contribute to our database on ongoing copyright reforms, which provided the evidence for that analysis.

Some other good examples include the submissions made on the South African (see the submission) and the Colombian (see comments and letter) copyright reforms, among others. The input and understanding of people on the ground was key to understanding the legislative procedure in the country or region, identifying the possibilities to submit comments, analysing the provisions and their impact on libraries, and writing suggestions for improvement.

Moreover, network members play an important role in supporting IFLA’s work at WIPO. We want to ensure that every government official attending WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (the committee discussing exceptions and limitations to copyright for libraries) has heard from a local librarian, to ensure they understand the need for progress.

As such the network provides invaluable support to the work of the IFLA Advisory Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters (CLM), and delivers on the need, highlighted in the IFLA Global Vision Report Summary, for “more and better advocates at all levels”.

We’ll be happy to hear about what’s going on in your country, to get your perspective in several questions and to help whenever needed. Your examples will also be of great help to the broader community. We welcome contributions to the Library Policy and Advocacy blog on copyright, and you can also tweet about copyright and libraries in your country using the hashtag #Copyright4Libraries.

You can join the network through this page by subscribing to the IFLA-CLM mailing list (copyright and other legal matters advisory committee network).

Copyright for Libraries in 2018 – Part 2: New and Ongoing Issues

While the bread and butter of copyright – issues around copying, lending and preserving works – continue to be at the heart of discussions on the topic, it is worth thinking about some of the other questions which are likely to make regular appearances in debates over the rest of the year. Many of these are not new but may be the subject of laws in 2018 which are likely to shape decision-making elsewhere. Of course this is just a selection – we invite further suggestions in the comment box!


Unbundling Rights: with the shift from physical to digital, copyrighted works are increasingly provided as ‘services’, instead of ‘goods’. Rather than acquiring a hard copy, users pay for access to material that is often stored elsewhere. This is notably the case with streaming services. For libraries offering eBooks and other digital content, collections policy can be as much about signing contracts for access as purchasing hard copies.

As such, the rules applying to services, and notably streaming, are going to continue to be a major issue, not least as it may not be considered that there has even been a ‘first sale’ of the work, the step that traditionally leads to the exhaustion of rights in many countries.

In particular, by making access to copyrighted works into a service, it becomes possible to ‘unbundle’ different potential uses. Rather than simply buying a book, and then having the right to do what you want with it, it may be necessary to pay to read, then pay again to copy, to lend, to share with a friend, or to perform text and data mining. Contract terms (which in most cases are considered more important than copyright exceptions set out in law) and technological protection measures (which also often benefit from legal protection) help make this possible.

A first challenge associated with this is the risk to limitations and exceptions, adopted in most countries as a means of protecting the rights of users to access information. Just because a use of a work can be licensed, it does not mean that it should, rather than happening under an exception. There are important discussions taking place as to whether contract terms which override copyright exceptions should be made unenforceable. A number of these, notably in the EU and South Africa, may lead to law this year. The example they set will be important.

Secondly, such rules only work when there is a clearly identified rightholder who can manage these rights. A large share of the works owned by libraries – and found on the Internet – either have no clear rightholder, or it is impossible to identify them. As set out in IFLA’s work on the Limits of Licensing, this is an area where the focus on making it possible to unbundle rights makes no sense. In Nigeria and Colombia, proposed legislation tackles the question of such ‘orphan’ works, while the EU is looking to find a way of allowing access to out-of-commerce works more broadly. Again, important examples may be set or confirmed.


Copyright and AI: the case of Naruto the Macaque (the monkey selfie) is now over, and with it the latest attempt to extend the possibility to claim copyright away from natural or legal persons. However, it comes in the context of broader questions about who – or what – can claim copyright. The main focus is on artificial intelligence (AI), and the question of who should collect revenues from works which, for example, have been written by computer.

While this may seem far off, it is already the case in journalism, where simple news stories can be compiled automatically. Should it be the programmers behind the AI, even though they may not understand how it works any more? Should it be the computer itself?

It is also worth noting that just as traditional creation depends extensively on using previous works for inspiration, AI also uses analysis of existing works in order to ‘learn’. Google Translate has benefitted from working through a huge amount of existing works in order to improve. Doing this implied the right to ‘mine’ the text for meaning, the subject of ongoing copyright discussions in Europe. So while it is not clear whether AI itself may lead to copyright, it is clear that the development of AI benefits extensively from the right copyright laws.

While we are still at a very early stage in discussions around the policy implications of AI, copyright is likely to be part of this. Whoever makes the first move is likely to shape the response of others.


Unwaivable Remuneration: this is, again, not a new idea. However, it regularly appears in proposals for legislation, and even international trade deals. The idea is initially attractive – that regardless of the deals signed by creators (who are often not in a strong position vis-à-vis others), they maintain the right to remuneration for their work. The concept is increasingly also applied to publishers, notably in the case of press publishers’ rights to a return when their materials are used by news aggregators.

However, the concept of unwaivable remuneration places a fundamental limitation of the right of authors to decide what to do with their creations. The creators between the 1.4bn works licensed under Creative Commons, as well as many others using other open licences, have clearly taken a conscious decision not to charge.

Of course, such an unwaivable right would make life easier for those bodies which collect revenues on behalf of creators by removing the need to check the licensing terms around any given book, photo or song before charging money to use it. Creators of openly licensed works are, understandably, unlikely to be members of the collecting societies which pool these revenues, given that they do not expect remuneration. Use of money, otherwise, will be determined by the rules that govern collecting societies.


Deal-Making with the Bigger Players: when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) in the US, and the e-Commerce Directive in the EU were passed into law, they created the possibility of ‘safe harbours’. The goal at the time was to ensure that the development of new Internet companies would not unduly be held back by facing liability for the content uploaded to them by users and others.

The rules have certainly allowed for the emergence of the platforms and search engines that have made the Internet what it is today. The start-ups that the laws were supposed to support, at least a small number of them, have grown very rich, and those owning the rights in the content that they host have an interest in taking a greater share of this revenue. A central element of campaigns here have been efforts to redefine what platforms must do to benefit from safe harbour provisions.

While efforts for reform – often backed up by arguments around the existence of a ‘value gap’ – are not new, there are some signs of a greater readiness from the bigger companies to cut deals. From Facebook’s Instant Articles or Google’s payments to support the French media sector, the biggest names can easily afford to pay a small share of their revenues to rightholders. They can also deal with requirements to check uploaded content for potential copyright infringement, as is currently proposed in Europe.

The same appears to be at hand in the academic field, with an agreement between some publishers and Research Gate to cooperate on giving free access to articles. In all these cases, part of the deal is likely to be the sharing of usage data by platforms. Given the interest shown by many publishers in data, this is a logical strategic step, but reduces the scope available to researchers to access and share content without being tracked.

The risk with this is that smaller platforms, including non-commercial ones such as scientific or educational repositories run by libraries, are not in a position to do this. While the explicit exclusion of libraries from tougher rules, as currently proposed in Australia, may remove the immediate threat to our institutions, it will still consolidate the position of the Googles and Facebooks of the world among commercial players. This, arguably, is not desirable.


Delisting Search Results and the Export of Copyright Rules: while the right to be forgotten is primarily a privacy question, a pair of cases, in Canada and the EU, show that there are common concerns about the territorial scope of copyright.

In the EU, the French Data Protection Agency is arguing that when a decision is taken to remove a certain article from search results, this should apply globally, rather than just in the country where the decision is taken. In Canada, courts in the Equustek case are also suggesting that the decision to delist search results concerning a company accused of violating trade secrets should also be applied globally.

Clearly these provisions are not easily enforceable. The logical end-point being a choice for the search engine of whether to restrict choice for users everywhere else in the world or give up on the market in question. Nonetheless, this raises the question of whether, if such decisions are confirmed by the highest courts in their respective countries or regions, it could lead to the export of copyright protections.

For example, a website may contain a work making a use of a copyrighted work considered fair in country A, but not be in country B. If the courts in country B decide that this website should be delisted globally, there is a threat to the right of users in country A to access this work. As such, it will be important to keep an eye on legal developments in this area.

Sustaining and Celebrating a Free Press through Libraries: World Press Freedom Day 2018

Patrons reading newspapers in the State Library of Queensland, 1934 (Public Domain, Author Unknown)

Patrons reading newspapers in the State Library of Queensland, 1934 (Public Domain, Author Unknown)

Since the invention of modern printing, newspapers, newssheets and pamphlets, and in the 20th century radio and television, have been the vehicles of free speech, open debate, and democracy. Editors and journalists have marked their times, popularising new ideas, shaping thinking, and uncovering wrong-doing.


Every effort to censor or block news only serves to underline this potential for sharing ideas and driving change. That such efforts continue is testimony to the power of free media, and underlines the continuing need to insist on the protection of journalists. Libraries, in taking a strong stance in favour of freedom of speech, are natural allies.


Press Under Pressure

There are other threats though. Changes in the advertising market, and competition for people’s attention, has undermined the business model of ‘traditional’ newspapers, forcing difficult decisions about charging for access. Many have simply closed, or been taken over.


Some have chosen to provide more ‘clickbait’ as a means of earning more from adverts, arguably contributing to the ‘fake news’ phenomenon. Others are seeking to change copyright laws to try and extract greater revenues from news aggregators sides such as Google News through ‘snippet taxes’, regardless of the harm this will do to libraries and Internet users in general.


There’s no lack of writing about fake news or snippet taxes. IFLA has also often underlined the risks posed by ‘right to be forgotten’ laws, which threaten to limit journalists’ freedom to write, and see their work maintained online and accessible long-term.


However, in addition to getting involved in these high-level discussions, there are also interesting initiatives taking place on the ground – libraries which are working to ensure that there is a demand for a free press, and supply of quality journalism.


Printing the Bain News Service Photos, Bain News Service (Library of Congress Collection, Public Domain)

Printing the Bain News Service Photos, Bain News Service (Library of Congress Collection, Public Domain)

Grass Roots: Libraries, Supply and Demand

A blog in January by David Beard on Poynter set out the potential, telling the story of Mike Sullivan, director of the public library in Weare, New Hampshire, United States. When the town newspaper closed down, he set up his own from the library, reporting on local events and activities. This has brought new interest in local events, reinvigorating the community.


This example is not unique – in Zákánsyszék in Hungary, the local librarian, Edina Paraginé Tóth, started to work for the local newspaper fifteen years ago, wanting to help improve its quality. From this, she moved on to writing a column, and ten years ago helped set up an association to take over the newspaper. She is now on the editorial board, helping shape the direction of the newspaper.


There is a degree of shared purpose between librarians and journalists. David Beard, in his article, highlights the sense of public service, as well as the focus on information as key areas where librarianship and journalism can come together.


This is more than just a convergence of values, but also of practice. David Beard cites Tom Huang, who has worked with the Dallas Morning News among others to organise classes which can get locals – and in particular the young – interested in journalism. The State Library of Queensland has run projects, and there are further examples from earlier this decade in a blog by Barbara Jones in American Libraries.


Making Change Happen?

David Beard does argue that this sort of collaboration is unlikely to be behind the next Watergate, but underlines the importance of developing local connections, and the fact that for many people, local information is what matters most. This includes, of course, information about what libraries themselves are doing, as a recent piece in Mediashift highlighted.


But maybe there is scope to go further?


In a further piece in The Atlantic, David Beard notes the video news site run by the main library in San Antonio whose video coverage of a mayoral debate recorded the comments that may have contributed to the incumbent mayor’s subsequent defeat. And there are examples of libraries are also helping people take advantage of open government data policies, a key way of holding those in power to account, for instance in California and Washington.


This last example perhaps highlights the fact that cooperation between libraries and journalists has a lot of potential. Practically, drawing on traditional skills and new technologies, libraries can facilitate new forms of journalism. As physical spaces, they can also help young people engage with journalism, whether the goal is to encourage more people to pick up their pens, or simply value newspapers more highly. Politically, there is strong potential to work together to build and preserve the healthy information environment needed for both to thrive.