Monthly Archives: January 2019

The 10-Minute Library Advocate: #2 Think of Five Words Your Users Would Use to Describe Your Library

Write down 5 Words Your Users Would Use to Describe Your Library

Advocacy is all about changing mindsets.

You need the people who take decisions about you library – and the people who influence them – to understand what you do, to support it, and to be ready to act on your interest.

Of course talking about change implies a starting point. What do you think people would say about your library if you asked them now?

So the second exercise for our 10-Minute Library Advocates is to write down five words your community would use to describe your library. Put yourself in their place, and try to think, realistically, what would they say?

We can only improve if we know what’s wrong. So in this exercise you should be critical too! Include both positive and negative words.

Understanding what people appreciate will give you an idea of where you are stronger, while an idea of what they don’t like so much will help you think about where you need to work on to change that perception.

See the introduction and first post in our 10-Minute Library Advocate series and join the discussion in social media using the #EveryLibrarianAnAdvocate hashtag!

Trends in copyright for libraries: what’s coming up this year? (Part 2)

Graphic for Day 5 of Copyright Week 2019

We started Copyright Week 2019 with a blog post on Monday about specific copyright reforms that are ongoing and upcoming in 2019. These copyright reforms show some common trends, so today we are closing the week by looking into that.

In the framework of Copyright Week 2019, we also explored some specific topics more in depth: on Tuesday, Libraries, eBook ownership and Lending; on Wednesday, the Public Domain, Privatised Knowledge, and Libraries; and on Thursday, Safe Harbours and Libraries. You can also have a look at what other organisations have been writing about during copyright week.

There are many interesting matters worth talking about, but since the list would be too long, we have picked six highlights to get you ready for a 2019 full of copyright for libraries. Feel free to share your thoughts on top trends for this year using the comments box.

  1. The Marrakesh Treaty in practice

After its adoption in 2013, the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled has been ratified or acceded to in 48 countries. Many countries – but far from all – have also made changes to their national laws to effectively implement Marrakesh Treaty provisions. It will be important for libraries to maintain the momentum in national reform.

With that in place, we are hopeful that 2019 will be the year in which we will start to see the dream of the Marrakesh Treaty realised: more access to knowledge for people with print disabilities, notably through cross-border exchanges of works in an accessible format.

To help with questions that will arise around the practicalities of the Treaty, IFLA has created the Getting Started Guide. It seeks to assist librarians in countries where Marrakesh provisions are in place on key questions around the production and exchange of accessible format copies. The guide is meant to be adapted to national legislation, which colleagues from Spain and Croatia have kindly already done. You can access the existing versions and translations on the IFLA website, and of course don’t hesitate to offer your own!

IFLA is also keeping an up-to-date overview of which countries are moving towards effective implementation of the Marrakesh provisions in their national law, including through allowing cross-border exchange of accessible format copies.

  1. The value gap

The European draft copyright directive’s Article 13 has brought copyright concerns closer to the end user: some have suggested that it will change the internet as we know it. Article 13 would make platforms directly liable for infringing content uploaded by users unless they implement prior filtering obligations to prevent such content getting online (even terrorist legislation gives platforms an hour to spot illicit content). It also aims to force the signature of blanket licence agreements with rightholders for online use of their content.

Although IFLA’s main focus is to ensure that library repositories and other not-for-profit platforms are not negatively affected, IFLA does not remain silent vis-à-vis the threat that it represents to freedom of expression and freedom of access to information.

With this copyright reform still to be concluded, rightsholders elsewhere are pushing for similar policies. However, is there enough evidence of such a gap? Is a solution based in copyright the best option? Are there not risks of weakening safe harbour provisions? If it mainly targets YouTube, will it be fit for purpose on other platforms? Is it not better to address competition issues with competition policy?

With several copyright reforms coming up in 2019, it is worth questioning the adequacy of such a system, in case decision-makers consider it elsewhere.

  1. 2019: Year of indigenous languages

The United Nations declared 2019 the Year of Indigenous Languages. It is a unique opportunity to bring interested parties together and raise awareness of the cultural and historical value of indigenous languages, as a key part of indigenous knowledge.

Back in 2014, IFLA already underlined the “intrinsic value and importance of indigenous traditional knowledge and local community knowledge, and the need to consider it holistically in spite of contested conceptual definitions and uses” in its statement.

Libraries’ involvement is key through preservation and access to such information. That is why IFLA will be celebrating the Year of Indigenous Languages through monthly blog posts exploring the topic from several perspectives. Stay tuned for more on this blog!

In the meantime, the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore is working towards text-based discussions for international instruments both on the topic of traditional knowledge and cultural expression.

We look forward to further engaging on the matter throughout 2019.

  1. Open Access and Open Science

Libraries subscribe to more and more digital content, while at the same time, the cost of subscriptions seems to be going up in many countries around the world. Library budgets are therefore tightened, and consequently reduce the freedom that librarians have in the choice of collections.

In 2018, we saw universities and consortia in many countries cancel big subscription deals with publishers. An international group of research funders released Plan S, which “requires that, from 2020, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms”.

Many more initiatives around the world are moving towards the direction of full open access. We are hopeful that we will see much more of these initiatives throughout 2019. A key priority will be to make the library voice – and interest – heard in the discussions.

  1. Librarians as advocates

Access to information is fundamental, and more, or a stricter copyright, risks harming it. Librarians need to raise their voice and have an active role in copyright discussions.

It might seem obvious that in any copyright reform, decision-makers should be careful not to harm, and should even enhance, access to information, which is in the interest of all. However, there is a lobby arguing to the contrary (as recent research from Corporate Observatory Europe has shown) with a strong influence in copyright policies. As a negative unintended consequence, the possibilities for libraries to preserve and give access to knowledge in the digital age, and the interests of users, may be hampered.

In many countries, librarians are already involved in working groups with the ministries or government offices responsible of copyright. In others, they are coming together through library associations and campaigns to have a say in copyright changes.

We should reach a situation in which librarians are consulted by default when copyright is to be amended, and in which librarians are confident to speak in this regard.

The interests we defend are legitimate, and we should not wait for someone else to defend them. If we do not say it, no one will.

  1. Getting the facts in order

Very linked to the previous points is the fact that in copyright reforms, we hear all kinds of arguments to defend positions that will restrict or harm the interests of libraries and their users. Librarians need to have the facts and the arguments at their fingertips.

In the South African copyright reform, which is close to an end, librarians and other user rights defenders have had to make an important effort to fight misleading arguments against fair use. In the Canadian copyright reform’s recent consultation, there has also been a need to argue why fair dealing is not causing a loss of revenue to the publishing industry.

Some other examples of recurrent arguments are: Licensing (and collective licensing) offers a solution to all problems; library lending has a negative effect on book sales; flexible copyright is harmful to authors, and more protection is the answer; and exceptions and limitations to copyright lead to piracy and deprive creators from adequate remuneration. We need to be able to respond.


We hope the above ideas are helpful guides – do share your own below, we look forward to reading them!

The 10-Minute Library Advocate: #1 Think of Three Things Your Library Does that Improve People’s Lives

Think of Three Things Your Library Does that Improve People’s Lives

Politicians and advertisers know that the promise of a better life is one of the most powerful tools in getting people’s attention and changing their minds.

Libraries deliver this, but don’t always explain it clearly or convincingly. To be a good advocate, you need to be able to say quickly and clearly how libraries make a difference to people’s daily lives.

A key first step is to organise your own arguments.

So take a piece of paper (or your phone or computer), and think of three different things that your library does that benefit ordinary people. Make sure these are things that really matter to individuals. Think: what makes your library special or useful to them?

Once you have written your ideas down, remember them! If you want, you can test them out on a friend or colleague, or share them on social media using the #EveryLibrarianAnAdvocate hashtag!

See you next week for our next exercise!

See here for our first post about the whole 10-Minute-Library-Advocate series!

Copyright Week Day 4: Save the Messenger! Why Libraries Should Care about Safe Harbour

Graphic for Day 4 of Copyright Week 2019Discussion about questions of free speech and access to information is traditionally based around a divide between creators and users – or authors and readers in the case of books.

When something goes wrong – an author goes beyond the limits of acceptable free speech or plagiarises, or a reader pirates a work – it makes it easy to ascribe blame.

Of course, there have long been many other players in the chain, helping works get from the one to the other, from publishers or record companies to distributors, bookstores and libraries. These are essential as connectors between authors and readers. Without them, there is no connection, no exchange.

All of these actors are, in principle, established in order to promote and make legitimate uses of works. Of course, they may risk making mistakes – it is clear that the boundaries of fair uses of works, as well as of free speech, are unclear.

This makes it more difficult to establish what happens when something goes wrong. To what extent should those through whose hands a work has passed be held responsible for the acts of others? What should they do when mistakes happen?

It seems appropriate that these actors should enjoy the benefit of the doubt. A publisher – who of course knows a book inside out – should not be prosecuted when a book they publish can legitimately be seen as free speech.

Libraries and bookstores, which will have an idea of their stock without necessarily having been able to read everything, should be held to a lower standard. If they act in good faith, and act rapidly when due process leads to the conclusion that a mistake has been made, should also not be held accountable.

And of course distributors, who cannot be expected to read the content that sits in the back of the van, should logically be exempt.

This is, in effect, the concept of safe harbour. It ensures that actors which are essential to making the connection between writer and reader are able to use their skills and best judgement in order to go about their jobs.

They can take risks, and thanks to this, innovate and bring new ideas and services which benefit society as a whole. Crucially, one mistake should not come at the expense of all of the legitimate services and support provided.


New Actors, Old Issue?

The internet adds a new element to this – the wires, servers, hosting services, and platforms that have massively facilitated the distribution of books, articles, and other works.

Again, with some limited exceptions, these are established in order to promote and facilitate legitimate uses. They often serve other purposes too, such as communication as well as the personal sharing of original works.

They have become as essential to the connection between creators and readers as the delivery van once was (and of course still is in some markets). For libraries also, maximum access to information over the internet is a key means of providing services.

So what to do when something goes wrong? When someone writes something dangerous or unjustifiably discriminatory? When a reader makes an illegitimate copy of a work, or access something illegal?

The concept that emerged with the WIPO Copyright Treaty of 1996 was the same safe harbour. The idea that when someone acts in good faith, and acts rapidly when a mistake is pointed out, then they should not be held fully responsible.

The standard varies from service to service. Just as it varies between publishers and delivery vans, the same goes with the difference between the editors of news sites or blogs and the hosting services or internet service providers, or the many other actors involved in getting information from keyboard to screen (including, in the case of library computers, the screens themselves!).

While technical tools exist that can indicate potentially illegal activity, these cannot be relied upon, with growing evidence (here, here, here) of automatic filters creating havoc with legitimate speech.

However, there is increasing pressure to restrict the idea of safe harbour and create liability (for copyright infringement, dangerous content etc).

This is driven in part by a frustration at the fact that finding, catching and prosecuting the person or organisation at the origin of the illegal behaviour can be difficult. Unlike platforms, ISPs or libraries, they may not have a clear physical address and legal existence.

In part, it doubtless also comes from the fact that some of these intermediaries have grown very rich, or enjoy a position in the market that allows them to dictate terms, more or less, to others.

Neither of these arguments, though, justify an attack on the concept of safe harbour itself. This is all the more so given that such restrictions risk not only hurting commercial platforms, but also other actors such as Wikipedia, libraries and others.

Trying to draw a line between platforms that benefit and platforms that don’t is fraught with difficulty. It brings the risk that all platforms and services will feel the need to implement more restrictive policies that will hurt most innovators and risk takers.


Libraries therefore have a major interest in protecting safe harbour if they are to be able to fulfil their missions – both inside their walls and on the wider internet.

Copyright Week Day 3: Public Domain, Privatised Knowledge, and Libraries

Copyright Week Day 3 Image1 January 2019 saw a greater than usual focus on the importance of the public domain. For the first time in 20 years, new works started to go out of copyright in the United States, following a 20 year hiatus.

There was a lot of celebration – and performances of ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’. But there was also reflection on the importance of the public domain itself.

One piece, a couple of weeks earlier by James Boyle in The Economist but revisited for the occasion, highlighted the idea that there was a tragedy of the digital commons.

The author referred back to the idea that without a form of government (or privatisation), common resources would quickly disappear as individuals seek to maximise their own gain, at the cost of others.

Villagers would allow their cows to eat all of the grass on the common land. A farmer would take all of the water. A logging company would cut down all of the trees.

The author worries that the same arguments are being used to close off the digital commons, under the pretence that without this control (either by government, or by private rightholders), nothing would be created.

Starting in the 90s, he argues, this has led to rules on digital content which have risked rewarding the ideas of the past at the expense of the ideas of the future.

He suggests that open initiatives, such as open source software, the Human Genome Project, or Creative Commons have shown what can be done when knowledge is shared.


Libraries, the Commons, and the Not-100%-Private

For the time being, openly licenced work remains just one model under which works are shared. The retention of rights – the privatisation of knowledge – remains common. This is where the limitations and exceptions to copyright that laws often give to libraries come in.

These allow for some limited access and use possibilities, in the case of libraries for a public interest goal. They don’t make works ‘common’, but they make them a little less private. They allow readers to analyse, to copy or quote short sections, to critique and parody, and to use for research amongst other things.

This is important. Copyright is a monopoly power, and brings with it the problems associated with monopolies – under-supply and over-charging. This benefits the rightholder, but leads to costs for the consumer – usually those less able to pay.

The problem now is that these flexibilities are being increasingly restricted. Thanks to a mixture of technology (digital rights management) and a failure to update laws (in particular to account for the shift from paper to digital), the control enjoyed by rightholders has never been greater.

Add to this the growing pressure on platforms to pre-filter any uploaded content in case of potential copyright violation (likely also excluding large amounts of material making use of exceptions and limitations), and the possibility to privatise knowledge completely has never been greater.

This has been good news for rightholders, and has doubtless led to some new revenue streams. It has also created new possibilities for price discrimination (do you pay for read-only access? Can you copy elements? Can you carry out text and data mining?).

However, it risks creating greater costs to consumers and future than it creates benefits to producers, as monopoly powers become more complete, and there is little incentive, except among the more far-sighted, to allow those limited, public interest uses that are at the heart of what libraries do.


This is why the effort of libraries to encourage exceptions and limitations to copyright goes hand-in-hand with their support for open access.

The two efforts – to protect and expand the public domain, and ensure that other works are just public enough to contribute to further creativity (and in particular that libraries can fulfil their missions!), without undermining the business model behind their creation – are both necessary.

Read more about IFLA’s work on copyright.

10 Reasons to Engage with Wikipedia: Revisiting the Opportunities Papers

Wikipedia 1Lib1Ref

#1Lib1Ref has just begun. Around the world, for the next three weeks, librarians will be doing the thing they do best – helping people regardless of background to access quality information – by adding references and improving articles on Wikipedia.

Through this, the power of the library field, with its 2.3 million institutions, comes together with the reach and recognition of one of the world’s biggest websites.

The result is a great opportunity to boost the quality of a resource which is increasingly central for everything from medical research to gentle curiosity. You can find out about how to get involved on the dedicated website.

It’s also a good time to look back at the two Opportunities Papers created by IFLA and the Wikimedia Foundation (the organisation that runs Wikipedia, as well as a number of other projects) in 2016, focusing respectively on Wikipedia and Public Libraries, and Wikipedia and Academic and Research Libraries.

These highlighted a number of ways in which libraries gain from working with Wikipedia, both in direct practical terms, and at the level of promoting equitable access to information globally.

Here are just ten of them:

1) It improves democratic access to reliable information: Wikipedia represents a major source of free knowledge, open to everyone (at least where it has not been blocked). While there may be debates about its reliability, the same goes for more traditional sources. Crucially, it complements the work of libraries by allowing people to find information at any time of day, as long as they have an internet connection (and sometimes even when they don’t!).

2) It’s a supplementary information resource (including within catalogues): Wikipedia has, in some countries, even been added to library catalogues, meaning that when a user is searching for a specific term or question, the Wikipedia results also come up. Wikipedia is also increasingly recognised as a starting point for research. More and more, other products are using Wikipedia entries – for example Amazon in its Kindle, or Facebook in combatting fake news.

3) It’s a means of teaching digital literacy: editing Wikipedia can be a key part of the development of digital literacy skills among library users. It can allow people to gain confidence in using the internet by sharing their own knowledge – potentially for the first time – and in doing so help others.

4) As a way of confronting and advancing discussion: editing Wikipedia can also be an education in information literacy. Following the edits made to a page give an idea of what lies behind any particular stated fact, as well as broader insights into how knowledge and perceptions are created. Operating within the rules of the community also offers an experience in how to work cooperatively.

5) It’s a way of helping people become more engaged in a subject: for librarians with users who are particularly interested in a specific subject, or who bring a strong expertise, Wikipedia and specific Wikimedia projects can offer a great way of exploring a personal passion further. This is fulfilling for the individual, and increases the volume of information available internationally.

6) It’s a tool for engaging with local communities: what works for individuals can also work for communities. Working together, the members of a community can start to present their area, their subject of interest, or their history

7) It’s a way of decolonising the internet: libraries have become increasingly aware of the impact that collections and cataloguing practices have had on the representation of minority groups. However, the internet is also dominated by content from particular sources, with many others not finding material in their language, or about subjects they care about online. Libraries can help to address these gaps by supporting editathons and other efforts to build locally relevant content on Wikipedia.

8) It’s a place to share public domain materials: Wikipedia increasingly relies on underlying databases, such as the Wikimedia Commons (documents and images that are either openly licenced or in the public domain), and Wikidata. Uploading library materials – where this is permissible – strengthens the resource base available, and raises awareness of library materials.

9) Because it’s a way of advancing Linked Open Data: with its work on Wikidata, the Wikimedia Foundation is looking extensively at how to connect data concerning different collections and materials. Given the global reach of Wikipedia, this is a potentially very interesting

10) It’s a place to talk about your library and its collections: Many libraries have their own Wikipedia pages, or make sure that their details (opening hours, special collections) are available on their town or city’s website. Given the high search ranking often given to Wikipedia results, it’s a great way of sharing this information. Of course, don’t forget to avoid conflicts of interest when editing!

Out of Hand? Libraries, eBook ownership and Lending

Libraries, eBook ownership and Lending

The rise of eBooks has led to some significant changes in the world of publishing. While they are clearly a long way from replacing their physical equivalents, eBooks do now enjoy a significant share of the market, and have allowed a lot of independent and self-published authors to emerge.

They have also brought questions about what it means to ‘own’ something to the world of books and reading.

Because while buying a physical book represented a pretty definitive transfer of ownership – the buyer could then read, scribble in the margins, share with a friend, give it away or resell it – it’s different with eBooks.

Libraries are of course also affected by this restriction on ownership. Not only are they not always allowed to buy eBooks (not a challenge when a library would stock up at a local bookshop or other vendor), but then their ability to lend books, and on what terms is different.


From Anecdote to Hard Evidence

This situation has led to a lot of frustration, but until recently, only limited and anecdotal evidence of what was going on. However now, thanks to an Australian team led by Professor Rebecca Giblin and drawing on a team of lawyers, data scientists and others, there is an impressive body of data about what eLending looks like for libraries. This is available at

Professor Giblin’s work is in fact based on three smaller studies: 1) one looking across 546 culturally significant books across different platforms in Australia, 2) one looking at the same set of books on one platform across Australia, NZ, US, Canada and the UK, and 3) one looking across almost 100 000 eBooks available in at least one of the five countries, through one platform.

Throughout this work, the aim was to look at questions around availability (what eBooks could libraries buy), and accessibility (on what terms – cost/licences – they could buy them).

This blog summarises the information, and you can watch the presentation of the information at last year’s World Library and Information Congress.


Buy Me If You Can?

A first key conclusion is that the availability of eBooks is highly variable. In Australia, of the 546 culturally significant books, individual aggregators only had 62-71% on offer. Looking across the five countries, the figure went from 71% of these key books being available in the US, but only 59% in the UK.

Taking the larger study, 12% of books available in other countries were not in the US or Canada, but this figure rose to 23% in the case of the UK. There appears to be a link between price and availability of books, at least in Australia, NZ and the UK. Hachette has particularly diverse policies – around 90% of their electronic catalogue was available in the US/Canada, but only 3-4% (16 books) in the UK and Australia.


Responding to Demand?

Despite original suspicions that older books (the ‘backlist’) may not be available to libraries, the data seems to show that availability is in fact pretty good, including books from the first half of the 20th century. However, older books are not necessarily licensed in different ways to newer ones, despite the fact that they normally are subject to lower demand and usage.

For libraries, time-limited licences are highly unattractive for books which are valuable, but may not be lent out so frequently. However, they are still frequently used for such older books. Moreover, there is no evidence that prices are any lower either, making back-list books less interesting for libraries. Moreover, in 97% of cases, there is zero choice of licence for libraries, reducing choice.


The Bigger, the Tougher?

A key question at the IFLA level is to ensure that library users enjoy the best possible access to works. This is difficult when licensing and pricing practices vary, disadvantaging users in one country compared to those elsewhere.

Interestingly, this question of variation seems to almost entirely focused on the big five publishers. Looking only at books published by the same publisher in the five jurisdictions, 34% of titles from the ‘big five’ were subject to different licences in different jurisdictions, compared to 0.1% for other publishers.

The same goes for prices – these varied by 20% or more in almost half of cases for the big give, whereas other publishers barely varied at all, even on identical licences. Big five publishers are also more likely to use metered licensing (in particular in the UK), while others use one-copy-one-user in the vast majority of cases.


A Lack of Transparency

Finally, based on the Australian data, it became clear that platforms are not always getting the same deal. They are also unable to compete on price.

In Australia, 41% of titles were subject to different licensing terms from aggregator to aggregator, with serious differences in half of these. Prices varied also, although there was strong secrecy about how these were formed.



The findings offer an important opportunity to understand how libraries and their users are experiencing eLending. It brings welcome transparency to a market which has tended to be seen as fluid and evolving.

Clearly it doesn’t resolve all questions – for example the market impact of eLending (there is no clear evidence either way, although recent evidence from the promotion of one particular book suggests the consequences can be very positive). But it does highlight questions that deserve answers. Crucially, it implies that there are questions about how the market is working now, and raises the question of whether action should be taken.


While eBooks have offered valuable flexibility for readers (and authors), the same flexibility appears not always to benefit and enable libraries to carry out their missions.  eBooks provide a strong example of the risks around the shift from physical ownership to digital licensed access.