Monthly Archives: December 2018

Fear, Friction and the Fastest Moving Treaty – Copyright for Libraries in 2018

Copyright and libraries in 2018

At the beginning of the year, we posted about copyright for libraries in 2018, looking into ongoing and upcoming copyright reforms in order to prepare our 2018 advocacy efforts. There were areas of promise, with helpful draft legislation on the table in countries such as South Africa or Japan. But there were also concerns, with trends towards placing greater limitations on uses of works by libraries in the digital world (read this post on trends in 2018).

We’ll open 2019 with two more blog posts: one similar to the overview on copyright for libraries in 2018, and one on trends for the upcoming year. But today, we close the current year, looking back at how far we’ve got in 2018.


Fear: Uncertainties Drive Increasingly Passionate Positions in Copyright Debates

2018 has been marked by continued intensification of discussions around copyright. Much of this is down to the development of new possibilities – and uncertainties – created by changing means of creating, accessing and sharing works.

For example, while photocopying is still key for access to information in many places, in others it is increasingly irrelevant. In its place, the value of data about how – and to what extent – works are used has encouraged greater tracking of behaviour.

These have combined with the unique nature of copyright, according to which any original work is protected, without any requirement for registration, for a very significant period of time, to create instabilities.

As a result, existing businesses have been forced to reposition themselves, and reallocate resources. Those who do not move risk becoming obsolete and disappearing. It is understandable that there is a desire to buy time in order to make the necessary changes.

However, this has also led to efforts to impose strict controls, often justified by the concern that a single copy of a work ‘in the wild’ could spell the end of a market. Efforts to promote individual user authentication to access scientific works, as well as questionable applications of blockchain could have some impact on piracy, but at significant cost to privacy and other use rights.

There are also a growing number of businesses looking at the potential of blockchain for copyrighted works, which raises important questions about user privacy, as well as the protection of exceptions and limitations to copyright.


Friction: The Changing Environment for Library Advocacy Around Copyright

There has also been a crucial change in the lobbying and advocacy environment. Whereas previously libraries and other groups representing users were very much at the front of copyright debates in favour of exceptions and limitations, there are now highly profitable internet platforms leading the charge.

This has often left libraries stuck in the middle, between these new platforms, and more established companies in the publishing or music sectors. To escape from this trap, they have had to invest more time in fighting against myths and unfair accusations, often centred around the idea that they are working to protect the interests of major internet platforms.

They have had to offer reminders, time and time again, of their contribution to innovation and creativity through democratic access to information, as well of course through the billions they spend on content. Too often, they have had to face personal attacks.

Recent research in Europe, fortunately, has started to throw light on deliberate efforts to use association with tech companies to weaken the arguments of libraries and others working for the interests of users. They have also shown the far greater lobbying efforts made by those who wish to restrict access.

Thanks to the efforts of engaged librarians giving their time to advocate for libraries, copyright legislation which will enable libraries to fulfil their missions in a digital age is nonetheless advancing in many countries. Their perseverance in these passionate struggles has been key to achieving progress.


The Fastest-Moving Treaty: The Impact of Marrakesh

A high point of the year is certainly the progress towards universal implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty. This looks to facilitate access to books and other documents for people with print disabilities. With 48 countries having completed the process to become full members (including the European Union as a single signatory),  it has become the fastest-ratifying Treaty in WIPO’s history.

Crucially, Marrakesh shows the impact that an international instrument (on exceptions and limitations to copyright) can have on copyright legislation worldwide, as the only way to ensure cross-border collaboration, which is more and more needed and technologically possible in the digital world.

Worryingly, however, there are signs of efforts to spread untruths about what the Treaty says, which risk seriously restricting the impact that it will have at the national level. IFLA has therefore published a monitoring report from countries which have ratified the Treaty (or are in the process of doing so), and how (or whether) they have adapted their national laws. The overview is available on the IFLA website, and updates will be published regularly.

IFLA has also released “Getting Started”, a guide for librarians in countries where the Treaty has been implemented, helping them to make full use of its provisions. There is considerable hope that good laws and good implementation, as well as efforts to promote accessible publishing in the first place, will lead to real improvements for people with print disabilities.

What has happened since January 2018: legislative changes


Nigeria – The Nigerian copyright bill was approved by the Cabinet. We are still waiting for details on what it contains.

South Africa – After years of discussion, the South African copyright amendment Bill was adopted by the South African National Assembly on 5 November. The process is not completely over, as the Bill will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence, which is likely to happen early 2019. More information is available in this blog post.

Kenya – The Copyright Amendment Bill was introduced in 2017. It contains provisions towards the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty, provisions on the regulation of collective management organisations, fair dealing for the purposes of scientific research, private use, criticism or review of the reporting of current events, quotation, incidental inclusions, and an exception for the reproduction of works in libraries and archives, among others. It was subject to a vote in the Senate in October – we will provide further information when available.

Lesotho – A copyright law review was launched which should lead to the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty.

Zimbabwe – Parliament ratified the Marrakesh Treaty in January 2018.


Australia – A new copyright bill was passed at the end of June to extend safe harbour provisions to libraries and archives. These limit the damages that online service providers pay when their clients use their services to infringe copyright, as long as the service providers take steps to remove content that they know is infringing. Previously – ironically – safe harbour had only been available for commercial ISPs in Australia, not to others who provide the same services. Those left out included libraries and archives, universities, schools, and online platforms (e.g. local versions of YouTube, Facebook etc), which are now covered. For more information, check the ALCC’s press release.

Furthermore, the Government called for submissions on the Copyright Modernisation Bill. This time the government consulted on a few specific aspects of Australia’s copyright regime. The Government sought to understand whether there is general support for several provisions, namely flexible exceptions to copyright, access to orphan works and contracting out of copyright exceptions. More information is available here, together with all submissions sent. IFLA’s is available here and ALCC’s is here.

Taiwan – Taiwan, which already has a fair use provision in its law, has made a small amendment which will make it clear that fair use exists independently of additional, statutory exceptions to copyright.

Japan – A new copyright law has been adopted, allowing for the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty implemented.

Thailand – The King of Thailand has approved the necessary laws for the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty.

New Zealand – An issues paper was issued on a planned copyright reform, with submissions welcome until 5 April 2019. There will be separate legislation to allow New Zealand to ratify Marrakesh. The paper is very comprehensive, with a full section on libraries, and covers many other relevant issues. There is acknowledgement that introducing fair use could be a result of the consultation, but at this stage the paper requests a focus on how the current Act is functioning.

Singapore – There was a first public consultation in October 2016 with 16 proposals, including an expiry date for copyright protection of unpublished works, use of orphan works, educational exceptions to reflect digital education, facilitating the work of libraries and archives, museums and galleries, provisions for print-disabled users, among others. A second consultation took place in May 2017. A White Paper is due in the first months of 2019.


EU Copyright in the Digital Single Market – Discussions around the proposal for a Directive in the Digital Single Market are still ongoing, now between the three institutions involved: the Council of Ministers, the Commission and the Parliament. They are hoping that an agreement will be reached early next year. Member states will then have a period – likely just one year – to adapt their national laws. There are currently positive provisions for cultural heritage and research institutions (text and data mining, preservation, digital education, out of commerce works), but also worrying articles that might hamper access to information.

EU Directive and Regulation on Marrakesh – After the entry into force of the EU Directive and Regulation the instrument of ratification was deposited at WIPO, and several member states have transposed the Directive. See the Marrakesh overview for more information.

United Kingdom – The official start-date for e-PLR in the UK was the 1 July. The official government press release is available here.

Denmark – Denmark was the first country where PLR was paid based on eBooks & digital audio books.

Ireland – A draft bill was published in June 2018. This includes proposals to “allow libraries, archives and educational institutions to make copies of work in their collections for the purposes of preservation and inclusion in catalogues for exhibitions; extend existing copyright exemptions to: (i) promote not for profit research, including by introducing a text and data mining exception; (ii) widen the scope of the fair dealing exemption in the context of news reporting; and (iii) allow the creation of a voluntary digital deposit of books”. It is currently in discussion in committee (source).

Switzerland – A copyright working group reached an agreement in various issues related to the modernisation of copyright law in March 2017, and this has been discussed in committee in the Federal Parliament. It contains provisions relating to orphan works, cataloguing, extended collective licensing, research exceptions, and will allow for the implementation of the Beijing and the Marrakesh treaties. Proposals to introduce public lending right, as well as a right for researchers to publish their own works open access (regardless of contracts signed), and steps to make it possible to identify the IP addresses of people suspected of piracy were rejected.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Mexico – The Mexican Senate passed changes to copyright law that would allow for content to be taken offline even if there are only suspicions of infringement (i.e. without proof). More information is available at the Creative Commons webpage.

Colombia – The changes from the recent copyright reform were adopted. Some of the most relevant points for libraries: an orphan works provision, based on a mandatory search; a lending exception (with no explicit reference to digital lending, which does not necessarily exclude it). There are some negative additions, such as an extension of the term of protection (from 50 to 70). The Marrakesh provisions will be adopted through another reform.


Libraries and others have been active in setting out what changes they would like to see in the law. There has been a particular focus on taking the necessary steps to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty.

North America

Canada – The Canadian Parliament continues to carry out its review of the country’s copyright laws, taking evidence from different sides of the debate. Libraries are arguing for the current fair dealing provisions to be safeguarded, as well as engaging in discussions around copyright and indigenous knowledge, technological protection measures, and contract override. In parallel, legal processes involving Canadian universities, education ministries and the reprographic rights collecting society Access Copyright continue, as does a review of how copyright royalties are defined. You can read more on the pages of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries and the Canadian Federation of Library Associations. Results of the review are expected towards the middle of next year, and will inform policy choices made by whoever wins the elections due in October 2019.

United States – there was welcome progress on Marrakesh with Presidential sign-off for legislation ensuring that the Treaty can be implemented nationally. Further reforms considered questions about the situations in which technological protection measures can be removed (positive), and whether the Register of Copyrights should be a presidential appointment or left up to the Library of Congress.

Sustainability of Libraries : the Myanmar Experience

Making it Sustainable

We are happy to present a guest blog by Dr. Thant Thaw Kaung, Executive Director, of the Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation (MBAPF):


It’s easier to get on show business, the hard part is to stay there. Nobody stays famous forever.

— Chris Rock


We are seeing so many people are enthusiastic to open new libraries these days in Myanmar, however very few are committed to maintain them until they become successful.  Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation (MBAPF), a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization which is a library advocacy and support local organization, has been helping hundreds of Myanmar public and school libraries since its launching year in 2008.

Over the past 10 years, we have been donating books to over 900 libraries and helping to modernize 150 public libraries and nearly 100 school libraries.  The objective of this article is to show what are the key factors in maintaining the libraries in business.

In other words, dos and don’ts for sustaining public libraries are going to be discussed, based on our pragmatic experience in Myanmar.


Map of Myanmar showing where Beyond Access projects took place

Map of Myanmar showing where Beyond Access projects took place

Brief History of Public Libraries in Myanmar

Myanmar has literacy rates of over 90%, is one of the highest among Southeast Asian countries.  This can be due to the fact that Myanmar has a strong monastic education system even before the British annexation (from 1886-1948). Education is given high priority in Myanmar culture.

However, successive military governments have neglected education and hence those who are born after 1960s are facing many challenges in getting a good education.  At the same time, the role of public libraries were downgraded and they were used only as a propaganda arm of the government under the socialist and military government.

However, thousands of community based libraries were unofficially set up after the year 2000. This means that  they cannot get official registration status by the government.  From 2006 to 2010, government promoted the opening of thousands of public libraries and even forced local people to have one library in each village. In short, the government went for “number or quantity” than “quality”.

At one point, the government used to boost that Myanmar had 55,755 libraries across the country but in reality, there were only 6,000 public libraries.  Many of them closed down, as they were unable to offer a proper service and they did not match with community needs.

MBAPF and The Asia Foundation conducted a survey on “Landscape survey of Myanmar public libraries” in 2013 and found out that only about 6,000 libraries really exist.  Out of that number only about 440 public libraries were run by the Information and Public Relations Department under the Ministry of Information, with the rest all operated under local communities.  Community libraries are operated by volunteer youths, influential persons from the community, monks, village leaders and literary advocates.

Beyond Access Myanmar Project for Public Libraries

With the liberalisation and reform of the telecom sector in 2011, the people of Myanmar started to enjoy an affordable internet. In 2013, MBAPF launched the Beyond Access Myanmar project with a US based developmental organization called IREX (Information Research and Exchange), Ooredoo Myanmar and the government’s Ministry of Information.

Beyond Access Myanmar supported three main facilities; free internet and devices sponsored by Ooredoo Myanmar as CSR project and capacity building training were arranged by IREX.  In 2015, we were fortunate to engage with University of Washington (Seattle, USA) and were able to develop a curriculum called Mobile Information Literacy (MIL) which matches directly with community needs as over 80% of people go online with their smart phones.

Just five years on, there are nearly 300,000 people using tablets and over 30,000 people who surfed the internet for their first time in their lives.  According to monthly surveys, 45% of people said that they look for the latest news and information, 32% says that they would like to access digital literacy skill training at the libraries, and another 23% says that they would like to get better jobs.  Beyond Access Myanmar has been implemented with regard to the following global public library trends:

  1. Libraries for everyone
  2. Technology hubs in the digital world
  3. Libraries are welcoming
Photo of participants in the Tech Age Girls Project

Tech Age Girls Project, Myanmar

Around 2015, we learned that the ratio of technology users at libraries between boys and girls is 2:1.  Therefore, IREX and MBAPF launched another project called Tech Age Girls (TAGs) Myanmar project which is designed to train technology, leadership skills, soft skills and project management skills to girls aged between 16-20 through our Beyond Access Myanmar library network.

Each year, 100 TAGs were trained in competition style through 20 libraries (5 TAGs from each library).  20 outstanding TAGs were invited to Yangon to meet with women leaders from civil society, politics and entrepreneurs so that these TAGs become active women leaders.  At the end of the project, each of them has to implement a community project which can be of benefit to their communities.

A wide range of community projects were carried out, ranging from technology trainers at community centres, and some active women leaders have been operating mobile libraries.  Many of these TAGs become trainers at their respective libraries.  In other words, one year’s trainees become next year’s trainers. They even volunteer to run TAG projects, even without our support, because they feel that this is what they need in their community. In other words, ownership was developed among the TAGs.

By the end of 2017, IREX’s sponsorship on Beyond Access Myanmar ceased.  However, MBAPF was able to find other partners such as Microsoft, ISIF Asia, Ooredoo Myanmar and sponsors to continue the project.  Therefore, from 2013 to 2018, Beyond Access Myanmar has maintained its momentum and even scaled up from 55 libraries to 150 libraries across the country.

I will now discuss what are the success factors of Beyond Access and public libraries in Myanmar. Even though IREX support on Beyond Access has ceased, we are continuing other projects with IREX.  For example, IREX and MBAPF partnered to launch a project in 2018 called “Navigator” which is providing information via traditional means as well as through Facebook Chatbots to migrating workers (including already migrant workers) to get the right information through our rich Myanmar community libraries.


Let’s Read Project for School Library Revitalizing Project

RoomToRead, a well-recognised international development organisation which provides support to many schools globally, chose MBAPF as its local partner for revitalising school libraries in Myanmar. This project was launched in collaboration with the Myanmar Library Association, MBAPF, the Ministry of Education, Daw Khin Kyi Foundation and RoomToRead in 2017.

The initial pilot project was targeted at 20 school libraries, but now reaches 71 libraries after just one year, with collaboration from other partners and sponsors.  Myanmar has over 47,000 schools out of which just over 26,000 have separate library rooms.  Moreover, there has not been any teacher librarian training even though some schools have allocated one teacher as librarian, but they cannot handle the library properly as their duties are overloaded with teaching. This is why most of the school libraries are barely active.

Public or community libraries should have the following factors to ensure the sustainability of their libraries. These factors also apply in other types of libraries such as school libraries, academic libraries and special libraries.

  1. Fresh resources
  2. Regular activities
  3. Ownership
  4. Partnership
  5. Capacity building to librarians
  6. Monitoring and Evaluation
  7. Institutionalization


  1. Fresh Resources

Resources are needed for books, periodicals, facilities and even staff.  Newly arrived books (fresh books) are needed all the time.  The decoration of the room, book shelves and reading tables have to be fresh and attractive.  Staff or librarians have to be welcoming and attentive to the users.

Photo of participants in Let's Read Project, Basic Middle School No. 7, Innsein

Let’s Read Project, Basic Middle School No. 7, Innsein

When we launched the “Let’s Read” project with RoomToRead, together with Ministry of Education, we split our budget for purchase of newly published books into 6 months apart so that we can buy new arrivals.  Moreover, we tell the school libraries to display only 70% of the books that they receive and keep the remaining 30% in store.  These books from store will have to be displayed 4 months later.

Furthermore, during the capacity building training and orientation to librarians, we emphatically informed the librarians that children are fast readers and that all the books in their libraries will be read by them in 6 months’ time.  Therefore, they need to find ways how to get new books.  Moreover, we always mentioned to our participating librarians that our normal project life cycle is around 2-3 years only.  We will support the heavy duty of the initial setup phrase and after the project lifespan, they need to look out for ways to get continuous support.

Since librarians know in advance that our support won’t be there forever, they started to look for future supports from community support groups.  In the case of school libraries, they started to talk to Parent Teacher Associations and School Support Groups.  In most cases, they have been able to get fresh books without our support.


  1. Regular Activities

Another key factor in making libraries sustainable is to do regular activities or programmes.  For example, if a community library or school library can arrange an activity or programme on a regular basis, they will attract people from the community and will have full support from them.  Activities can be literary talks or book review discussions, or technology training or discussion at a community library.  But the important thing here is the activity must be regular.  For example, a community library can host a book review discussion on last Friday of every month.

In a school library setting, if students can spend one period a week at the library, librarians can tell stories or practice reading aloud or shared reading activities with students together.  Again, this activity has to be regular.  The best way is to put a library period in the curriculum or time-table of the school.  MBAPF has been able to negotiate with the Ministry of Education to put one library period per week in all “Let’s Read” project school libraries.  By doing this, students are already aware of their library period time and prepared to go there.


  1. Ownership

This is one of the major factors in making libraries sustainable.  We always mentioned that any resources (books, furniture, shelves and digital devices) that we supported should belong to the community or school library. We mentioned up front that we will not be replacing devices or materials that were damaged or lost.  In the case of books, we trained the librarians how to handle books carefully in order to avoid tearing them apart.  In turn, librarians then show library users – especially children – how to flick through books with care.  At the same time, ownership creates meaning – “These books belong to you and you need to handle with them care”.

We have reported of loss of only 5 tablets out of over 1,000 devices that we donated in past the 5 years. Moreover, librarians know that we won’t be there forever to support them and hence they need to find ways to support by themselves or need to stand on their own feet.  They know that MBAPF will provide the initial heavy part only.

For example, we supported 4 tablets, free internet and training to a library in Mon State.  Once the library received the tablets, they started to invite students from nearby schools.  Since the community saw that so many students are using tablets, they raised funds to build a separate room for ICT training with 25 desktops.  Our initial investment is only about USD 500 to this library plus training.

When we launched the “Let’s Read Project” for school libraries, we mentioned to principals and teacher librarians that we were going to support books, shelves, carpet, reading tables and training.  Then, we asked what sort of things they can find from supporters to match our initial support.  We showed a few slides of some good examples from Indonesia and Vietnam where RoomToRead library rooms were decorated with wall painting by Parents-Teachers Association and School Support Groups.

All the 20 pilot libraries agreed to do the same by decorating by themselves.  In fact, we have a budget for decorating these rooms but since we were able to get matching support from the school’s side, we can reallocate this funding to purchase of more books and even expand our project size from 20 to 25 schools.  With their own contribution from the schools’ side, they are taking more responsibility rather just accepting donation from sponsors.

At the same time, we asked principals and teacher librarians to ask students to volunteer at the school library.  The principals have to acknowledge these volunteer contributions at the schools morning assembly time.  This work is extremely successful as many students started to volunteer at the school by sorting out the books and also helping the checking-out of books.  With the development of this sense of ownership, these school libraries can stand on their own feet.  At present, some school libraries are even opening up on weekends to attract other community people and other students.  This gives the reciprocal effect as many community people saw this good cause and they started to contribute books, shelves and reading tables.


  1. Partnership

Finding the right partners and maintaining the relationship is an art in this world.  Libraries can not be sustainable if partnership is lacking.  Partnership has to be transparent with mutual respect, the taking of responsibility and accountability.  It can be bilateral or multi-stakeholder.

As MBAPF is a local Non-Governmental Organization, our partnership structure works along two dimensions.  The first one is partners and sponsors who are willing to help our Myanmar libraries.  They can be international developmental organisations, universities, corporations, government ministries and other local civil society organizations.  The second one is partners who are willing to get support from us.  We have to select carefully for those recipients from us as they have to meet the requirements of their local community.  With these two dimensions, MBAPF acts efficiently and effectively to reach the goals of community as well as expectations of sponsors and partners.

The first dimension or supply side is based on trust building and transparency. MBAPF has to work constantly to look out for potential partners and sponsors of our project in order to ensure the sustainability of our projects.  This can be made through participation in various conferences, workshops, presentations and meetings.

At the same time, we have to understand the objectives of these sponsors.  For example, when we tried to look out for potential partners for free internet (data) and devices in 2013, we tried to meet with all the telecom operators in the country.  Some operators are trying to set up telecentres and in fact, they have to invest heavily on infrastructure such as buildings.  Therefore, we were able to convince Ooredoo Myanmar to use the existing infrastructure which Myanmar has as a hidden treasure of over 6,000 community based libraries.  Ooredoo can even cut cost as they don’t have to build extra buildings.

Participants in a Mobile Information Literacy class at Taungoo IPRD Library

Participants in a Mobile Information Literacy class at Taungoo IPRD Library

In 2015, we engaged with the Information School and Technology and Social Change (TASCHA) from University of Washington.  They have developed a digital literacy curriculum which we later customised into a Mobile Information Literacy curriculum, as over 80% of people in Myanmar go online using their smart phone.  In other words, we always try to match with demand side of the equation.

At the same time, we have to know our areas of strength also. When we were developing out school library revitalisation project under the Let’s Read project, we had to build a support group in communities where teacher librarians needed help.  Through this, we have already developed our Beyond Access Myanmar library project and we can identify strong and outstanding community librarians who can work with nearby schools.  We can even identify a lot of useful information from community librarians about which schools have open- minded people and which schools are passionate about school libraries.  That is why, we were able to select our initial 20 pilot school libraries. We are really grateful for our community librarians’ input into this.

The second dimension or demand side is also hugely important. The size of libraries, the number and type of members that they are serving, what programmes they are running, the presence of ICT tools and a scalable model are all important points to consider whether a community library can be a recipient of sponsorship.

MBAPF gives highest attention to human factor involvement of a community or school library.  This includes commitment and passion from librarian (in case of school library, commitment from principal as well), openness to new ideas, and a will to work with other community networks (in case of school libraries PTA and School Support Group as well).  These factors will decide the success or failure and at the same time the sustainability of a library.  I describe partnership is an art because it is very delicate.

With the right partnership from both supply and demand side, we have seen so many success stories.  When we launched Let’s Read project in 2017, we have already had a very good network of community libraries since we have been working with them since 2013.  Therefore, we have partnered with active community libraries to carry out the Monitoring and Support trips to schools which are located close to them.  This partnership of community and school library works very well as schools are willing to accept community support as they are short of resources, given that they don’t have trained school librarians.

We also gave training to community librarians on digital and information literacy. They in turn have become our master trainers and cascade their learning to others.  These community libraries are trusted organisations and hence when we launched the Tech Age Girls Myanmar project, we had full support from parents and community as well.  When we launched the “Navigator” project for safe migration, community libraries played a key role in partnering with local service providers such as the trafficking police, trade unions, legal aid organisations and other activists who are willing to help migrant workers to get right information.

For example, we conducted a workshop in Bago region in September 2018, where our community librarians are helping victims of people trafficking who are based in Thailand to get compensation from an agency with the help from a trade union.


  1. Capacity Building to librarians

21st century librarians have to know 3 main topics of capacity building.  These are 1) technical 2) technology and 3) soft skills. Technical skills include the traditional skills of cataloguing and circulation skills.  However, librarians have to understand to use electronic library automation systems.

Technological skill is different from technical skill as it consists of digital and  information literacy skills. For example, a librarian should be able to search for authentic information from Google Scholar for their users.  This is a technological skill.

Communication for Development Training in Htan Tapin

Communication for Development Training in Htan Tapin

The last skill is soft skills which include customer service skills, communication skills, marketing skills, presentation skills and so on.  We often fail to look into technological and soft skills as most of librarians’ training is concentrated on traditional technical skills.

At the same time, any training that we give has to meet local demand and be applicable in the local context.  All our training is localised and delivered in the local language only.  For example, the Mobile Information Curriculum has been localised and has been given to over 5,000 community people through our library network. The demand for Media and Information Literacy (MIL) is so strong that nowadays we have to give MIL to other sectors such as civil societies, civil servants, university students and research firms.


  1. Monitoring and Evaluation

In all of the work we do, there are checks and balances system in place. We have to understand whether our projects are being carried out properly or not.  We are, in fact, more eager to learn about challenges than success stories so that we can improve ourselves.  In our Beyond Access Myanmar project, each library has to submit monthly reports via Survey Monkey. Indicators include number of users, types of users, types of programmes, and whether there is any support and collaboration from local or national organizations .  These data are analysed and put into our report and shared among our partners and potential sponsors as well.  By doing so, we will know which libraries are doing well and which ones need help.

In case of our school library ‘Let’s Read’ project, we have even tried to avoid the usage of monitoring and evaluation.  We call it monitoring and support. The reason to avoid calling it ‘evaluation’ is that we do not want teachers to feel that we are auditing them as they are already overloaded with a lot of work, both because of their teaching and library work.


  1. Institutionalization

Due to the nature of grants from international developmental agencies, each cycle lasts for 2-3 years.  These sponsorships have allowed for the first heavy life, and now the challenge is to find ways to get a sustainable model.

In the case of public and community libraries, IFLA, IREX, the Myanmar Library Association and the Ministry of Information helped MBAPF to draft a master plan for public libraries which become a precursor for the Public Library Law in Myanmar. We were able to mention all the requirements of community libraries to become a modern community centres in the master plan.  At the same time, MBAPF signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with the Ministry of Information to get a sustainable model for public libraries in Myanmar.

MBAPF is about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Education to roll out a consistent school library development system to the rest of the schools in the coming year. This MoU covers how to setup and manage a proper school library, teacher librarian training, selection of books, how to engage with the community and most importantly how to conduct monitoring and support for the implementing schools.  We have invited officials from both the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Education to take part in all our trainings so that they can carry on even after our projects end.  In other words, institutionalisation is one of the key factors in sustainability of libraries.


Buddhist Monks reading from a tablet at Tharsi Quarter Library

Tharsi Quarter Library


Even though I have been discussing the above mentioned seven points separately for the sustainability of libraries in Myanmar, there are many connections between them.  For example, in order to get fresh books, librarians have to partner with local publishers and parent-teachers associations.  We have full confidence that libraries will be sustainable with the effective implementation of these points.

Finally, I would like to point out that no matter how advanced technologies are in the 21st century, basic human factors of passion, dedication and commitment will bring sustainability of libraries in Myanmar and elsewhere.

Libraries: Unleashing the Transformative Power of Culture and Creativity for Local Development

Libraries: Unleashing the Transformative Power of Culture and Creativity for Local Development

IFLA attended the first ever OECD conference examining the links between culture and local growth. The conference took place in Venice, an ideal venue to discuss the importance of culture and cultural heritage, and the newly launched OECD Guide: Culture and Local Development: Maximising the Impact.

Culture is currently on the agenda of cities, regions and territories. Whereas the focus globally is often only on access in itself, for example via the internet, taking a local perspective allows for more focus on the impact of culture, and in particular, its contribution to building social capital.

Over 300 participants from NGOs, cultural institutions, the creative business and decision makers joined the discussion on how local government can realise the potential of culture as a lever for local development.

“Culture can positively impact communities and foster mutual understanding… culture is intrinsically human, with inherent value for all”

Xing Qu, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO

Libraries: Good for Society

One theme that kept reappearing during the conference is the influence that access to culture has on citizens’ well-being, in other words, the level of happiness!

Libraries and cultural institutions undoubtably have a powerful impact on their communities. They support initiatives in a variety of fields and further development by helping people get information they need to access economic opportunity, gender equality, quality education, improve their health and give a sense of belonging.

“Culture is about storytelling. It’s about using data opening up multilateral perspectives on the same reality… It’s not about collections, it’s about connections”

Jeffrey Schnapp, Director of the metaLAB at Harvard

Though most agree that access to culture has a great impact on our life, we still struggle to find tools that can help measure the impact and demonstrate its value. In 2005 Denmark published its study on the value of public libraries, with three roles of the library highlighted as the most important:

  1. The role as culture and information deliver
  2. The role as safeguarding cultural heritage
  3. The role as creator for creative and social development

The Danish study was followed by a number of other European countries identifying the many benefits a community receive from its local libraries concluding that libraries have a positive effect on its community and counter many economic and social challenges.

Earlier this year, Europeana launched its Impact Playbook, helping cultural heritage institutions around the world establish and analyse the impact of their activities. And now, with the growing interest in the role played by cultural activities in local development the OECD has launched the Guide: Culture and Local Development: Maximising the Impact.

This is not to say that this work is easy.  Every society is different, and its history must be considered when measuring cultural impact. Nonetheless, it seems that, increasingly, all societies can unite around the belief that culture can transform cities.

Moving Up a Gear on Measuring the Impact of Culture

With the launch of the Guide, the OECD announced that they are commitment to strengthening the role culture can play in creating a better society. The OECD has also incorporated access to culture into their high-profile well-being framework, understanding that access to culture is key for social cohesion and local development.

They have furthermore started cooperation with UNESCO and the European Commission, pledging to work for all cultural institutions, libraries included

Libraries increase cultural participation and in IFLA we are looking forward to working with the OECD on future projects, putting libraries on the political agenda, and making sure that their impact is not only seen, but with the right set of data, can be measured as well.

Making Progress: Welcome Vote in South African Parliament on Copyright for Libraries

After years of discussion, the South African copyright amendment Bill was adopted by the South African National Assembly on 5 November. The process is not completely over, as the Bill will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence, which is likely to happen early 2019.

As it currently stands, there are very positive provisions for libraries and other cultural heritage institutions, some of which are particularly positive. There are significant improvements such as the adoption of fair use, strong exceptions and limitations for libraries, archives, museums, galleries and educational institutions, provisions on Marrakesh and orphan works and a national open access policy.

These very positive results would not have been possible without the constant advocacy work by many librarians in the country, among which Denise Nicholson, expert advisor of the Copyright and Other Legal Matters Committee at IFLA. They engage with decision makers to insist on the need for adequate provisions for libraries to fulfill their missions, and to bring down unfair allegations against these provisions.

Here’s an overview of the most relevant provisions for libraries, archives, museums and research and education institutions:

  • Fair use: non-exhaustive list of uses (research, criticism, reporting current events, teaching, comment, parody, preservation, etc.) and four relevant factors (nature of the work, amount and substantiality of the part of the work affected by the act, purpose and character of the use and substitution effect of the act upon the potential market for the work)
  • General exceptions for libraries, archives, museums and galleries, for non-commercial purposes:
    • to lend a work in a tangible media
    • to provide temporary access to a work in an intangible format accessed lawfully, to a user or to another institution
    • to undertake preservation and web archiving (copies for back-up and preservation of works in the collection, and preservation of works in publicly accessible websites)
    • to combine the preservation exception with making the work available when it has been withdrawn from public access after having been communicated to the public
    • to get copies from other institutions for incomplete works
    • to format-shift
    • to make copies when permission from the copyright owner cannot be obtained
    • to make copies to lend them to other institutions for exhibition
    • to supply documents
    • a limitation of liability for any library, archive museum or gallery employee working within the scope of his or her duties

*none of these provisions limit the fair use provision

  • Marrakesh provision, allowing the making and supplying of accessible format copies to a person with a disability (or a person who serves him or her), including across borders, with no commercial availability check and no remuneration provision. A compensatory sum of money is deposited in a particular account and can be collected by the copyright owner at any time, but there is also a process allowing the authorised entity to recover the amount
  • Contract override provision applicable to all the provisions in the act
  • Licenses for orphan works. Before use, there is a requirement to publish the intention to register the work as orphan in certain sources, followed by an application to a government body, which will grant a non-exclusive license if the procedure has been duly followed
  • Specific exceptions from copyright protection applicable to all works, among which:
    • Quotation (up to an extent “justified by the purpose”)
    • Use of illustrations in publications, broadcast, sound or visual record for the purpose of teaching (up to an extent “justified by the purpose”)
    • Translation of works for non-commercial purposes and limited to specific uses (personal, educational, …)
  • A temporary reproduction and adaptation exception, for transient or incidental copies or adaptations of a work that are an “integral and essential part of a technical process”
  • Reproduction exceptions for non-commercial educational and academic activities, including:
    • Making copies of works for the purposes of educational and academic activities
    • Including these in course packs (by educational institutions) both in physical and virtual learning and research environments
    • when there is no license available to incorporate the whole or a substantial part of a work, this will fall under the exception
    • Reproducing a whole textbook if the work is orphan, out of commerce or out of print
    • Incorporating portions of works in an assignment, portfolio, thesis or a dissertation for submission, personal use, library deposit or institutional repository (by a person receiving instruction)
  • A national open access policy: the author of any scientific work resulting of a research activity that received at least 50 per cent of its funding from the state has the right, despite granting the publisher or editor an exclusive right of use, to make the final manuscript version available open access.


1 Day to Human Rights Day: Bringing Rights Together

Image for Human Rights Day -1In the last of our series of blogs in the run up to Human Rights Day, we’re looking at situations where different human rights risk being in tension with each other. We argue that in a number of key areas of potential clash, the work, professionalism and ethics of librarians offer a valuable response. 

Over the last week, our blogs have looked at just some of the different ideas contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will turn 70 tomorrow.

They are ideals – and indeed should be, as no country or society should ever feel like they have fully implemented the Declaration, and can now relax. Defending and promoting these rights is a constant effort, not least for libraries.

A complicating factor in this work is the fact that rights can, sometimes, collide. Because it is possible that one individual’s exercise of freedom can restrict that of someone else.

The Declaration, in its Article 29b, recognises this risk: ‘In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others’.

At the same time, it warns that no part of the Declaration ‘may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein’.

There is clearly a tension, and not necessarily an easy one to manage. These tensions also exist in the work of libraries, requiring careful judgement and attention.

As the last in our set of blogs in the run-up to Human Rights Day, this post will look at three examples of where achieving the best result requires balance, and how libraries – uniquely – can help provide this.


Access to Information vs Privacy: the Right to be Forgotten

Libraries have long had a mission to collect material about the world today – newspapers, magazines, books and other documents. They then make this available to users in order to support research and understanding about the present and past.

Such materials have always contained information about people, from simple factual data to information about political views and personal characteristics. The fact that such materials place limits on the right to privacy has been generally accepted, given the contribution made to research and learning, and the fact that researchers needed to visit a library to read them.

With the coming of the internet, far more information is available, from a growing number of websites (of which only a very small share belongs to libraries), more quickly and easily than ever before. This makes it more difficult for past mistakes to be ‘forgotten’.

Following a case brought to a Spanish court, the Court of Justice of the European Union therefore developed the concept of a ‘right to be forgotten’, or at least a right to be delisted from search results. Meanwhile, the General Data Protection Regulation has strengthened the ‘right to erasure’ – the right of individuals to ask that information about them be deleted.

This brings into focus a first clash of rights – between the right to a private life (Article 12), and the right of access to information (Article 19).

For libraries, this is a relevant question. Citing Article 12 in its Statement on the subject, IFLA has acknowledged that some information may be unfairly damaging, where it is ‘untrue, where it is available illegitimately or illegally, where it is too personally sensitive or where it is prejudicially no longer relevant, among other possibilities’.

However, it has also underlined that the possibility to limit access to – or erase parts of – the historical record need to be the exception, not the rule. Such provisions can too easily be used to hide information that can support decision-making, or whitewash reputations. Any restrictions implemented therefore need to be transparent, managed by the courts rather than private actors.

This is not to say that libraries themselves do not have a role to play in this. They can ensure that access to information is provided in a way that is respectful of the interests of the subject, as well as of the reader. This provides a more nuanced way of managing this tension, as well as leaving space for future generations to make their own judgements.

In this, the approach is similar to that with access to indigenous cultural expression, where applying professional ethics to questions of whether, and how, to give access to works represents a much more nuanced way of achieving goals than laws.


Freedom of Expression vs Freedom from Discrimination

The response to hate speech is a frequent subject of discussion in the media.

It is clear that there have always been voices promoting the rejection of the other. The internet has, however, made it easier for such voices to spread, strengthening their power.

There are legitimate fears about the links between hate speech and harm to the groups targeted. Indeed, Article 7 underlines that ‘All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination’.

At the same time, there is also the right to free expression set out in Article 19 of the Declaration, a key principle for the work of libraries and others. This speaks in favour of keeping restrictions on speech to the absolute minimum necessary.

It is clear that judgements about where unpleasant speech becomes dangerous will vary. Neither banning all disagreeable speech (disagreeable to whom?), nor taking no steps to stop efforts to promote violence, are desirable.

Once again, there is a potential clash. How can we find the balance between the two rights?

Again, this is not a new issue. There are many laws which look to establish where the line between unpleasant and dangerous speech lies. Such laws should be clear and transparent, and of course proportionate in the limits they place on free speech.

A recent trend is the growing pressure on major internet companies to do more to prevent the spread of dangerous messages. Some are already acting to downgrade search results, or to slow the spread of this content.

However, this does imply leaving key decisions to private companies, with all the issues around transparency and oversight that this implies.

Meanwhile, libraries also have something to add to this discussion. Through their professionalism, and their ethics, they can make valuable judgements made about the way in which access is offered. For example, texts which do clearly incite discrimination and violence may not be suitable for pubic consultation, but could rather be restricted only to researchers.

At the same time, librarians may also need to defend books which others try to remove for a variety of reasons, in order to ensure that collections serve all of the community, not just the most vocal. Courage and careful reflection are both needed.


Cultural and Scientific Participation vs Creators’ Rights

Finally, there is the ongoing question of how to balance the right of everyone to participate in cultural life and benefit from scientific progress (Article 27a), and the right of creators to the moral and materials interests resulting from their work (Article 27b).

While the Universal Declaration does not make intellectual property rights a human right, it does provide a basis for this. What is certain is that an industry has developed around copyright, which provides a revenue to creators (although questions remain about how effectively it achieves this).

Meanwhile, there is the right to participate in cultural life. For those without the disposable income to buy books, or other cultural goods and services, there is a risk of being left out. For them, access needs to be free for it to be effective.

Once again, there is a tension – how to ensure that everyone can have access to culture and the results of research and innovation without limiting the revenues of creator?

Clearly, the work of libraries is only part of the picture here. The fairness of the distribution of revenues to creators is likely a bigger issue. And of course for scientific articles, the author is rarely paid at all, living rather off their institutional salary.

It is nonetheless true that, once libraries have bought works, they do then lend them out. Yet, there is no conclusive evidence suggesting that they reduce sales, but rather signs that they promote the discovery of new writers, as well as acting more generally to strengthen reading culture.

In this way, and as part of a broader cultural and research policy which ensures that authors themselves are primary beneficiaries (in line with Article 27b), libraries can also help resolve any potential conflict of rights here.


Guaranteeing human rights is not a simple task. This is both because of resistance from those who do not believe in them, but also because they do not always sit easily together.

Finding balance, as the Universal Declaration suggests, must be done carefully and proportionately, ensuring that any restrictions are as limited as possible.

Given that laws risk being a blunt instrument, and private solutions can lack legitimacy, the potential of libraries to find this middle way, at least in the examples given in this blog, should not be ignored.

2 Days to Human Rights Day: The Right to Culture

Image for 2 Days to Human Rights Day Blog - the right to cultural participationAt two days to Human Rights Day 2018, the second-to-last of IFLA’s daily blogs looks at the right to participate in the cultural life of the community, or in short, the right to culture. 

Amongst policy areas, culture is often seen as one of the least important. It rarely grabs the headlines in the same way as security, education or defence.

As such, it can seem like an easy area to cut when there is a need to make savings. Something that is nice, but not necessary.

Yet the Universal Declaration of Human Rights offers a strong counter-argument. Article 27 underlines that ‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community’.

This offers a confirmation of the central role of culture in the development of individuals and society, and the duty of governments to ensure that all can access it.

This is also an affirmation of one of the core roles of libraries, alongside promoting education and research. Our institutions provide a gateway to literature, from children’s books and bestsellers to the classics. They are key vehicles for delivering cultural policy – and human rights.

Yet as with the rest of the Universal Declaration, there is no obligation to deliver access to culture in any particular way. Is it more appropriate to focus efforts on those who cannot afford access in any other way, or should solutions be universal?

This blog looks at this question from the perspective of library services.


Levellers: Targeted Support to Enhance Access

Culture is not necessarily cheap. For people to be able to devote their time to writing, to theatre, or to other creative activities, they need – and deserve – support. Indeed, Article 27b of the Universal Declaration recognises this right to the material benefits of creativity.

Many others add value, through perfecting works, and then helping distribute them.

A variety of mechanisms are in place to support this activity, such as subsidies, benefits, or tax cuts. Yet selling works – books, films, plays, art – to consumers remains the key source of income in most cases.

For consumers who have a solid income already, this is clearly not a problem.

Yet this is not the case for everyone. In the case of young parents, for example, this can be crucial, as the cost of buying all the books a child will read can be high.

Libraries do indeed have a particularly important role in providing access to culture for people who may not otherwise be served by the market. This of course includes those who, in future, will earn more and buy more books.

Evidence from the United States indicates higher level of reliance on libraries by groups more likely to be marginalised. This suggests the potential of libraries as ‘levellers’ when it comes to access to culture.


A Universal Offer

While targeted support may be more cost-efficient in the immediate term, it implies differentiating between groups in society.

It is unfortunately the case that when a service is seen as something for the ‘poor’, people will start to avoid it out of pride. Some will be excluded, despite the need they face.

This is why the nature of libraries as a universal public service is so important. They are explicitly for everyone, not just specific groups.

And while they may have a particular duty to help people more at risk of exclusion from culture – such as those with low literacy or people with disabilities – this is not at the expense of their broader community role.

Libraries themselves work to build collections and services that respond to the needs of everyone.

And while this may mean that the possibility to borrow books is open to all, this can act as a powerful discovery tool, giving new authors an opportunity to meet new readers. Libraries, of course, also buy content, providing an important source of income to authors.

The universal focus of libraries also makes them more attractive as a meeting place for all members of the community. With few other public spaces for groups to come together, this can be a key driver of social cohesion.


The right of access to culture is perhaps one of the strongest bases for the existence – and activity of libraries.

In order to drive equity – equality of outcomes – they may need to make special efforts with some groups. But, crucially, it is their universal focus – to allow everyone to participate in cultural life – that can make libraries so effective.


Read also IFLA’s submission to the call for contributions on the tenth anniversary of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights.

3 Days to Human Rights Day: The Right to Participate in Government

3 Days to Human Rights Day

For the fifth in our series of blogs looking at different articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, today’s contribution looks at the right to participate in government. It shows how libraries, by providing access to information – and helping people to use it – can support an active and engaged citizenry.


One of the key definitions of freedom is the possibility to take decisions about yourself – what you think, say, and do.

However, it is clear that we cannot leave everything up to individuals. Humans need to work together in order to achieve common goals. Progress in health and education would not be possible in a purely individualistic society. Neither, many would argue, would be security.

Working together implies that decisions need to be taken on behalf of the group. This is the role that governments play, at least when the ‘group’ is the people living in (or coming from) a particular country, region or area.

Government therefore implies a restriction on individual freedoms, which is what makes the right to participate so important. As Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights underlines, ‘Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country’.

Information plays a role in this, as some very interesting research from Nigeria at the World Library and Information Congress has demonstrated, with a clear link between a feeling of being well informed and a readiness to engage in elections.

So how can libraries help with this. This blog sets out two ways.


Delivering Information

A first – and fundamental – contribution is simply to making information available. Government information and parliamentary libraries in particular play a vital role here, bringing together official publications and laws into one place.

This supports the work of researchers trying to understand the processes and forces at work in government. But it can also make them into gateways for public information.

Indeed, Finland’s Parliamentary Library has been tasked since 1908 with also acting as a ‘public central library’.

These ideas have spread. For example, in Zimbabwe and Japan, parliamentary libraries have a deliberate policy of making sure that centres at the local level – often public libraries – receive copies of key documents, or have access to the most important databases.

It is also more and more broadly accepted that the public should have access to briefings prepared for Members of Parliament in order to inform their decision-making. The Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service has been a high-profile recent example of an institution starting  to do this.

In effect, libraries are working to ensure that people are at least as well informed as lawmakers. This is an essential step towards participation in government.


Making it Usable

Yet, simply making information available is not enough in itself. The work of governments is complex, and often technical.

Additional effort can be necessary to help people find their way, especially for people who do not have the time that elected representatives or officials may have to engage.

Libraries are also active here, drawing on experiences of helping users engage most effectively with the information they have. This can go from improving the presentation of databases and documentation to make it more user friendly, to forming partnerships with public libraries to build capacity to explain them.

In Taiwan, for example, libraries proactively worked to give access to information at a time of protests in Taipei, in order to help people understand the issues and engage in debate.

Libraries are also helping promote transparency more broadly, for example through publishing live voting information, or even through running consultations with citizens. This creates new possibilities for individuals to hold those taking decisions on their behalf to account.


Libraries can provide important support for the realisation of the right to participate in government through meaningful access to information. Of course, they can also go further – American libraries were active in encouraging people to register to vote ahead of the recent mid-term elections.

At the same time, their – and their users’ – interests themselves need to be represented and protected.

From unjustified cuts to services to bad copyright laws or censorship, libraries need also to be heard in decision-making processes. IFLA works hard to do this, and, in line with the Global Vision Summary Report, encourages every librarian to be an advocate.


Read more about these themes in our article on access to information and democracy, and in our brief on libraries and good governance.