Monthly Archives: October 2019

Libraries at the Heart of Better Cities

World Cities Day 2019 focuses on the fact that to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, it will be necessary to succeed in cities, where more than half of the world’s population lives.

Cities, in concentrating people, can also concentrate both opportunities and problems. They can be places where new possibilities emerge, new collaborations form and new ideas develop. However, they can also be marked by economic and social divides, as well as severe environmental damage.

The difference between the good and the bad is often associated with the ability of the members of communities to work together. When people living in an area have strong social connections, trust tends to be higher, and cooperation becomes easier.

The sum of these connections is sometimes described as social capital. Different levels of such capital have been cited as explaining variation in growth rates between cities and countries, or resilience in the face of disasters.

Given the major efforts required to deliver on the SDGs, we will need as much social capital as possible. Libraries can help!


Libraries as Social Infrastructure

Sometimes, these connections are only between people belonging to a certain family or group. While these can help in some ways, they can also risk being exclusive. As has been pointed out, the strength of mafia groups, for example, is an example of social capital at work, just not in a good way.

In a modern, diverse city, what is needed are connections that link together all people living in the space.

For this, it is important to have common reference points, and common spaces. Common reference points can come in many forms, such as culture, history, or simply information.

Common spaces are places where everyone can come and feel welcome, outside of home, work, or social life within a particular group.

Libraries, in providing both, represent a key part of the ‘social infrastructure’ of any town or city.

They ‘provide the setting and context for social participation’. This is the thesis of Eric Klinenberg, whose book ‘Palaces for the People’, has been strongly welcomed in the library field for its clear explanation of what libraries can offer.


Taking the Message Further

One of the reasons Klinenberg gives for writing his book is the sense that despite this contribution, libraries are not always recognised for their role.

They are less glamorous than other cultural institutions, but are also too often seen as less urgent or less necessary than other core public services such as the police or schools.

In effect, they – and the benefits they can bring to the cohesiveness, the inventiveness, and the resilience of cities – risk being overlooked.

This is a concern. There are few public services which offer such welcoming spaces, provide such a rich range of references, or are as inclusive as libraries.

It is certainly hard to imagine any that can claim to provide the combination of all three that libraries do. Clearly this is not to say that libraries are more important than other services, but rather that they make an irreplaceable contribution.


Therefore, as cities look to work out how they can promote inventiveness, change behaviours, and improve economic, social, cultural and political life, they should look to make sure that they are making the most of their libraries.

Happy World Cities Day!

7 out of 10: the ARIPO Model Copyright Law

The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) has released its model copyright law.

ARIPO it aims to support the work of intellectual property (IP) teams across Africa, through both country-specific capacity building, and regional-level reports and guidance.

Its 19 Member States come primarily from English-speaking Africa (with some exceptions), and will now doubtless be encouraged to refer to the Model Law in reflecting on their own reforms.

This means that the document has a potentially powerful impact. As such, it is worth being clear about its strengths, weaknesses, and silences, from a library point of view. Library associations and others advocating for better laws for libraries should be aware of where the Model Law will, or will not help.

This blog therefore explores the positives, the negatives, and the holes in the Model Law. All references to Articles are to the Model Law, unless stated otherwise).


The Good

Fair Dealing: in the first Article of the chapter on exceptions and limitations (Article 18), the Model Law suggests that uses which constitute fair dealing, for the purposes of scientific research, private use, criticism or review, or the reporting of current events should be permissible (Article 18(1)). It then offers a set of criteria for judging the fairness of this dealing – the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the protected work (how original is it?), the amount of the work used, and the effect of the use on the market (Article 18(3)).

This is a positive step, giving valuable flexibility to libraries and other users in making reasonable uses of works. However, it if course remains less open than fair use exceptions, which do not have closed list of accepted purposes. If the list was to be made open (for example by adding a ‘such as’ before the list of purposes), it would offer an even better model.

Inclusion of Unpublished Works: too often, copyright exceptions only apply to works which have been formally published. This can make the work of libraries and archives in dealing with unpublished works more complicated. The Model Law underlines that the fact of being unpublished does not prevent uses under fair dealing (Article 18(4)).

A Digitally-Reading Education Exception: the Model Law makes it clear that it is possible to make uses of copyrighted works for education purposes via electronic networks, and not just in analogue form (Article 21(1)(a) and 21(1)(b)).

Interestingly, the only area where the exception can be cancelled out by a licence is for in-person teaching (Article 21(1)(c)(iii)). This is clearly not ideal, given that the Article is, anyway, covered by the rule that uses under exceptions should not conflict with the normal market exploitation of a work.

A Technologically Neutral Definition of Copying: too often, national laws suggest that copies can only be made through a specific technology, such as photocopying. The Model Law has the merit of underlining that it is possible to make reproductions through any format (Article 2).

Protection of the Public Domain: the Model Law includes standard provisions on facts, data, news and political speeches not being protected by copyright, but is clear that this also applies to laws, court judgements and other administrative texts are also in the public (Article 6). Furthermore, there is an explicit definition of the public domain, which allows the possibility for authors to renounce their rights. This is positive, given the tendency in some countries to create unwaivable rights which undermine initiatives such as Creative Commons (Article 35).

No Term Extension: the Model Law does not take the opportunity too often used elsewhere (and in spite of the evidence) to go beyond protection lasting for the lifetime of the author plus fifty years. This is a useful model to use elsewhere.

Inclusion of Museums: the provisions on library copying also apply to archives and museums. This is a positive, given the challenges identified in WIPO work around museums facing different conditions and rules to other heritage institutions.


The Bad

Overall, the Model Law provides a relatively good example for governments. However, there are some weaknesses which libraries should look to avoid replicating in their own national legislation. The below suggestions are in addition to the encouragement to adopt fair use above.

Vague Provisions on Circumventing Technological Protection Measures: in line with the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the Model Law underlines that ‘effective’ technological protection measures should themselves be protected by law. In other countries, there then follows a guarantee that users should be still be allowed to carry out permitted acts (i.e. under exceptions). However, the ARIPO Model Law only provides that governments may make exceptions. This is far too weak at a time that libraries are acquiring a growing share of collections in digital form (Article 40(4) ad 45(3)).

No Lending Exception: the Model Law includes public lending as one of the uses over which a rightholder should have exclusive rights. This is not something required by the Berne Convention itself (which only covers rental). This risks obliging libraries to make payments or seek authorisation for lending (over and above what they have paid to acquire books in the first place). This risks seriously damaging libraries’ ability to promote literacy and a love of books (Article 7(1)(k).

Restrictions on Preservation Copying: while the Model Law does (commendably) not limit the technology used to make copies, the fact that it only talks about ‘a’ copy poses to digitisation efforts (Article 23(3)). In line with recent EU reforms, it would be better to talk about taking copies in the quantity necessary to achieve the goal.

Furthermore, the Model Law also includes the obligation to see if a commercially available copy is available before taking such a copy. This risks introducing an unhelpful administrative burden, and may not be practicable. Given that it is usually cheaper to buy a copy than digitise and preserve, it would be better to leave the choice between copying and buying to libraries, rather than enforcing it through law (also Article 23(3)).

Imposing Commercial Availability Checks for Marrakesh Copying: The Marrakesh Treaty made an important breakthrough by removing copyright-related barriers to making and sharing accessible format copies of books for people with print disabilities. It did however leave the possibility for Member States to impose restrictions though, in the form of an optional remuneration requirement, or the obligation to check if an accessible format copy is not already available on the market before making or sharing one (Marrakesh Treaty, Articles 4(4) and 4(5)).

Libraries have argued strongly against making use of either of these possibilities, given the financial and administrative cost. However, the Model Law does suggest that there should be a check on commercial availability. Given the lack of information about which books are available where, and in what formats, such a requirement risks only leading to uncertainty.

Lack of Provisions on Collective Management: the Model Law is surprisingly thin on guidance about the regulation of collective management organisations (Article 57), while at the same time including provisions on extended collective licencing (Article 38). While it is clear that well-managed collecting societies can facilitate the work of libraries when carrying out uses that fall outside of exceptions, it is essential that these are run in a transparent and accountable way in order to be legitimate.

The Model Law says very little about the need for CMOs to be independent of government (in order to avoid conflicts of interest in the operation of copyright offices), to publish information about how much they are collecting and paying out, or to be representative of rightholders and rights when offering licences. At a time when multiple governments are needing to act to force better governance in this field, the vagueness of the Model Law is troubling.

Over-Application of the Three-Step Text: The Berne Convention only applies the three-step test (that a use needs to be a certain specific case, not conflict with the normal market exploitation of a work, and not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate rights of rightholders) only to exceptions to the reproduction right (Article 9(2), Berne Convention). However, the Model Law applies this to all exceptions, leading to potentially unhelpful debates about what is and is not possible (Article 18(2))

Attribution Obligations: on various occasions (Articles 18(1), 21(2), 22, 23(2), 24(1), 26(3)), the Model Law suggests that use can only be made under exceptions if there is attribution. However, this may not always be possible. Laws elsewhere recognise this possibility to make uses without attribution when this is not practicable. However, the Model Law does not, creating uncertainty for users who do not know the author of the work they are using.

Licence Override for Document Supply: as mentioned above, the exception allowing for educational uses of works in face-to-face teaching can be disapplied when a licence is available. This also applies to situations when libraries are making copies for the private use of users. Where a collective management organisation argues that it can offer licences, this could do a lot of damage to document supply activities (Article 23(2)(a)(iii).

Block on Parallel Importation: in the context of WIPO, libraries have argued that even when there is a domestic rightholder with the right to distribute a work nationally, it should be possible for libraries to make acquisitions across borders. This can be essential in order to meet requests for specific versions of works, or, for example, when the domestic rightholder is not active. The Model Law gives the rightholder the exclusive right to import works, without exceptions (Article 7(1)(j)).

Limits on Caricature, Pastiche and Parody: the Model Law does include welcome exceptions to economic rights (such as reproduction) for review and critic. However, the exception for caricature, pastiche and parody (Article 30) only applies to moral rights, and not to economic rights. As such, it may make it possible to restrict such activities on other grounds.


The Missing

The Model Law, while comprehensive, does not cover a number of areas which, from a library point of view, would be desirable in any national copyright law.

Orphan and Out-of-Commerce Works: libraries hold many works which are no longer commercially available, but are still in copyright. As such, there are significant restrictions on how far they can give access. This is particularly difficult when a work is orphaned (i.e. it isn’t possible to identify or local rightholders). More and more countries are introducing provisions allowing libraries to permit use of such works, subject to various conditions. The Model Law does not even reference these issues.

Text and Data Mining: legal uncertainty about the possibility for libraries to allow for text and data mining of works in their collections has lead a number of countries to introduce explicit exceptions. There is nothing about this in the ARIPO Model Law, meaning that there is continued uncertainty.

Limited Exceptions for People with Disabilities: while the Model Law does copy provisions from the Marrakesh Treaty for people with print disabilities, it does not take the opportunity (foreseen in the Marrakesh Treaty) to apply similar rules for people with other disabilities (such as sub-titling for people experiencing deafness). Many countries do allow copying without restrictions on the type of disability – it is a shame that this possibility has not been included in the Model Law.

Contract Override: the Model Law is silent on the issue of contract override – i.e. the possibility for exceptions and limitations to be cancelled out by the terms of a licence. In a growing number of countries, there are conscious steps to prevent this from happening, and so defend user rights. National governments should introduce broad provisions ensuring the pre-emption of any contract terms which do undermine exceptions.

Cross-Border: the Model Law only refers to cross-border uses in the case of the provisions on sharing accessible format copies of works for people with print disabilities. There is nothing anywhere else which would allow for the cross-border application of exceptions.

This is perhaps an unfair criticism of course – it is only through international law making that there can be legal certainty for cross-border uses. ARIPO itself could act, but the most effective solution would need to come from WIPO itself. IFLA of course continues to engage to achieve this.



Overall, the ARIPO Model Law does cover a number of key points which help libraries do their job, in particular relatively flexible fair dealing provisions. However, there remain a number of flaws, both specifically (lending rights, limitations on preservation), and cross-cutting ones (contract override).

Governments should therefore not look to adopt the Model Law wholesale, but rather work with their library associations to ensure that they have rules that truly support the public interest missions of libraries. Overall, the Model Laws gets a 7 out of 10.

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #41: Collect – and Use – Feedback

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #41: Collect – and Use – Feedback

When someone makes a judgement, they tend to care about what other people think.

This is why, when you buy a book, there are usually quotes from reviewers.

Or when you look for products online, other customers’ views are provided.

We naturally tend to want to agree with other people! And if they are positive, then you are more likely to be positive too.

You can use the same technique for your library.

So for our 41st 10-Minute Library Advocate exercise, collect, and use, feedback.

You can do this through a simple comments box or form.

Not only does this show that you are listening to your users but, as long as you ask permission, you can then use positive examples in your advocacy.

This will help show how much you community cares about your work – and why decision-makers should also!

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!

A Foundation for Change: Celebrating World Development Information Day

World Development Information Day may not be the best-known date on the international calendar.

First celebrated in 1972, it was the result of a UN General Assembly Resolution which recognised the importance of information, both in raising awareness of development challenges, and in providing the tools to respond to them.

The date chosen was significant – the anniversary both of the UN itself, and of the launch of the second decade of development in 1970.

In effect, it signalled that information needed to be a component of any comprehensive effort to deliver change, from the UN down. This blog explores this shift, and how libraries can both support, and benefit from it.


Recognising the Role of Information

Back in the 70s, giving such a focus to information was a relatively big step. Decision-making in many countries remained elitist. The importance of evidence in politics – and in other domains such as medicine – was still under-appreciated.

While the importance of access to information as an individual right had been made clear in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, there was less of a focus on the role of information in enabling engagement in broader public debate and mobilisation.

Similarly, efforts to use evidence systematically in order to inform cross-border policy-making remained limited, with bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development only created in the late 50s.

Therefore, by placing such a focus on information at the macro level, the UN was making a powerful statement in favour of informed societies as catalysts for change, and informed governments as essential for success.

This message is of course just as valid today as it was 47 years ago.

We have certainly made progress. Mass mobilisations on issues such as climate change are a great example of how the results of scientific research, when presented accessibly, can get the public engaged.

But there are plenty of other issues where an informed, active public, could help accelerate change.


Understanding The Role of Libraries

Libraries have supported individual information, study and research throughout their existence. In doing this, they have allowed people to improve their own lives, as well as to innovate, for the benefit of their communities.

But libraries also have a potentially important role in enabling public debate by providing the resources and the space necessary for people to come together.

This can be true for adults, as was the case in Taiwan, China, when libraries acted to help inform citizens in the context of public protests, allowing them to understand more fully controversial issues. Similarly, Toronto Public Library runs a rich programme series, allowing participants to hear from a range of speakers on topical issues.

They can also help younger people engage with key issues, for example through initiatives like the SDG Book Club, or the Rights for Right programme run by the public library in Seixal, Portugal.

There are many other examples in our blog on libraries and civic engagement.

But in turn, libraries also benefit from the availability of information, not least about themselves. Through IFLA’s Library Map of the World, there is already a wealth of data about libraries and their use.

In due course, this will make it possible to come to new insights and understandings about the impact of libraries on their societies.

But such efforts depend to a large extent on the readiness of governments to collect and publish data in order to inform the debate.

With it, it becomes possible to reflect on where and how library systems can contribute to development more effectively. Without it, the potential that libraries have to improve lives is wasted.


World Development Information Day – and the Resolution that brought it to life – remain a helpful reference for libraries in making the case for their role in creating richer, fairer and more sustainable societies.

While the celebration is rapidly approaching its half century, the value of providing information remains as strong as ever, not least in terms of advocacy for the library field itself.

We encourage all governments to respect the Resolution, and not only support the dissemination of information through libraries, but also, crucially, the publication of information about libraries themselves.

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #40: Describe a Positive (or Negative) Scenario

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #40: Describe a Positive (or Negative) Scenario

Advocacy is about creating empathy.

It is important to make the person you are talking with imagine what supporting the library will mean.

Not just in terms of statistics or specifics, but in terms of how the lives of communities and their members will change.

Or, of course, to imagine the consequences of not acting.

This will allow them to think about how this will affect them, their communities, their voters.

So for our 40th 10-Minute Library Advocate Exercise, describe a positive (or a negative) scenario.

Try to create an image in their heads! Try to make it as real as possible, so that they can really picture what impacts their actions will have.

What will it mean for individuals, for societies as a whole?

Generally, try to be positive! But in some cases, a negative scenario – of what is lost when libraries are not supported – can help to focus minds.

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!

Sustainability, Authenticity, Awareness, Access: Cultural Heritage and Beyond

The activities surrounding this year’s European Day of Conservation-Restoration seek to highlight key themes in the preservation of cultural heritage: sustainability, authenticity, awareness, and access.

These are not only important in preservation, but also resonate with the core tenets of an informed and participatory society. This blog will touch on how applying these themes through cultural heritage can have a greater reach, building on shared values to create connected and informed communities.



The topic of sustainability is far-reaching, and it must be. As we are well aware through the Sustainable Development Goals, incorporating a sustainable framework within all elements of global development is key to securing a brighter future for humanity.

Conservators in archives, museums, libraries and beyond work to ensure that primary sources of our heritage are sustained for future generations of study.

They make it possible for society at large to experience, value and share these elements of their culture.  As the British Council states in their 2018 report, Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth:

When people engage with, learn from, value and promote their cultural heritage, it can contribute to both social and economic development. An inclusive way of working, that engages individuals and communities in their heritage, and supports institutions and nations to effect positive change for all levels of society, can lead to economic growth and better social welfare. Heritage in this way can be a source of sustainability, a way to embed growth in the fabric of society and to celebrate the past in today’s evolving world.

 Finding methods through which all individuals see themselves reflected in society and invited to take part, through media, accessible spaces and participatory policy, is a contributor to the sustainable development of connected communities



 How valuable is the knowledge that our physical cultural heritage is authentic? The Nara Document on Authenticity states:

In a world that is increasingly subject to the forces of globalization and homogenization, and in a world in which the search for cultural identity is sometimes pursued through aggressive nationalism and the suppression of the cultures of minorities, the essential contribution made by the consideration of authenticity in conservation practice is to clarify and illuminate the collective memory of humanity.

Authenticity is about accurate representation, and determining it requires the skills of careful reading and critical thinking. Identifying authenticity in the information and media we consume is among the defining themes of our times.

Teaching how to value and determine authenticity, within cultural heritage and beyond, trains the skills required to think critically about the information we consume.



Participatory societies are informed societies. Individuals and communities can best engage with, learn from, value and promote their cultural heritage when they are invited to do so.

Days like the European Day of Conservation-Restoration help to raise awareness of the work being done in what might otherwise be considered closed-off spaces. Awareness of one another’s cultural values through heritage helps build mutual respect and understanding.

Advocacy is important! Find ways to share the work you’re doing in a way that resonates with people. Tell stories and invite conversation. Awareness-raising of the value of services and spaces which build connected, informed societies helps ensure that they remain available for generations to come.



Closely tied to raising awareness is ensuring that there are mechanisms in place to connect people with their heritage. Inclusive representation of cultures connects communities to their past and to one another.

In broader terms, access to information is a central tenet of democracy.  Suppressing information, in the same way as suppressing culture, limits the right to think, act and express oneself freely.

Access also means building accessible spaces which invite all individuals to take part in culture, governance and civil society – despite language, ability, identity, age and gender. This reaches far beyond access to cultural heritage.

However, connecting people to their heritage can be part of a broader aim to uphold the freedom of expression and access to information that is at the heart of an informed democratic society.


Cultural heritage can allow for greater engagement with the public sphere. Institutions which conserve heritage, provide opportunities to learn about it, and allow conversations to grow around it can be models of an inclusive approach to engagement on a societal level.

How do you build on these values in your area of the profession?

Libraries Empowering Girls: Marking the International Day of the Girl Child

October 11th marks the International Day of the Girl Child, first introduced by the United Nations in 2012. This day aims to raise awareness about the challenges that girls worldwide face, draw attention to their needs and rights, and promote their empowerment.

As the 2017 IFLA Development and Access to Information report highlights, the ability to access, apply and meaningfully use information is crucial to empowering girls and women. Access to information is key to girls’ right to education, their right to health, their rights to participate in social lives and enjoy the benefits of both culture and science.

That is why libraries worldwide, with their mission to deliver equitable access to knowledge and education, have an important role to play to ensure that girls enjoy their fundamental rights and have more opportunities to realise their full potential. Many libraries organise or participate in different initiatives to empower girls in their communities – below are some examples of the work they do.

From Bridging the Digital Gap…

The gender gap between girls and boys pursuing education in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – is well-documented. In many parts of the world, the gender digital divide – access and use of ICT and the internet – remains highly pronounced. To help address these inequalities, many libraries offer learning opportunities to encourage girls’ interest and self-confidence in technology. These range from basic skills for everyday use of IT to advanced courses – such as robotics or coding – inspiring girls to pursue careers in fields like IT and engineering.

Many libraries in the United States work together with the nonprofit organisation Girls Who Code and host free weekly coding clubs, usually for middle and high school students. This initiative aims to tackle the gender gap in Computer Science and sets up clubs, camps and programmes in schools, libraries or other organisations. The participating libraries offer a safe and welcoming space where girls can learn new skills with the help of librarian hosts. The NGO founder has recently noted that almost 60% of the Girls Who Code clubs are hosted in libraries today.

Other libraries develop and initiate programs of their own, like the MakeHer program at the Sunnyvale Public Library. The library organises engineering- and science-themed workshops for middle-school girls as well as their mothers. Similarly, the Christchurch South Library hosts a makerspace club for girls, which covers several topics from 3D design to robotics; while girls attending the Girls Get Coding summer program at the Berkeley Public Library learned how to build an app to tackle a social issue which was important or interesting for them.

… To Many Other Areas

ICT skills is just one area where libraries work to empower girls. Libraries can provide access to crucial medical information to ensure girls’ health: for example, the Laterbiokorshie Library in Ghana organised a massive reproductive health education campaign among school children between the ages 10 and 16 to curb teenage pregnancy.

Libraries can work to make sure girls have positive role-models; they can build their self-esteem and confidence– from assembling inspirational collections to offering entire empowerment and confidence-building programs for girls.

On the International Day of the Girl Child, share how your library works to help meet girls’ needs and reach their potential, and inspire others to take action!