Monthly Archives: November 2019

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #46: Think about how to measure success

Text: the 10-Minute Library Advocate #46: Think about how to measure success. Image: a person standing next to a graph, with a ruler on the side, indicating measurementThe need for library advocacy is clear. But it’s not always easy to tell how effective it has been.

Changes in opinion or levels of support are not always easy to count.

But it’s far from impossible!

When you set goals, it’s worth taking a few minutes at least to look at how you know if you’re going in the right direction.

So for our 46th 10-Minute Library Advocate, think about how to measure success.

What indicators are there of whether you have reached your long-term goal (Exercise #7) or your milestones (Exercise #44)?

You could use analytics on social media, or count quotes in the media.

You can simply ask people, or use anecdotal evidence!

You can find out more about measurement in the SDG Storytelling Manual.

Good luck!


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

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #45: Learn a Striking Library Fact

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #45: Learn a Striking Library Fact

To have an impact in your advocacy, you need to be memorable.

Decision-makers will have lots of people coming to see them, making them to do things.

You need to ensure that what you say and do remains in their minds, and so that they bear you in mind when making choices about laws or funding.

There are various ways of doing this – using a prop or support (Exercise #33), having a great opening line (Exercise #30), or having a positive or negative scenario (Exercise #40).

One way to do it is to offer them information that they can then use in their own conversation – something interesting (or even amusing!) on a personal level.

This can be a great way of getting – and keeping – attention!

So for our 45th 10-Minute Library Advocate exercise, learn a striking library fact.

Examples include the fact that more people go to libraries than to Premier League football, the cinema, or the top-10 tourist attractions combined in England.

Or that there are more libraries than McDonalds in America.

See what you can find out about libraries in your country. Use the stories and data on IFLA’s Library Map of the World to look for inspiration.

Good luck!


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

School Libraries Deliver on the Rights of the Child

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the signature of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

While this was not the first international agreement to focus on the specific needs of children, it is the most high-profile, and has put the idea of children’s rights firmly on the political agenda in many countries.

It makes it clear that children are in a specific situation, and have specific needs. It includes a much fuller section on education for example, than the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

It also underlines how other freedoms, such as freedom of access to information, with a view to helping children today become active and empowered adults in future.

This specific situation, arguably, merits a specific type of support. This is what school libraries provide. Indeed, the 30th anniversary year of the Convention is also the 20th anniversary year of IFLA’s School Library Manifesto.

This focuses on how school libraries ‘provide information and ideas that are fundamental to functioning successfully in today’s information and knowledge-based society’, and ‘equip students with life-long learning skills and develops the imagination, enabling them to live as responsible citizens.

In doing so, it provides a useful overview of how school libraries deliver on the rights of the child. This blog looks at the key links between these two documents. With it, we hope, school library advocates will be able to use references to the Convention to strengthen their arguments!


The Right of Access to Information: Article 13 of the Convention stresses that the rights included in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the right to freedom of expression, including freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds – also apply to children.

The School Library Manifesto has a similar focus on free access, underlining that ‘access to services and collections should be based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms, and should not be subject to any form of ideological, political or religious censorship, or to commercial pressures’.


The Right to Relevant Content: Article 17 includes provisions on the right of children to access relevant content, especially that ‘aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health’.

It sets out an obligation on signatories to encourage the production and dissemination of books and materials focused on children, as well as international cooperation to accelerate this.

School libraries clearly here play a major complementary role in ensuring that this production actually ends up in front of children, especially given that there are relatively few parents who can afford to buy all of the books that children need to read to develop a high level of literacy.

The School Library manifesto is clear about this role, noting that ‘library staff support the use of books and other information sources, ranging from the fictional to the documentary, from print to electronic, both on-site and remote’.

Indeed, they do more than just provide access. As the Manifesto sets out, they help children access materials in a way that ‘complement[s] and enrich[es] textbooks, teaching materials and methodologies’.


The Right to Education: Articles 28 and 29 of the Convention set out the right to education, on the basis of equal opportunity. It covers the right to primary, secondary and tertiary education, as well as vocational information and guidance. It also underlines the importance of international cooperation to facilitate access to scientific and technical knowledge, as well as universal literacy.

The Convention makes it clear that education should promote ‘the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential, and of ‘respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms’.


Again, this intersects strongly with the roles of school libraries as set out in the Manifesto, including:

  • working with students, teachers, administrators and parents to achieve the mission of the school’;
  • supporting and enhancing educational goals as outlined in the school’s mission and curriculum’; and
  • proclaiming the concept that intellectual freedom and access to information are essential to effective and responsible citizenship and participation in a democracy’.


The Right to Culture: Finally, Article 31 stresses that children have a right to rest and leisure, and to ‘participate freely in cultural life and the arts’. Signatories should ‘encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity’.

School libraries provide an excellent means of achieving this, as key venues for accessing and engaging with culture, and developing creativity. As the Manifesto sets out, school libraries ‘provide access to local, regional, national and global resources and opportunities that expose learners to diverse ideas, experiences and opinions’, and ‘offering opportunities for experiences in creating and using information for knowledge, understanding, imagination and enjoyment’.


Clearly these are primarily legal texts, and only have an effect when they are followed up with laws and resources at the national and local levels.

What is clear, however, is that when school libraries are able to operate along the lines envisaged in the School Library Manifesto, they can make a real contribution to realising the goals of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #44: Define Milestones

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #44: Define Milestones

Advocacy can take time to achieve success.

A combination of actions may be necessary in order to meet your objectives.

You could have to hold a number of meetings and events, contact partners, journalists or other influencers more than once.

In order to structure your work, you need to think both about a long-term goal (see Exercise #7) about shorter-term objectives.

So for our 44th 10-Minute Library Advocate, define milestones for your advocacy work.

You can do this by working backwards from your overall goal. What steps, in what order, will take you to this point? Who do you need to convince to support you? What materials do you need to prepare to convince them?

Defining such steps will not only help you keep momentum, but also to identify successes along the way and help you keep motivated.

Good luck!


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

Choosing to Celebrate Rather than Tolerate

As 16 November is the International Day for Tolerance, we pose a simple question:

What, exactly, is tolerance?

Is it a passive acceptance for the practices of other cultures, or rather, can it be an active celebration?

Perhaps everyone can choose for his or herself.

Let’s choose then to celebrate rather than tolerate.

Building Connections

Tolerance is strengthened through building mutual understanding between different cultures and peoples. Therefore, a celebration can be created through deepening this understanding.

Libraries, museums and other memory institutions have a unique role, not only in providing access to culture, but in defining the narratives that helps people connect with it.

This act of storytelling allows for engagement – connecting on a deeper level with other voices, other perspectives and the human-side of our interconnected histories.

Celebrating our differences, what makes us unique, and the stories we have to tell – this is more than tolerance. It is the connection we want to build in the world.

Building Peace in the Minds of Men

The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) states:

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.

Education and exposure to culture builds tolerance by providing opportunities for people to connect, share and learn from one another. A library, an archive, a museum or exhibition can be the medium through which these connections are nurtured.

IFLA’s mission to inspire, engage, enable and connect the Library field helps empower all libraries to be this connection-builder in their own communities.

The Human Library

IFLA’s SDG Stories are rich with examples of libraries being spaces for building connections. The “Human Library” in Kazakhstan is one such example.

In this programme, participants from often discriminated-against groups acted as “human books”, allowing others to ask questions to learn about their experiences. The goal is to use storytelling and connection-building to address the issue of discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, political opinion, gender, sexual orientation and disability.

In the end, there was a sense of community and support created, and participants felt heard and empowered to continue sharing their perspectives.

No matter their resources, libraries can use their institutions to be the driver in bringing people together to share their stories and build mutual respect.

Four participants and Organisers from the Human Library Pose together

“Human Books and Organizers ” by Marina Poyarkova is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Take Action

We challenge our network not just to tolerate, but to celebrate, share and nurture our diversity, building a stronger and more connected world.

IFLA will continue supporting UNESCO’s mission to build peace through education, science and culture during the 40th Session of the General Conference. Read more about our participation here: Key Issues for Libraries at the UNESCO General Conference.

The Right to the City is the Right to a Library

A key theme at the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, taking place this week in Durban, is how action at the local level contributes to building a better world for everyone.

The Summit’s organisers – United Cities and Local Government – have strongly and successfully made the case for the role of regions and cities in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals, both through a dedicated Goal (SDG11), and contributions across the 2030 Agenda.

In this context, they have placed a strong emphasis on the concept of the ‘Right to the City’ as a framework for thinking through how to develop local policies, and so deliver on the commitments made.

Given the focus on the idea, this blog offers an explanation of what the Right to the City means, and how libraries fit in – both as an example of this right in action, and as a means of making a reality of other policy goals.


What is the Right to the City?

As a support to the session focusing on the subject at the World Summit, the Global Platform for the Right to the City has prepared a background paper.

This discusses the emergence of the idea, defined as ‘the right of all inhabitants (present and future; permanent and temporary) to use, occupy, produce, govern and enjoy just, inclusive, safe and sustainable cities, villages and settlements defined as common goods’.

In effect, it covers all existing economic, social, cultural and human rights, but does so from the perspective of place.

This marks it out from approaches that look only at national law-making, or the individual perspective, in order to take account of the impact of the environment where people live.

In doing this, it implies that the villages, towns and cities in which people live – and so the people and bodies that govern them – have both the possibility and the duty to change lives, and deliver global goals.

According to the Global Platform, the Right to the City has a number of dimensions: the idea that cities have a social function, that public spaces are important, that rural-urban linkages need to be strengthened and made sustainable, that economic and civic life should be inclusive, that political participation should be enhanced, that people should not be subject to discrimination, and that cultural diversity should be preserved and promoted.

In each of these areas, the background paper sets out recommendations and actions for local, national and global decision-makers.


Libraries as an Example of the Right to the City at Work

The thinking behind the Right to the City will be familiar for anyone interested in libraries.

As documents such as the Public Library Manifesto set out, libraries serving communities are founded on a belief in the importance of public services dedicated to enabling and empowering all members of society.

Public libraries in particular are often the only free, non-commercial indoor public space in a community, giving people a context and setting for realising their own potential and creating links with others. In doing so, they help develop social capital, as well as being a source of civic pride.

Libraries also have a specific mission to take steps to reach out to those members of the community who would otherwise risk exclusion. This is essential. While possibilities may officially be open to all, without a specific focus on groups vulnerable to exclusion, those who need them most may struggle to seize them.

As set out in the Public Library Manifesto, as well as in laws in many countries, libraries have a mission to develop programming for specific groups, or otherwise take the steps needed to reach everyone meaningfully.

Through this, libraries provide a service with a strong spatial dimension, illustrating the Right to the City at work.


Libraries as Partner for Delivering the Right to the City

The potential contribution of libraries stretches beyond simply being an example of the Right to the City at work. Yet the services and support that libraries provide can be as much of an enabler as an end in themselves.

This is easy to see when it comes to cultural diversity, given libraries’ role in giving access to collections that reflect the diversity of their communities, in preserving this creation for the future, and in stimulating new creation.

But it also applies to other areas, such as economic opportunity, political participation, and allowing for social mobility. This is down to their role in delivering access to information and the skills that allow everyone to use it – a vital first step for almost any other policy.

For example, through the equitable provision of information, libraries are connecting people with employment and training opportunities. This is the case in Tunisia, where women in rural areas are using skills developed at the library to create economic opportunities.

They are also making it easier for people to break out cycles of poverty, such as in Zagreb, Croatia, where libraries have proved to be ideal (and stigma-free) places to reach out to people experiencing homelessness and facilitate their economic and social reintegration.

They can also help citizens hold governments accountable, such as in Chattanooga, US, where the library hosts the city government’s open data platform, and has helped to make it as accessible and usable as possible.

Libraries also support engagement in policy development, such as in Medellín, Colombia, where libraries not only host pollution sensors, but also provide the skills to allow users to interpret the data received and reflect on what this means for local transport policy.

In short, libraries have the potential to be key partners for local governments on delivering on the Right to the City for their citizens.



This week’s meetings in Durban will be a great opportunity for local leaders from around the world to discuss how to turn the concept of the Right to the City into a reality.

In libraries, they not only have a pre-existing illustration of the Right at work, but also a key partner for delivering on it across the board. It’s now time to realise this potential!

Therefore, in order to deliver on the Right to the City, the following recommendations could be made:

  • Use libraries as a means of demonstrating what the right to the City means in reality
  • Enable libraries to use their potential as a public space to bring communities together
  • Integrate consideration of the importance of information and the skills to use it in any strategies for the implementation of the Right to the City, and make sure that libraries are part of delivery

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #43: Tell a Friend to Tell a Friend

Image: two people with speech bubbles. Text: the 10-Minute Library Advocate #43, tell a Friend to Tell a FriendAdvocacy is about being convincing.

As mentioned a few times in our series (exercises 14 and 36), it can be more powerful when your message comes from someone other than you.

You can try to get a celebrity to speak on your behalf.

But you don’t have to focus on public figures. Your own visitors can be great ambassadors for you!

So for our 43rd 10-Minute Library Advocate exercise, tell a friend to tell a friend.

Encourage someone who comes to your library to make sure that the people they know hear about why they appreciate it so much.

Indeed, hearing this from a friend may be more convincing than from someone who is famous, but whom you don’t know personally.

You can do this through talking with users, but also through a poster or other reminder.

Good luck!


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