Monthly Archives: December 2019

Human Development Report 2019: What Libraries Should Know

In December 2019, the United Nations Development Programme launched a new instalment of the Human Development Report. This year, the report focuses on inequalities in human capabilities – freedoms and abilities to choose “what to be and do”, from meeting basic needs in shelter and nutrition to accessing high-quality education.

Libraries have an important role to play in aiding and accelerating development – particularly in supporting vulnerable and marginalised populations. That is why several messages and suggestions laid out in the 2019 report are relevant for the work libraries around the world are doing today.

1. The crisis in learning: advances in access to education (especially primary school education) have not seen a corresponding progress in learning. More needs to be done to address the learning crisis and improve literacy and numeracy

While marked inequalities in access to education remain, more than 90% of children do receive some schooling today. Yet, by the end of primary school, less than 50% of students worldwide develop appropriate literacy and numeracy skills. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds can be affected the most by this learning crisis: they can receive fewer years of schooling and learn less during those years. This can profoundly impact their future opportunities and prospects.

As such, the report highlights that focusing on educational and learning outcomes requires, among others, “investing in children’s mastery of basic concept” and “combining overall improvements with targeted interventions for groups that are especially disadvantaged”.

What does this mean for libraries? Accessible and well-sourced libraries can be a powerful tool in promoting reading and literacy among school children, especially from marginalised and vulnerable backgrounds. They already feature in a number of national literacy strategies – and more information can be collected on what roles libraries can take on and how to best realise their full potential.

Libraries also often offer early childhood (pre-school) and lifelong learning opportunities, both of which the report highlights as powerful ways to promote equitable learning outcomes and reduce inequalities.

2. There are substantial gaps in access to empowering technologies such as computers and broadband. Public access in libraries and similar facilities can enhance connectivity and help more people access the internet effectively.

Technological development has the potential to reduce or deepen inequalities in human development, with access to technologies – alongside such factors as skills, use, and inclusivity in the tech development process – a crucial part of the picture.

While inequalities in access to basic technologies (e.g. mobile phones) are shrinking, there are much larger gaps in access to those technologies which can enable people to create more advanced digital content and access more information. The report discusses the potential of public to broaden connectivity:

“Connectivity can also be enhanced through public Wi-Fi services offered in public facilities such as libraries and community centres.”

Alongside connectivity costs, the report mentions digital literacy as one of the key barriers to internet use – and highlights that ICT skills education for people of all ages will be key to overcoming this barrier.

This draws attention to the point that digital literacy initiatives need to be inclusive and accessible to people from different backgrounds. The non-formal digital literacy education programmes and on-site support for non-digital natives that many libraries offer are an example of the shape such initiatives can take.

3. There are fundamental links between social cohesion and inequality: facilitating social interaction can increase solidarity and trust.

The report shows how existing inequalities can damage social cohesion, and reduce social interaction and solidarity. Lower willingness to help others can erode support for redistributive policies that aim to address inequalities in human development and capabilities.

Creating incentives for interaction and promoting diversity can help build trust and social cohesion; the report offers a number of ways to achieve this, including subsidies for cultural activities.

Libraries’ experiences in this area show how such interventions can work. As one of the key public cultural institutions, libraries promote social cohesion by bringing together multi-cultural and multi-lingual communities through library services and activities, supporting inclusion of vulnerable or marginalised groups, and offering a way for anyone to participate in cultural and public life.

The report also points out the importance of dignity; this very opportunity to participate in cultural, public and scientific life could be a powerful way to deliver on this dimension.

The chapter also highlights the role information inequality plays in political participation and power dynamics. Today, a lot of information is easily accessible – and yet biased sources and information poverty (reliance on just one or zero news sources) mean that not everyone is equally well-informed. This highlights the importance of libraries’ efforts to equip people with information literacy – the skills necessary to find, evaluate and use the information they need.

4. Progress on gender equality is slowing, and the world is not on course to achieve equality targets by 2030. Awareness-raising and educational interventions can help address discriminatory beliefs and values.

The remaining gender disparities are becoming increasingly difficult to address. As we move from basic political and legal rights and social participation to areas that involve greater power and responsibility, the gaps and resistance to their elimination are more intense. One of the key barriers is persistent discriminatory biases and practices – in fact, less than 15% of men and women today were shown to have no gender social norm biases.

Education and awareness can help overcome these biases by providing new information to “foster different values and behaviours”. While the report points to formal or workplace education and media campaigns, libraries too can play an important role.

From hosting girls’ coding classes to reproductive health education campaigns or skills training for women, many libraries around the world already work to promote gender equality. Crucially, the report highlights the importance of norm-aware interventions. Library embeddedness in their communities and larger societies can help them develop initiatives and interventions that work in the local context.


In all these areas, libraries can contribute to human development and help reduce inequalities. Looking across different spheres, the report concludes that disparities in some basic capabilities which allow people to escape serious and extreme deprivations have shrunk. And yet, inequalities remain wide – and as circumstances and aspirations evolve, capabilities above the basic ones become more and more important.

These advanced capabilities (e.g. pre-primary and tertiary as opposed to primary education, broadband as opposed to mobile service) are likely to impact profoundly people’s ability to function and thrive in the 21st century. Here, inequalities are substantially larger, growing, or both. That is why it is important to address both persistent and emerging inequalities – and libraries can contribute to interventions aiming to reduce both.

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #50: Celebrate Success

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #50: Celebrate Success

Advocacy is not always easy.

Through this series, we have shared 50 ideas of what you can do in 10 minutes to become a more effective advocate.

Together, that’s over eight hours of activity.

Of course in reality you may spend longer in order to think, plan, and do things, and to meet the medium-term (see Exercise #44) or long-term goals (see Exercise #7) you’ve set yourself, using your measures of success (see Exercise #46).

With all that work, you deserve a moment to rest and congratulate yourself.

So for our 50th and final 10-Minute Library Advocate exercise, celebrate success!

Think about how things have changed, and how you have affected this. Think also about what else you want to do in the future!

Good luck – you deserve it!


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 #49: Say Thank You

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #49: Say Thank You

Advocacy is about building support.

It relies on convincing other people of the need to speak, and to act, for libraries.

They, in turn, are the ones who can make a difference for you in your work.

Successful advocacy may rely on a whole network – from those in power (see Exercise #6) to journalists (see Exercise #14) and other partners (see Exercise #8).

It may even involve your friends, who have helped you refine your message (see Exercise #21) or repeat it around them (see Exercise #43).

These people make a difference, and it’s important to recognise this.

So for our 49th 10-Minute Library Advocate exercise, say thank you!

You can send a card or note – hand-written makes it even more personal – or just make sure you show your gratitude when you see them.

You could even make a wall of fame for library friends!

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!

How is Your Library Supporting Migrants and the Communities that Welcome them?

To mark International Migrants Day, we are pleased to welcome a blog from the team preparing new IFLA Guidelines on Library Services to Refugees, Immigrants, Migrants and Asylum Seekers. We encourage all libraries to fill in the survey on this.

272 million people around the world, according to the statistics of the International Organisation for Migration, are migrants. One in ten people in developed countries are foreign-born.

They are working to build new lives and livelihoods for themselves in other countries, often far from home, leaving behind danger, poverty or discrimination. With the effects of climate change, the phenomenon of displacement linked to extreme or changing weather patterns is set to become more and more common (see this report from the Environmental Justice Foundation, or the work of the UN High Commission for Refugees on the topic).

Yet migration has always been a feature of human life and society, contributing to the emergence and spread of ideas, technologies and progress, and the development of the communities in which they settle. Yet successful migration is not just a given. Newcomers need support and opportunities to integrate.

This stretches from both the first weeks and months, when migrants can find themselves in a very foreign country, with few resources and references. But it also stretches over time, with women from immigrant background in particular at risk of facing lower employment rates (OECD).

When this happens, the potential of migrants is wasted. Social and economic divides, left unclosed, risk turning into political ones.


Libraries Can – And Should – Act!

This makes the case for action strong. And libraries can and should help, just as they have long helped local populations for years, through providing the spaces and skills to enjoy meaningful access to information and participation in cultural and scientific life. Crucially, as democratic places, they address everyone.

Many libraries around the world have started to design and offer services to migrants, based on their needs and aiming at their inclusion in the society they chose to settle in.

Thanks to this energy, there are many great ideas and services out there which could inform and inspire others. IFLA and the Goethe Institut have therefore decided to join forces in order to bring the experience together and turn it into international guidelines for Library Services to Refugees, Immigrants, Migrants and Asylum Seekers.


Surveying – and Sharing – Practices

To do this, an international and multi-disciplinary team has been created. This team wants to make these Guidelines as helpful as possible to all types of libraries serving communities with refugees, immigrants, migrants and asylum seekers.

To do this they have launched a global survey with a deadline of 22 December 2019. This survey aims to gather examples of services, how they are developed, staff responses, and what cooperative alliances exist to deliver these services.

We therefore encourage all libraries around the world to respond, even if they provide only limited services. Your contributions will help libraries ensure better services, and outcomes from migration, both for migrants and the communities that welcome them.

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #48: Think of a Slogan

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #48: Think of a Slogan

Advocacy is about getting noticed and staying noticed.

You need something that will stay in the head of the person you’re talking to.

We’ve already talked about surprising facts (Exercise #46) or statistics (Exercise #4), but you also need your message to stick.

Advertisers and politicians have long known this when planning a campaign.

A short, attractive phrase to sum up what you do can be really powerful.

So for our 48th 10-Minute Library Advocate, think of a slogan.

Try to make it brief and catchy – even something that would fit on a badge or pin.

You could test it on colleagues and friends too!

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!

Costs Cost: Key Considerations when Making Choices about Remuneration for Uses of Copyrighted Works

Modern creative industries have, to a large extent, built themselves on the basis of copyright. Their business models depend on having – or acquiring – rights to sell or use content, which they can then sell in exchange for remuneration.

These rights are what lies behind the need to pay for initial access to a work. They are also the reason why, once a library or other user has legitimately bought or licensed a work, they may also need to pay extra in order to make certain uses of it.

For example, restaurants often need to get a licence in order to play music which they have already bought, schools and universities may have to pay to be able to copy legitimately acquired works for students, and libraries can be asked for money to put copies of works in their collections on the internet.

These payments can represent a source of revenues for creators and publishers. However, they also represent a cost to users.

As such, when thinking about whether obliging such payments is a good idea – for example in the context of a copyright reform – it is important to think about whether they are really desirable from a public policy perspective. This blog sets out some of the key questions that policy-makers need to bear in mind.


How High are the Transaction Costs? Making a payment isn’t necessarily free – ‘transaction costs’ refer to the costs that are linked to how a seller and buyer (or in our case, rightholder and licensee) are connected.

For example, a library may incur costs simply to count the number of times a certain use was made, or how much was used. This will almost always require an investment in people’s time and may require financial investment in technical infrastructure to do the monitoring. Administering the sourcing and distribution of payments also costs money, both in terms of staff and operational costs. All of this represents an inefficiency that reduces the overall sum of money that goes to authors and publishers.

Clearly in many cases, it is possible to limit the costs of collecting information – for example by using simpler tools – and by reducing the costs of administering the scheme it will make it fairer . However it is also possible that the costs of running a licensing system are too high be worth it.

Recommendation 1: Governments need to ensure that, when designing copyright systems, the relative costs of administering payments are not so high as to make it pointless.


Is there a Way of Controlling Moral Hazard? Collecting societies and other intermediaries like publishers who are responsible for distributing money collected for the uses of in-copyright work have a duty to work hard to identify and pay out revenues to authors.

When the rightholders are stronger – for example publishers who are members of such collecting societies – they can work to ensure that they receive payments. However, where rightholders – such as authors – have fewer resources, they may find this more difficult.

Strong regulation can help ensure that collecting societies and publishers pay out royalties to authors where these are due. However, where such regulation is lacking, there is a risk that money will be used for other purposes, for example lobbying or payments only to the more influential or famous members, there is a risk to the legitimacy of the system as a whole.

Recommendation 2: Governments need to ensure that there is effective regulation to ensure that the distribution of royalties and fees is efficient and legitimate.


What is the Impact on Users’ Decision-Making? When anyone makes conscious choices, they are carrying out a form of cost-benefit analysis – i.e. is it worthwhile to do something, or at least more worthwhile than doing something else.

In digitisation projects, for example, it is rare that there are sufficient resources to do all that you might want to, and so a project manager will need to select what to prioritise. Questions such as the importance of a work, or the risk of it being lost will favour digitisation, but the need to pay for a licence can undermine this.

Indeed, this may lead to project managers choosing to spend resources on digitising works which are less important, or less vulnerable, simply because this is cheaper. Effectively, mis-judged licencing obligations can skew priorities. It is important to ensure that imposing costs does not lead to sub-optimal decision-making in heritage institutions.

Recommendation 3: Governments need to ensure that the introduction and design of remuneration systems do not lead to distortions in decision-making which harm the public interest.


Does it Even Make Sense? Ordinarily, it would make sense to impose costs on a user – such as a heritage institution – when their actions in turn impose costs on a rightholder. This can happen, for example, if library copies substitute for sales of works, and so reduce income.

This is why, for example, the ‘Three-Step Test’ in international law underlines that exceptions should only apply where there is no conflict with normal market uses, and where there is no unreasonable impact on the legitimate interests of rightholders.

The key question then, in deciding whether to impose costs on users, is whether there is an unreasonable  impact on rightsholders. This is keenly debated of course, as we have seen in Canada, where a Parliamentary Committee dismissed claims that an expanded education exception had led to a sharp decline in sales, and instead suggested that more credible research was needed.

But there are other areas, such as preservation, where the actions of heritage institutions do not harm markets, but rather provide a valuable service by ensuring the survival of works into the future. This is essential if works are to be available in the medium to long term.

In this case, it can seem absurd to want to impose costs, when in fact it is the heritage institution taking on a responsibility on behalf of rightholders.

Recommendation 4: Governments need to ensure that they do not introduce remuneration obligations for uses where there is no clear impact on markets, and indeed where this may end up working against the interests of rightholders. 


As highlighted at the beginning, copyright lies at the heart of the dominant business model for today’s creative industries. Beyond payments for access in the first place, there are ongoing discussions about where and whether to ask for further payments for use.

In trying to draw the line between where such payments are desirable or not, policy makers need to take considered decisions, based on the reality of the situation they are in. Transaction costs, managing moral hazard, the potential to skew decision-making, and simply good sense should all be borne in mind.

What’s Not Preserved is Lost: Why We Should Care about Article 6 of the Copyright Directive

Today, the chapter of the new Communia guide to the Copyright Directive focusing on preservation is launched. We’re happy to have led in preparing this, working with our partners at Communia.

Preservation may not have seemed like the biggest issue in the Copyright Directive, compared to the other subjects under discussion.

The topic itself can seem to be of minority interest. But it’s important to remember that preservation is not just carried out to make sure that future historians have something to read.

Preservation is a vital first step for any future use of a work, either under an exception if it’s in-copyright, or freely once it gets into the public domain.

Digitisation in particular is a key tool for doing this. It is true that this is not necessarily easy or cheap – there needs to be constant attention to ‘bit rot’ – the loss of access to content because of the obsolescence of formats or supports – and to ensuring that servers are kept safe.

But it does massively strengthen our ability to safeguard, and subsequently use, the documents and works that have shaped our past.


A Potential Unrealised?

The work of organisations like Europeana are showing how valuable preserved materials can be for education. The entire digital humanities discipline is based on coming up with new insights on the basis of digitised materials. The potential of historic documents to inform policy and help us understand the progress of climate change is becoming clearer and clearer.

Yet there is unevenness in current preservation rules across Europe. Who can carry out preservation is not the same from one country to the next, nor are the rules about permitted purposes.

A number of countries force libraries to check for commercially available copies before carrying out preservation, and others effectively rule out digitisation by putting limits on the number of copies taken. All but five countries allow contract terms to take away the possibility to take preservation copies.

This all means that currently, the capacity of heritage institutions across Europe to preserve their past is not the same, leaving some countries and cultures at greater risk than others.

Moreover, the inconsistency between countries stands in the way of cooperation across borders, leading to inefficiencies in the use of expensive equipment, and missed opportunities to store documents in distributed networks.

This is what the Article addresses.


The Article and its Implementation

Article 6 is a relatively short article, and – fortunately – was already in a good state in the Commission’s original proposal, thanks to engagement from the heritage community.

As underlined in the Commission’s Impact Assessment, there was a clear public interest objective at play, and the arguments for leaving this to the market were weak at best. The challenges faced by institutions working across borders justified the need for international action.

The Article therefore makes it clear that cultural heritage institutions (broadly defined) can take copies for preservation purposes (also relatively broadly defined) of works in their permanent collections.

Properly implemented, it promises to remove many of the rules that have obliged libraries to spend time looking for commercial copies which are not necessarily easy to find, to make it clear that they don’t need to wait until a work is falling apart to preserve it, and can take copies to help with cataloguing, getting insurance, or other actions related to preservation.

In short, it should remove many of the needless legal barriers to preservation which have meant that some institutions are better empowered to safeguard heritage than others.


Going Further

Nonetheless, there is more to do. The provisions of the Directive needs to be implemented properly for a start, including the broad definition of heritage institutions and preservation purposes, and provisions on contract override and text and data mining.

A key area for attention will be the way in which those works which can be preserved are defined. The Directive talks about works in the permanent collection, yet at a time when so much of the material made accessible by libraries to users is licenced, and lives on third-party servers, it is important to avoid situations where an ever decreasing share of works can be preserved by libraries.

There are more positive possibilities. The Directive could offer a long overdue possibility for libraries to get the legal certainty necessary for web harvesting – i.e. copying freely accessible content from the internet for preservation purposes.

It could also bring about long-overdue consistency in the possibilities libraries themselves have to copy works for internal purposes.



For all that Article 6 should be obvious and uncontroversial, it does mark a useful step. In the light of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018, the exception is of course the least that the EU could have done to support the preservation of the past.

Crucially, it also sets an example for countries elsewhere in the world. While preservation exceptions are relatively common, there are desperately few which allow for digitisation.

This is a crucial point at a time of climate change, when all it may take is one wildfire, flood or storm to wipe out the historical record of a region or country.

We hope to see the model created by the European Union spread throughout the world.