Monthly Archives: January 2020

Library Stat of the Week #3: On average, there are 6.4 public libraries for every 100 000 people, but in Czechia, there are almost 60!

Library Stat of the Week: On average, there are 6.4 public libraries for every 100 000 people, but in Czechia, there are almost 60!A key strength of public libraries is their reach across cities, towns and villages around the world.

Focused on the needs of their communities, they aim to respond in their providing collections and services.

Clearly there will always, to some extent, be a trade-off between the number and size of libraries.

Focusing resources on just a few bigger libraries, serving more people each, may allow for more advanced services, but may come at the cost of proximity. The debate is similar to that in the health or education sector for example.

Thanks to the Library Map of the World, we can start to understand different national approaches in terms of the average number of people each library serves.

Looking across the 113 countries for which data is currently available, it is now possible to see that on average, for every 100 000 people, there are 6.4 public libraries – that’s one library for every 15 600 people.

Clearly this varies – at the top end, in Czechia, there are nearly 60 public libraries for every 100 000 people – that’s one for every 1700 people!

Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download the data in order to carry out your own analysis!

See our other Library Stats of the Week!

What Data Privacy Means for Libraries in 2020

January 28th marks the Data Privacy and Protection Day. First introduced by the Council of Europe in 2006, it aims to raise public awareness and understanding of what happens to people’s personal data and the rights they have to privacy and data protection; and to highlight good practices in this area. Privacy has traditionally been a fundamental value for libraries – and this day offers an opportunity to reflect on how the latest technological and social developments shape the roles and duties of librarians in championing privacy in the digital age.

Privacy has long been established as a fundamental operating principle for libraries – enshrined, for example, in IFLA’s statement on Privacy in the Library Environment and Code of Ethics for Librarians and other Information Workers, and the many Codes, Principles, Frameworks and Statements by libraries and library associations around the world. As library services and practices evolve in the digital age, this commitment has taken on new aspects and dimensions; and the past year has seen many data privacy-focused discussions both within and outside the library sector.

What happened in the privacy field over the last year?

Data privacy questions and challenges remained high on the agenda and in the public consciousness throughout the last year. While 2018 already saw the landmark EU General Data Protection Regulation come into force, its knock-on effects continue to reverberate throughout the world, prompting a ‘widespread reform of data privacy regimes around the world’, and changing how we think of data collection rights and practices.

Throughout 2019, there were more widely-publicised data leaks and breaches – the Digital Watch Observatory estimates a 100% increase in the number of records exposed from last year; more formal investigations launched into big tech companies data collection practices, and more reports and studies into how big tech and popular applications handle user data.

Privacy concerns have featured heavily in 2019’s extensive discussions about online advertisement models, particularly in the questions of profiling and the public outrage over targeted political advertisements and their implications for democratic processes. Data privacy questions were also a key dimension in the past year’s discussions about the ethics and human rights implications of advanced and emerging technologies (especially applying Artificial Intelligence for facial recognition purposes), digital ID programmes, ’smart’ cities, homes and devices.

As data privacy remains high on the agenda coming into 2020, we have yet to see the full impacts of these discussions and developments. Views on the progress made in defending users’ data privacy rights are mixed, with some assessments noting a few improvements made by large companies despite critical gaps remaining. Others, for example, note the discrepancy between the changes in rhetoric on privacy among some big tech companies and their continued market dominance, discussing its implications for the attempts to regulate data privacy more strictly.

Libraries and data privacy, heading into 2020

Against the backdrop of these trends, libraries are also grappling with the implications of technological developments for patron privacy. This relationship is often understood to include at least two broad dimensions:

  • patrons’ privacy considerations in light of libraries’ own services and practices,
  • the role of libraries as educators, helping patrons develop the skills to understand privacy concerns and trade-offs and make informed choices in their daily lives.

For example, as more libraries begin to adopt and make use of tools based on Artificial Intelligence, it is important to carefully consider their impacts on patron privacy. Here, different tools and use cases can carry different implications – the risks may not be the same, for example, for literature search tools and chatbot applications. Other potential library uses of digital tools which can warrant careful examination include library use analytics and commercial online marketing services.

The latter example highlights a crucial related issue: library patrons’ privacy is increasingly determined not by library policies and practices alone, but also by the policies of third-party vendors and services. A 2019 issue of Research Library Issues, for example, incudes a discussion on libraries’ use of licensed third-party sources. It points out the importance of adding privacy clauses as licenses are established or renewed, assessing the potential of a significant class of online learning materials for massive data collection, as well as minding the privacy questions posed by authentication technologies.

Going forward

In light of such considerations, it is important for libraries to make carefully weighted choices and informed decisions. Overall, libraries’ continued commitment to the values of privacy can easily be seen in the many, many initiatives they dedicate to helping protect their users’ data privacy inside and outside of the library.

Libraries include data privacy and security into their digital skills training programmes or offer stand-alone courses on data privacy, participate in education initiatives, raise awareness, develop learning resources for patrons or fellow librarians, organise and follow trainings to be effective protectors and advocates of data privacy.

Such educational measures and are particularly crucial today, when so many people feel like they have little control over their data privacy. A 2019 study by PEW Research shows, for example, that more than 80% of Americans feel that they have little or no control over the data collected about them.

Libraries and librarians also remain vocal advocates for privacy. From an individual school librarian advocating for careful consideration of student privacy when adopting edtech technologies in her institution, to a group of university libraries drafting and signing a new Statement on Patron Privacy and Database Access, to many American and Canadian librarians vocally opposing changes to a popular learning resource to safeguard their patrons privacy, they continue to speak up for the privacy of their users within and outside the library walls.

A few steps libraries can take to protect user privacy today include:

Following the discussions. Follow the current discussions on data privacy – for example, by exploring sections dedicated to privacy and data protection on such platforms as the Digital Watch Observatory and the Mozilla Internet Health Report; and stay informed about relevant regulatory and legislative initiatives in your area.

Exploring the topic. Explore available primers and educational resources from both within and outside the library sector to learn more about the subject. There is a wide range of webinars, primers and publications available – such as the IFLA webinar on the GDPR, the Data Privacy Project learning modules, the Data Detox Kit, and more.

Protect user privacy. Make use of available guidelines and toolkits to protect and promote user privacy within the library – for example, the Guide to Privacy prepared by CILIP, Newcastle Libraries and the Carnegie UK Trust.

Raising awareness. Mark Data Privacy and Protection Day by raising awareness!

Libraries, Culture and Heritage in 2020

Culture is the way we express ourselves. It is the celebration of diversity. It is sharing, teaching, learning and connecting.

Cultural heritage are the traditions, spaces, and artifacts that tell the stories of our communities – big and small.

In 2020, let’s embrace the role of libraries as hubs for cultural expression and heritage. Let’s explore how every aspect of the library and information service profession helps preserve culture and make it accessible to all.

Our Goals for 2020 and beyond

  1. Demonstrate how culture and cultural heritage connects the library field and builds connections between people and communities
  2. Inspire libraries to think more strategically on how they can use culture and cultural heritage to provide value for society
  3. Use culture and cultural heritage to help libraries engage more meaningfully on a regional level
  4. Enable libraries and collection holders to build their capacity to carry out digitisation and risk reduction initiatives

Coming Up in 2020

From preserving cultural heritage and intervening with heritage at risk, to increasing opportunities for people to experience and share cultural expression and beyond, here’s an overview of some major projects coming up this year:

Strengthening Cooperation within IFLA

Culture and heritage cover a lot of ground, and many different professionals from across IFLA’s activities are involved in one way or another.  This year is about aligning work across the organisation to allow for better channels of communication, opportunities for collaboration, and a greater overall impact.

The Cultural Heritage Programme (CHP) Advisory Committee has been renewed to include members representing Rare Books and Special Collections, Audio-visual and Multimedia, Indigenous Matters, and Art Libraries, in addition to the Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centres and Preservation and Conservation Section. This advisory body will ensure we have the expert oversight to steer all of IFLA’s cultural heritage programming.

WLIC 2020 will also bring exciting opportunities for collaboration between IFLA’s Sections, both those immediately involved in cultural heritage and those from other areas of the profession. Keep an eye out for Sessions organised by Preservation and Conservation together with the Sections focused on Information Technology, as well as Local History and Genealogy jointly with Indigenous Matters and Rare Books and Special Collections.


Heritage at Risk

Plans are underway to revitalise IFLA’s Register for Documentry Heritage at Risk in 2020. At the heart of this re-launch will be provisions to build more content around the register itself, creating a more comprehensive set of tools. In addition to raising awareness of the register and its function, these tools will add value for collection holders both leading up to and following their collection’s inclusion on the register.

This should prove to be an opportunity to develop our partnership with UNESCO, as we continue to collaborate with the Memory of the World Programme and Culture Sector within the scope of this project.


PAC Centres Growing Regional Connection and Representation

IFLA’s Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centre network is a valuable resource, not only for sharing knowledge, but for building regional understanding, capacity and networks. Over the course of the year, we will work to raise the profile of the PAC Centre Network. This includes evaluating performance and finding ways to increase their impact, both within their regions and across IFLA’s cultural activities.


Libraries in the Climate Heritage Network

Launched in October 2019, the Climate Heritage Network (CHN) is an energetic initiative working to highlight and enhance the role of memory institutions in climate action. IFLA is a proud founding member of the CHN.

We feel libraries a can have a large impact through our work in preservation and access to information and data. This also includes our field’s knowledge about the preservation of and access to digital heritage

Librarian and archivist-led exploration and discovery of information and data can power other advocacy and awareness-raising efforts. This year will bring opportunities for IFLA to contribute to the CHN through communicating the connection between cultural heritage and climate action.   


Typology of libraries in national literacy programmes

Literacy programmes can help drive a lifelong love of reading and learning, as well as providing essential skills for economic and civic participation. This brings with it opportunities to experience diverse cultural expressions and record one’s own. This year, we want to better understand the role libraries currently play in national-level literacy plans around the world.

We are also seeking to strengthen partnerships at the international and regional level, through the UNESCO Education Sector, to advocate for the important role libraries plan in society to increase literacy.


Long-term Preservation and Digitalisation

PERSIST is a project spearheaded by IFLA together with UNESCO and the International Council on Archives. It aims to enhance the sustainability of the information society by establishing continuity of access to information through preservation.

The Content Selection Guidelines were first prepared by the UNESCO PERSIST initiative in 2016. In the light of experience in applying the guidelines, as well as broader technological change over the last four years, we’ve decided that it is time for an update. This year, we are convening a working group to update  the guidance around existing elements, and to include new types of content in these guidelines.


For updates, follow our Cultural Heritage programmes online at and on the Library Policy and Advocacy blog




Policy Incoherence for Stagnation: How Richer Countries’ Position at WIPO Contradicts their Commitments to the Rest of the World

A lot of money gets spent on aid annually – $132 billion alone from members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee.

This includes not only simple financial support, but also large amounts of expertise and technical assistance, in order to promote growth and well-being around the world.

There is also the major effort made, for example through the United Nations and its 2030 Agenda, to set out goals and mobilise other resources in order to achieve them.

Given this level of commitment, it is normal that governments and NGOs alike want to ensure that this money – and these efforts – are most effective. A key challenge to this has long been the potentially negative (inadvertent) impact of other policies.

For example, European investment in helping an African country develop its agricultural exports will be wasted if the European Union then imposes quotas or tariffs that prevent them being sold.

This idea – that there needs to be an effort to promote coherence between policies in order to ensure the effectiveness of development – is now well established.

This blog looks to argue that a key area where there is a need for – and a current lack of – coherence is in approaches to discussions on international copyright law at the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

And in line with the theme of the 5th day of Copyright Week, it is a call for a proper democratic debate about this position, and whether it is time to change.


Work at WIPO: a Recap

IFLA, as part of a coalition of civil society organisations, has been calling for over ten years for international action on exceptions and limitations to copyright at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

This is a response to the fact that in too many countries around the world, existing limitations and exceptions do not cover all core activities of libraries, and are not adapted for the digital age.

While some claim that the fact that international law allows for exceptions is enough, there are many reasons why countries are not taking up these opportunities, including limited capacity, other immediate priorities, and in some cases, aggressive lobbying and threats of legal action.

For IFLA, international action can play a critical role in underlining the importance of passing the laws that libraries need to operate, and giving greater certainty about what is possible.

Yet efforts to promote international action are currently being blocked by a number of richer countries – in particular the European Union, the single biggest provider of development aid.

Clearly when a use of a work does cause unreasonable harm to rightholders, then it is necessary to find solutions. But this is not the question at stake when we are talking about preservation of heritage, use in research, or use of small parts of works for educational purposes.

A failure to include exceptions and limitations for these types of activity forces libraries and others to fall back on licencing schemes created either directly by rightholders or through collective management organisations.

This is, effectively, what the European Union and others are proposing.


For or Against Promoting Local Education, Research and Heritage?

This is ironic. The European External Action Service runs many projects on education, culture and research. Yet in its position at WIPO, it works against these goals.

For a start, blocking progress towards an international instrument removes a key impetus to carry out reforms that would allow key actors in culture, education and research to do their jobs in a digital age.

Moreover, beyond this harm done to the efforts of libraries, schools and universities to achieve their missions, this possibility may well also benefit larger, often foreign companies more than local ones.

For example, an insistence on enabling licencing solutions will favour most those who are able to call on extensive rights management departments – generally the larger players – creating offers that segment markets and maximise profits. Smaller, often local players are less able to create complicated offers.

An alternative is to promote collective licensing through collective management organisations. While this may help more money flow to local producers, it can just as well facilitate the flow of money out of developing countries and back into richer ones.

While this may be a legal obligation in the case of major uses of works, it seems particularly absurd that the limited resources of developing country libraries, schools, universities and research institutes should be channelled back to richer countries for uses which don’t actually harm markets. Moreover, such uses also often don’t lead to remuneration in the same richer countries.


A Double Dividend Missed

A particularly powerful impact of passing an international instrument would be the clarity it provides over the possibilities for cross-border cooperation. This can be an important point for libraries, archives, museums, schools, universities and research institutions in smaller or poorer countries.

For example, heritage institutions have collections which need to be digitised in order to be preserved for future generations. But the equipment needed for digitisation to a good standard may simply not be available in the country. Therefore, a preservation exception with purely national effect would have little real-world impact.

However, if a cross-border preservation exception were created, this opens the possibility of forming networks with institutions in other countries which do have the necessary equipment. It is possible to imagine regional preservation networks emerging, contributing both to the safeguarding of heritage for the long-term.

The same can go for cross-border education or research, where the value of legislating relevant exceptions domestically is multiplied when there is also the chance to work with counterparts in other countries.

In other words, by preventing progress towards an international instrument with cross-border effect, the European Union and others are diminishing – if not eliminating – the value of legislating nationally at all.

The ‘double dividend’ of an international instrument is clear in the case of the Marrakesh Treaty, with poorer countries benefitting not only from new possibilities to make and share accessible format works domestically, but also access to international collections.


In the light of this, it is time to bring more people into the discussion. Those who care about – and invest in – education, research and culture around the world need to have their say in the policy adopted by the European Union and others at WIPO.

There needs to be a democratic debate, and the full cost of the incoherence of the EU’s approach made clear.

Library Stat of the Week #2: From 2017 to 2018, the largest declines in political and civil freedoms were felt across high and upper-middle income countries

Library Stat of the Week. Freom 2017 to 2018, the largest declines in political and civil freedoms were felt across high and upper-middle income countriesLibraries have a major role to play in delivering fundamental freedoms.

The possibility to access information is not only a human right in itself, but also an enabler of others.

Where people lack it, they will struggle to participate in democracy, to realise opportunities to improve their jobs and their health, and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress.

Libraries help make this a reality, but in turn, also depend on the policies and practices adopted by governments. It is far harder for them to do their jobs when faced with censorship and other restrictions.

Given that these freedoms have so often been achieved at such cost, it is concerning when they are under attack.

The latest results on Freedom in the World, as reported in the Development and Access to Information Report 2019, underline, however, that this is the case.

Indeed, it is in richer countries – those classified as high or upper-middle income – where this has been worst.

It is a reminder that libraries everywhere need to be attentive to the state of the freedoms that they both promote and rely on.

Education: our Greatest Renewable Resource

Think of a renewable resource.

Was the first image that came to your mind of wind turbines in the distance, glittering solar panels, or a great, churning waterfall? You certainly wouldn’t be wrong. We often look to our natural environment for resources that drive our ways of life and fuel our future. But what if we look more inward?

What if we look to people?

Education is humanity’s greatest renewable resource, according to the United Nations Education Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO).  The UN has marked 24 January as the International Day of Education in order to re-affirm its importance in creating both human well-being and sustainable development.

This is captured in the theme for the International Day of Education 2020: Learning for people, planet, prosperity, and peace.

If education is a valuable resource for the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants, we look to teachers, schools, libraries, information specialists and memory institutions as the infrastructure needed to access it.

A Goldmine of Information

Education and learning go beyond the classroom. Education is both formal and informal, from early childhood to post-doctorate, at all stages of life and for all people.

Libraries are “education for all” institutions, built through their strong, fundamental belief in universal and equitable access to information.

IFLA’s core values include:

  •  The belief that people, communities and organisations need universal and equitable access to information, ideas and works of imagination for their social, educational, cultural, democratic and economic well-being
  • The conviction that delivery of high-quality library and information services helps guarantee that access

To extend this metaphor even further: libraries are mines of information, and the library professional is the guide to help one discover gold.

Learning to be a Global Citizen

Global Citizenship is an identity born through education, story and knowledge sharing, cultural expressions, mutual respect and solidarity.

IFLA believes that freedom of expression, access to information, preservation and access to cultural heritage, and information literacy are central in developing societies where people can identify as global citizens. This is reflected in our vision of a strong and united library field powering literate, informed and participative societies.

If global citizenship is identity based on a connection to humanity that transcends borders, then the access to that humanity, through education and access to information, is paramount.

Growing global citizens means providing the resources, opportunities and platforms for education, and empowering individuals to use them to take action for people, planet, prosperity and peace.  As a provider of these resources, opportunities and platforms, libraries are a rich vein in which to cultivate our most valuable renewable resource.

 We invite our members to think about how they can grow their potential as providers of information, education and lifelong learning. 

For more, take a look at IFLA’s Brief on Open Educational Resources.  It underlines the role that librarians can play in creating, curating and ensuring access to these materials, and key issues surrounding Open Educational Resources.

Why is it important to make digital reproductions of collections in the public domain free and accessible?

What is the public domain?

The public domain includes all creative works to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply.
Works protected by copyright are those where the rightsholder has the potential to limit access and many uses in exchange for remuneration.

After the death of the author of the work, the work continues to be protected by copyright to the benefit of whoever holds the rights subsequently for an X time (depending on the copyright of the country).

At the end of this period of copyright protection, the work falls into the public domain. The work is, therefore, no longer the subject of remuneration or a monopoly.

Each country has different legislation on the term of copyright protection.


Why is it important to keep the public domain free and accessible?

_ The public domain must be free and accessible because it must be accessible to everyone. Social and economic inequalities are accelerating, and free access to culture lowers these barriers.

_ The public domain must be free and accessible because all nations need access to their history and heritage.

_ The public domain must be free and accessible because social, historical, literary progress is built brick after brick to build together have common bases, a common history.


Why digitised works in the public domain should be labelled with the public domain mark instead of a copyright mark?

It is a strategic decision for the establishment, which requires collaboration from several sectors: the digital department, the collections department and the department linked to the public.

Until now, there has been a legal vagueness regarding the fact of putting a copyright mark on a reproduction of an object in the public domain.

However, many institutions are committed to the principles of OpenGLAM, for example, one of the principles of which is not to add copyright to heritage collections.

Copyright is defined by the creativity of its author, and it is precisely the creativity of the author that is rewarded by copyright.

_ This limits the dissemination of collections since the photos cannot be shared freely.
_ This limits the use and re-use of reproductions of public domain collections for the general public, but also research and education.
_ This risks representing an inaccurate declaration of copyright.


How to combine business models and accessible public domain?

The mass digitisation of artefacts may involve high costs (material, human resources, skills), and so many institutions are invited by their supervision to find economic models involving digitised content in order to contribute to the establishment’s revenues.

If the ideal would be to have a strong (and financed) policy of national digitisation to make works in the public domain (or reproductions of them) free to access and use, in practice, the heritage institutions face these permanent demands to cover costs.

Nonetheless, some institutions have developed different user-pays business models to digitise collections which do not exclude free public access, for example:

_ offering on-demand digitisation services for a fee for the first user, but then making the digital work available free of charge under a label in the public domain or CC0)

_ carrying out public-private digitization partnerships. While this type of partnership often raises questions about the respect of the public domain, given exclusivity rights over reproductions for a commercial purpose, it can become more interesting if this period of exclusivity is only for a reasonable time.

At the same time, numerous reports have assessed the general costs, i.e. the investments of the institutions in digitisation and the revenues made by making access pay.

On the one hand, the revenue from paid access to collections is often a drop in the ocean of digitisation costs. On the other hand, this drop of water can make a difference in terms of accessibility at the user level and will limit access and use of the collections for the broader public, research and educational purposes.


What does the European DSM Directive Say?

In the Copyright Directive currently being implemented in Europe, Article 14 addresses this issue. It especially deals with works of visual art in the public domain.

This provision proposes in particular to introduce the following rule:

“Works in visual art in the public domain: Member States shall provide that, when the term of protection of a work of visual art has expired, any material resulting from an act of reproduction of that work is not subject to copyright or related rights, unless the materiel resulting from that act of reproduction is original in the sense that it is the author’s own intellectual creation.”

In other words, the reproduction of visual works in the public domain (i.e. when the copyright expires) should not benefit from new protection of copyright or related rights unless the reproduction is modified and presented new creative forms of the author.

In practice, this essentially aims to allow faithful reproductions of works in the public domain to remain in the public domain and thus facilitate access to culture. We look forward to seeing the results!