Monthly Archives: May 2019

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #20: Do Your Background Research


The 10 Minute Library Advocate Number 10 - Do Your Background Research. Image: Person in a Magnifying Glass

In advocacy, the personal touch is important.

If you’re trying to convince a politician or other decision-maker to support you, you need to adapt to them.

And of course politicians and decision-makers are human beings, with interests, priorities and preferences.

If you can find a way of linking your message to their personal experience, you have a stronger chance of success.

So for our 20th 10-Minute Library Advocate Exercise, do your background research!

Before you meet someone, try to find out more about them.

Do particular issues matter more for them than others? You can then bring in how libraries help in that field.

Where do they come from? You can find an example from the library in their home-town.

Elected officials in particular will have campaign material you can use to find this out, for example.

Good luck!


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

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: Libraries and SDG 16

Justice, Transparency, Participation, Access - Libraries Deliver Across SDG16

Starting today and continuing to Wednesday, governments, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations involved in delivering SDG16 are meeting in Rome.

In advance of the focus on this Goal in New York at the High Level Political Forum, this is an opportunity to take stock, to explore where progress is needed, and to see what solutions exist. The results will inform discussions among ministers.

IFLA is here, with the recently released Development and Access to Information report, underlining the need to focus on access to information, and the help that libraries provide in achieving this goal.


The Good Governance Goal

SDG16 itself is as complex as it is fundamental. It is a foundational goal which enables efforts – and success – in all others. It includes everything from reducing violence – by states and individuals – to promoting democracy and fundamental freedoms, including access to information.

It is also controversial, with it unsure until late in the process whether it would be included at all. Many states, it is true, did not want the way they managed themselves and their policies to be in the spotlight.

Four particular targets under SDG16 are relevant to libraries. This blog sets out why, and what libraries are doing to achieve them:


Access to Justice

SDG 16.3: Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all 

Too often, laws that are meant to protect people and their rights do not work because it is only some members of society who can enforce them. Bureaucratic and cultural barriers, as well as cost are major issues.

A further key concern is information about justice. Laws are often long and complicated, and even the best educated are unlikely to have read or understood them. Those who are most at risk of discrimination or disadvantage are particularly vulnerable.

As such, access to legal information is a key means of ensuring that more people can enjoy the rights they have. Libraries – especially through partnerships between law libraries and public libraries – can make a major contribution to ensuring that ordinary people can learn about their rights.

A great example comes from New South Wales, Australia, where for over 25 years, public libraries have been working with the Legal Information Access Centre at the State Library. Through direct consultation, and easy-read materials, this has made access to justice a reality for many who would otherwise have been left out.


Accountability and Transparency

SDG 16.6: Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels

Governments have a duty to their citizens to make best use of their potential to improve lives. Yet too often, there are failures or worse, with public money mis-spent, or powers misused.

These problems can be reduced (or alternative governments chosen) when there is transparency about how governments and institutions are working. Without this, citizens have nowhere to start in terms of holding those in power to account.

There is a move towards publishing ‘open government’ information, around decision-making, budgeting and spending. New platforms are being designed and put online, and citizens given the possibility to use them to come to their own conclusions.

However, simply creating the possibility is not enough. Those without internet access or technology are immediately excluded, as are those who do not know about the possibilities, and those who lack the skills and confidence to use them.

Libraries can play a key role in overcoming this situation, letting people know about what is possible, and helping them to make use of the new rights. An example from Kenya, where many people still cannot get online through a laptop of desktop, underlines what can be done.


Better Decision-Making

SDG 16.7: Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels

As highlighted above, governments have an important responsibility to their people to take the right decisions, not least concerning public money.

These decisions are significant, often affecting millions of people, and millions of dollars. It is broadly accepted that the best decisions are based upon wide consultation and use of evidence.

Yet as policies become more interconnected and complicated, it is not necessarily easy to achieve this, either for the governments drafting laws, or the parliaments debating them.

Libraries have a key role to play here, providing access to information for decision-makers. They bring a unique ability to collect and make available information in a form and at a time that really supports the work of governments and parliaments.

The work of IFLA’s sections on Government Libraries and Parliamentary Libraries offer many examples of what libraries can achieve in supporting responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making.


Access to Information

SDG 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements

SDG 16.10 has been at the heart of IFLA’s work around the Sustainable Development Goals. Complementing the targets highlighted above that focus on access to information about government, it stresses the need for access to information in general.

Just as this goal has long been at the heart of IFLA’s SDG engagement, the mission it refers to is central to the mission of libraries in general.

Through providing information in whatever form or from whatever source is relevant, libraries help people to seize opportunities and take better decisions. This access is therefore a key part of a development framework focused on empowering individuals to make their own choices.

Despite predictions of the demise of libraries in a digital age, their role has arguably been strengthened, as the importance of skills, physical spaces, and a welcoming environment have become clearer.

The Development and Access to Information Report, of which the second edition was launched last week, offers many examples, across the SDGs, of how this access makes a difference.




The 10-Minute Library Advocate #19: Write a Letter or Post a Comment

It’s not only your own platforms that you can use to talk about libraries.

Using these give you an opportunity to reach out to new people, including ones who might not otherwise think about libraries at all.

You can also engage journalists, public commentators or other influences, starting a conversation with them.

Given that libraries can make a difference in so many areas, there are plenty of subjects where you can say something that shows what our institutions can do.

So for our nineteenth 10-Minute Library Advocate exercise, write a letter or post a comment in response to an article or blog.

You can think about where you focus – is it a local (online) newspaper or a national one? Is it specialised on a certain community or more general? Is it read by people you want to influence?

In your response stay positive and focused on libraries. You can use some of the numbers and stories we’ve mentioned in previous 10 Minute Library Advocate exercises.

You won’t get a reaction all the time, but when you do, you have succeeded in getting people to think more about libraries.

Good luck!


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

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #18: Find and Use Hashtags and Handles on Social Media

10 Minute Library Advocate - Find and use hashtags and handles on social mediaAdvocacy is about getting attention.

You can produce great ideas, messages and materials, but how to ensure that you are heard?

Especially on social media many accounts get few followers. Even popular ones don’t always reach the people that matter.

It is possible to target what you’re doing on social media.

You can also make sure that your message appears when people are following key debates.

So for our eighteenth 10-Minute Library Advocate exercise, find and use relevant hashtags and handles.

Look on key social networks for the you’re aiming for, and write down their handles (for example @library_minister) or the hashtags used in impotrant discussions (for example #GlobalGoals).

By using these, you can ensure that your target audience – politicians, influencers, journalists – are notified about your messages.

You can also get your posts included in search results on popular topics.

Good luck!


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

Access as the Goal: Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day

For all the focus in much of IFLA’s work on the importance of agreeing and implementing the Marrakesh Treaty, we should not forget the end goal of this effort – ensuring the accessibility of books, websites, and other materials for people with disabilities.

This is the goal set out by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in its Article 21:

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others […], including by:

 a) Providing information intended for the general public to persons with disabilities in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities in a timely manner and without additional cost;


 c) Urging private entities that provide services to the general public, including through the Internet, to provide information and services in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities;

 d) Encouraging the mass media, including providers of information through the Internet, to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities; […]

 Libraries have a major role to play in achieving this – this blog sets out three ways.


Supporting Accessible Formats

Libraries in many countries have taken a leading role in producing (or commissioning) accessible format copies of books.

They have invested in the equipment necessary to create books in braille, to convert them into DAISY format, or have paid to create tactile books, which are particularly important for younger people with disabilities.

This work is of course supported by the Marrakesh Treaty, which removes at least a key legal barrier to carrying out these sorts of conversions.

Nonetheless, and as was highlighted at a recent hearing the New Zealand Parliament, such conversions are not cheap.

This is why libraries, for example in Australia, have looked to work with publishers to promote born-accessible books. This can mean that a book is immediately usable on a DAISY reader for example. The International Publishers Association, for example, has also promoted accessibility among its members.

Where there is readiness to adopt such formats, this offers a powerful means of expanding accessibility, but of course we remain a long way from success. The role of libraries in creating accessible books – and the need for support in doing this – is far from over.


Promoting Broader Accessibility

Under the law in many countries, libraries have an explicit mission to serve all members of their communities, especially those with disabilities.

Partly, they do this through providing accessible formats, as highlighted above. Depending on the set-up within countries, there can be many libraries offering such formats, or a central one which simply distributes them.

But all libraries have a role on the ground, in ensuring that members of their communities who do have disabilities are able to make use of the services they offer.

A survey in autumn 2017 underlined that many libraries make conscious efforts to develop policies, although even in those without formal plans, staff were active in adapting their offer. Particular areas of focus included physical accessibility and providing tailored services and internet connection opportunities.

Work in this area goes beyond print disabilities, with support for people with dyslexia, deafness and other mobility challenges also taken into account.


Marrakesh and Beyond

As highlighted above, the Marrakesh Treaty may not be a silver bullet, but it is an indispensable step towards accessibility. It removes a key barrier to providing accessible format books, linked to a market failure created by the copyright regime.

Of course, Marrakesh itself only focuses on people with print disabilities, but makes it clear that it is possible to extend provisions to other disabilities also. This is an important point to underline, given claims by some to the contrary. A large number of countries are already taking this step.

Yet ratifying Marrakesh will also mean little if there is no effort to update national laws and practices to match. IFLA, working with the World Blind Union, the University of Toronto, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries and EIFL, has produced its Getting Started guide to help more libraries make a reality of the new rules.


This work will need to continue, both at the political level (in terms of encouraging further ratifications), and on the ground. Legal reform, new practices (in both industry and libraries) and the right support from government will all be necessary to ensure that the commitment in Article 21 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is met.

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #17: Find and Remember a Great Library Quote

Image: Find and learn a great library quoteWhen you advocate, it’s important to choose your words.

Finding a great way of expressing the importance of libraries can make the difference when you’re trying to convince someone.

But it’s not always easy to find these – not all of us are poets!

You don’t always have to choose your own words through. Many famous people have said supportive things about libraries.

So for our Seventeenth 10-Minute Library Advocate exercise, find a great library quote and learn it.

You can then use this when you’re talking with people, post it on social media, or even print it on a piece of paper (or if you’re feeling brave, a t-shirt!).

There are plenty of sites with quotes on the internet – you should look for the one or more that you feel comfortable using.

Share your favourites here!

Good luck!


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

Fail! How Copyright Risks Creating Market Failures, and How Exceptions Can Correct Them

At the end of a recent WIPO meeting, a suggestion was made that the Marrakesh Treaty – which removes the need to seek permission in order to make or share accessible format copies of books – was a response to a market failure.

Market failures happen when the impacts of a decision (to do something or not) are not fully taken into account by the person making it. These impacts are known as ‘externalities’.

Examples include pollution (which mainly affects people other than the ones responsible), or street lighting (which benefits everyone who passes by, regardless of whether they have paid taxes for it). These are ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ externalities respectively.

When there are externalities, a producer will make more, or less, of something than is optimal for society as a whole.

Talking about the Marrakesh Treaty as a market failure raises some interesting questions about the way copyright works.

All forms of intellectual property are, arguably, a response to another market failure. Traditionally, in the case of copyright, if an author and publisher have invested money in order to produce a book, but then anyone can copy and sell it for less, there is an externality.

The original author is not able to benefit from all of the positives associated with the book, and so may not produce again.

Copyright – under the ‘orthodox’ model of revenue generation that dominates today – helps correct this by giving exclusive rights to the author or their publisher.

However, as in the case of the Marrakesh Treaty, it is clear that the rights given by copyright can create their own problems. In effect, by leaving almost all decisions about who can do what, with what, in the hands of the rightholder, it places them in the same position as the producer mentioned above.

While Marrakesh did deal with a specific population – albeit one numbering into the hundreds of millions around the world – this is not to say that market failures do not exist elsewhere. This blog looks at four areas where they may appear and affect the work of libraries, and underlines how exceptions to copyright can offer a response.


Market Failures Linked to Types of User

This was very much the case with the Marrakesh Treaty, where the limited buying power of people with print disabilities in many parts of the world made them less interesting as a market.

This is not because there was not a value to people with print disabilities from gaining access. Indeed, for them, the possibility to read and enjoy works can lead not only to greater well-being, but also to new opportunities.

The same can be said for children and young families for example. Children can have a huge appetite for books, and most parents are unable to pay for all of the books they will read.

Publishers, however, cannot lower prices for individuals or groups without this threatening their profitability. We risk a situation of many children being left with only limited access to books – including arguably those who need it most.

The possibility to borrow books from the library not only ensures demand is met today, without costing sales, but also helps build the book consumers of the future.


Market Failures Linked to Types of Material

A second failure is linked to types of material. Many of the works held by libraries are ‘orphan’ – i.e. the author is either not known, or not traceable.

This is a common phenomenon, given the very long duration of copyright, as well as the fact that copyright also applies to works which were never made for commercial purposes (and so where fewer records have been kept).

The problem comes from the fact that by default, copyright locks these works away, as the (unknown) author is assumed not to have agreed to their work being used.

The consequence is that this leaves large parts of library collections locked away, despite a low risk of objections to their being shared online (indeed, many people who do come back are happy about it), and lost potential value for researchers and historians.


Market Failures Linked to Type of Use

A third category of market failure is linked to the type of use that is planned. This is an issue because copyright not only governs who can sell books and other works, but also what can be done with them afterwards.

There are arguably certain activities – quotation, basic educational uses, preservation – which are of clear public benefit. However, the last two of these are, by default, also left in the hands of rightholders.

To take the example of preservation, the benefits of this may only be felt in many years to come, or if something deeply uncertain, such as a disaster, strikes.

Yet this is not something that can easily be translated into money, or something that the rightholder taking the decision will necessarily take into account. Indeed, they may logically focus more on the idea of a lost sale (however unlikely this is), or the risk of hacking or loss. Again, by default, preservation is not permitted.

In effect, if the right to preserve works effectively is not covered in law, there is a real risk of books and other works being lost.


Market Failures Linked to Lack of Coordination

The examples of given up to here have been more focused on the decisions taken by rightholders, and represent market failures. But there are also failures associated with policy-making around copyright.

This is because when policies are decided – and in particular, when copyright exceptions are designed – the focus is on domestic interests. There is little if any consideration of how the choices make will affect researchers, teachers and libraries working across borders.

It seems unlikely that anyone would want to prevent libraries from working together across borders in order to carry out preservation, or to share works in a fair and regulated way. These activities are just too easily forgotten.

If these interests were taken into account, there would be a far stronger argument for convergence in copyright exceptions in order to support research, heritage and learning.


As highlighted in the recent WIPO meeting, the Marrakesh Treaty is a response to a market failure – one that ensures that the wider interests of society can be promoted within the context of the copyright system. It is a means of dealing with a problem created by the way copyright works, with exclusive rights by default, and little consideration for cross-border working.

These failures are not the fault of rightholders either, who are acting rationally in the circumstances. They have a duty to maximise revenues in order to support themselves or their authors (and shareholders as appropriate), and are not being deliberately unhelpful.

Such failures can be addressed through exceptions to copyright. It is time to do so, both at the national and global level.