Monthly Archives: February 2020

SDG Success as an Information Problem?

IFLA has engaged strongly around the Sustainable Development Goals, both in their preparation in the run up to 2015, and in their delivery in the years that have followed.

In this, we have worked hard to show how libraries contribute to success, and – more importantly – to help library associations and libraries around the world to do the same, in their own contexts.

We have identified the SDG targets – 20 of them! – which implicitly or explicitly refer to the need for access to, and the ability to use, information. We have collected stories and examples on the Library Map of the World, and have a growing collection of expert insights into how information and libraries contribute to individual SDGs in the Development and Access to Information Report.

This approach may work with policy-makers focused on getting success on the individual goals for which they are responsible. But it can often feel difficult to bring this all together at a more general level, and avoid a situation where access to information questions are only viewed, separately, from many different angles.

This is an issue for libraries, given that if there is a better understanding of the cross-cutting importance of information, this could lead to support for institutions focused on equitable, cross-cutting providers of access to information – libraries.

Without it, information (and so libraries) risks falling between stools as an issue, and ultimately being forgotten or neglected.

How to response? One angle could be to work to help decision-makers to understand better how the challenges they face are, at least to some extent, information issues, or information problems.

The idea of ‘information problems’ is not new of course. It is at the basis of work on information literacy in general. It also shows up in economics (where it is seen as a source of market failure), and in health (where it underpins a lot of work on public health), just to give a few examples.

But how to apply this to policy issues, and to encourage governments, in their work towards the SDGs, to think clearly and holistically about the information issues?

Governments themselves – at least in some situations – are already fortunately beginning to understand the information problems that they face in terms of good governance. As set out in an IFLA paper a couple of years ago, the notion of ‘evidence-based policy-making’ is a recognition of just such an information problem.

What about in implementation? How do we encourage policy makers to focus? One approach could be to encourage them to ask the below questions, across their action to implement the SDGs:

  1. Does success depend on individuals being able to find out about new opportunities?
  2. Does success depend on behaviour-change among individuals?
  3. Does success depend on the possibility to respond to change, from the local to the global levels?
  4. Does success depend on innovation improving on existing knowledge?

These questions, hopefully, are not controversial. Yet each one touches on the importance of access to information as a basis for better decision-making, and so policy success, at all levels.

They are all areas where libraries make a difference, as a place to find out about new openings and programmes, to learn about new ways of doing things, to organise and better use information, and to power research.

And in almost every area of policy work, the answer to at least one of the above questions will be yes. For health policy makers, it will be all of them. For employment policy makers, it will be at least questions 1 and 3. For climate change policy, it will be questions 2 to 4.

The same exercise works for policies to deliver other SDGs, at all levels of government. When asked at the top level of policy-planning, this has the potential to make it clear how important information is as a cross-cutting issue, and so to justify action, including by supporting libraries.


Clearly, information alone cannot solve all problems. Indeed, it would be unfair to place all the responsibility for policy failures on individuals making the wrong decisions.

But at the same time, ignoring the information problems that exist in almost all overall policy challenges is to take a restricted perspective, and one that risks reducing success.

IFLA will continue to work at the global level to underline the transformative potential of comprehensive solutions to information problems in achieving the SDGs. We welcome your ideas here!

Library Stat of the Week #7: High rates of library connectivity in Kenya, Thailand and Mongolia offer potential for digital skills programming

In our 6th Library Stat of the Week, we looked at the share of public libraries which offer internet access in countries for which data is available.

As underlined, being able to provide this access is an increasingly important way for libraries to achieve their mission to give access to information.

The possibility to give access also means that libraries can host digital skills training, from the most basic abilities to more advanced capabilities. Such training can be particularly important in countries where people are less used to the internet, and so have not had the possibility to develop digital literacy.

Many funders are keen to support such initiatives. But how to identify where it could be easiest to do so?

One way is to look at data about the share of public libraries which offer internet access compared to the share of adults with their own internet access. Where there are higher levels of library connectivity (share of public libraries offering internet access), but lower levels of general connectivity (share of the adult population online), potential funders of digital skills programmes may have a particular interest in working with libraries.

We can identify these countries by crossing data from the IFLA Library Map of the World with that from the International Telecommunications Union:

Graph comparing shares of libraries offering internet access with shares of the population online

In this graph, each dot is a country for which data is available. Every country over the diagonal line has a higher rate of library connectivity than of general connectivity.


This gap is particularly high in Kenya, Mongolia, Saint Lucia, Thailand, Croatia, Kenya and South Africa, suggesting that they may be particularly interesting places to invest in digital skills programmes in libraries.

Clearly, as ever, the data is incomplete – figures for public library connectivity are only available for 30 countries, and there is the possibility of under-reporting. Nonetheless, this underlines the possibility to apply Library Map of the World data to support this sort of decision-making.


Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.

The Green Deal and Digital Agenda: Opportunities for Libraries

In the last month, the European Commission has launched two flagship initiatives which look set to focus much of the attention of its President, Ursula von der Leyen, in the coming years.

Delivering on broader commitments, notably to the SDGs, they offer a more concrete and targeted response to two key trends – the growing role of digital technology in all parts of our lives, and climate change.

Each initiative – the European Green Deal and Shaping Europe’s Digital Future – includes a set of proposals and actions, aiming to place the region in a position of strength, while acting to safeguard lives, livelihoods, and values.

Given the role that these two documents are likely to have, it is worth already looking at what they mean for libraries, and where there may be value in pushing for more acknowledgement of the role that libraries can play in achieving their goals.


The European Green Deal

The first of the two documents to appear was the European Green Deal.

Ever since her nomination as President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has highlighted her commitment to action around climate change.

In this document, she sets out a path forward on this. As can be expected, this covers policy action in areas which are traditionally associated with climate change (emissions reduction, green energy, circular economy, energy efficiency, clean transport, environmentally-friendly food chains, protection of biodiversity and reducing pollution).

However, it also calls for sustainability to be mainstreamed into wider EU and national policies, and in turn for other priorities such as equality and growth are also integrated into climate action.


So what does this mean for libraries?

Already, the importance of information is recognised, both at the individual level in helping individuals take specific decisions between products, and at a continent-wide level in supporting research and data sharing. Libraries are a key part of the information infrastructure of any country, and so have a key role to play in success.

But there is also strong potential for libraries in references to the need for building awareness and motivation to act more broadly. Many libraries are already engaged in sustainability education, providing an excellent community space for building awareness of the need for change.

The Green Deal already refers to how schools and universities do this, but if we are to reach entire populations – for example to hold the citizen dialogues promised by the Green Deal, libraries must also be included.

Libraries are – furthermore – excellent candidates for efforts to promote renovation and refurbishment. As public spaces, they can act as models for communities of what is possible, building awareness more broadly.

Finally, it is to be hoped that as the implementation of the Green Deal moves forwards, there will be recognition of the role of culture and heritage in climate action. For more, see the work of the Climate Heritage Network, and IFLA’s own exploration of how libraries contribute to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.


Shaping Europe’s Digital Future

The second major policy document focuses on the different questions raised by the growing role of digital technology in our economies, societies and democracies.

While the previous Commission already saw scattered actions around particular aspects of digital – copyright and terrorist content for example – Shaping Europe’s Digital Future aims to set out a more comprehensive roadmap.

It does this by looking in turn at the individual level (ensuring that everyone has the connectivity and skills they need to make the best of the internet), markets (promoting competition, innovation and consumer rights) and civic life (freedom of speech, diversity of content, and the fight against crime).

The Agenda also underlines the international dimension, both in terms of setting rules and supporting digital development. While this remains to be defined, the whole Agenda is defined by a desire to find a European approach to the internet, and to maintain the possibility to enforce this.

What’s the library angle?

The most obvious is the strong focus on digital skills. With over seven million adults a year in Europe accessing the internet for the first time in libraries, and many more taking part in training activities, this is an area where libraries have a proven potential to contribute. The current consultation on the Digital Education Action Plan – one of the actions foreseen in document – offers an opportunity to highlight this point.

There are further opportunities however. The growing recognition that Europeans need high quality connectivity to the internet can start with libraries. Support through programmes such as WiFi4EU should not limit themselves to lower speed connections. In turn, this allows libraries to become hubs for small businesses, researchers and innovators.

The promise of further efforts to protect privacy and ensure individual rights online is also welcome, but it will be important to take care that such efforts do not in fact just reinforce the position of existing major players, or cause unintended harm to libraries and their users.

One way to ensure this is to use the potential of libraries to help empower people more broadly, not only through media literacy, but through raising awareness of everyone’s rights.

Clearly, these ideas should also form a pillar of the work the EU does in its neighbourhood and globally, ensuring that more people have libraries which can act as hubs for connectivity and skills, in line with the objectives of the agenda.


We are at an early stage in the current Commission’s term, but in these two areas, the potential for libraries to contribute – if properly engaged – is clear. We look forward to working further with the European authorities to make this happen.

What does liability mean? What is an exception? Welcome to the Copyright Glossary

One of the important issues in the library world is copyright and the legal issues that arise from it. A good understanding of these issues is essential to be in a favourable negotiating position and will help shed light on emerging difficulties in current practices.

Below you will find some common copyright terms:

Berne Convention

This is the basis for international copyright law. Agreed in 1886, it has subsequently been updated a number of times. It establishes a number of rights which should apply in all countries (such as protection for the life of the author plus fifty years), and the principle of national treatment (i.e. you should treat authors from other signatory countries in the same way as your own nationals).

Collective Licensing

Collective Licensing refers to schemes where a single organisation will offer permissions to use works from a variety of rightholders. This can be helpful for users who need only go to one place, rather than find creators and other rightholders individually. For example, collective licensing can provide easy solutions for shops wanting to play music, or for broadcasters wanting to clear the rights to use extracts from other films. The organisation in charge of the scheme should then pay out royalties to the individual rightholders.

Collective Management Organisation

Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) represent groups of rights holders which can include creators of copyrighted materials, publishers, or other rightholders such as producers or performers. This organization manages rights on behalf of its members, potentially saving them time and effort in providing permissions and collecting royalties.

Collecting Society

See Collective Management Organisation.

Contract Override

Contract override refers to situations where the terms of a licence – either explicitly or by omission (i.e. because it doesn’t mention something) – cancel out copyright exceptions. This happens because contract law is seen as having priority over other forms of law, and so it is considered that the user has signed away their rights. It can, for example, mean that preservation copying, document supply, or other uses are not allowed. Some countries make it clear that contracts should not override copyright exceptions.


Copyright refers to a set of rights given to the creator or creators of a work. It is made up of economic rights (such as to reproduce works) and moral rights (such as the right to be named as an author). Works covered may be in different forms, and there are different approaches to how we define whether a work really is covered by copyright, for example relating to the level of creativity or originality involved. Unlike patents, copyright is intended to protect the expression of an idea in the form of a creative work, but not the idea itself.

Digital rights management (DRM)

These are access-control technologies to restrict the use of copyrighted works. They act, for example, to prevent copying, sharing, or modifications. They can work both to prevent illicit uses, and uses permitted under exceptions to copyright.

Education Exception

Education exceptions allow beneficiaries to make copies of materials subject to copyright, without seeking authorisation, for education purposes. This can also cover uses of works, such as displaying works in the classroom or as part of an online course, or using them for homework projects.


E-lending is the practice of library lending of digital books. As with physical books, this is only possible for a certain period, after which the eBook disappears from the borrower’s eReader. Digital rights management tools work to prevent the book being shared with others or copied. Often, publishers only make eBooks available to libraries under strict terms (embargoes, limits on the number of loans or period of access). Far from all eBooks are available to libraries.

Extended Collective Licencing

Extended collective licensing (ECL) refers to collective licensing schemes which do not just apply to works by members of a collective management organisation, but to all works or rightholders in a particular category or class. This can make it even easier for users to obtain licences, for example for mass-digitisation and making available of works. Typically, extended Collective licensing schemes require government legislation.

Illustration for Teaching

Illustration for teaching refers to uses of works in the context of education, for example as part of a classroom or online course, or potentially in course-packs or similar materials. Under some interpretations, exceptions for illustration for teaching are the same as those for education in general.

Lending Exception

The possibility to control whether works are lent does not fall under international law. However, some countries have decided to give rightholders a lending right. In turn, many have then created a lending exception for libraries in order to allow them to lend books to users, often subject to payment (see Public Lending Right).

Limitation on Liability

In many cases, it may not be clear if it is legal to make a copy or other uses of works. In these situations, and especially if the costs of copyright infringement are high, libraries and other users may tend to want to limit risk, and so be over-cautious. Similarly, they may prevent users from using works out of fear of the consequences. A limitation on liability means that as long as they have taken precautions, libraries and others do not need to face high costs if they make mistakes, or if their users infringe copyright.

Liability (Primary, Secondary)

We talk about primary liability in situations when someone is accused of directly infringing copyright themselves, for example by making an illegal copy of a book and selling it on. Secondary liability refers to situations when someone can be held partially responsible for an infringement, for example when they have facilitated this. For example, if a library has not told users about what copying is or is not acceptable, it may face secondary liability. Similarly, internet platforms that do not act to remove infringing content once they become aware of it can also be considered secondarily liable.

Marrakesh Treaty

This is the 2013 WIPO agreement that commits all states parties (members) to introduce measures to allow people with print disabilities, those who support them, and institutions such as libraries to make copies of works in accessible formats (braille, DAISY, audiobooks) for people who would otherwise not be able to access them. It is then also possible to share these copies, including across borders. The Treaty includes some possibilities to restrict these rights. IFLA does not recommend using such possibilities.

Open Education Repositories

This refers to platforms which give access to teaching, learning or research materials (Open Educational Resources – OER) which are either in the public domain or under an open licence allowing their use, adaptation, distribution free of charge. This term was adopted in 2002 by UNESCO.

Orphan Works

An orphan work is a work protected by copyright but for which the rights holders are not identifiable or cannot be contacted. Unless there are exceptions in place, this makes it very difficult for those who hold them to do anything with them.

Out-of-Commerce Works

Out-of-commerce works are works that are still protected by copyright but are no longer commercially available. This can be because the authors and publishers have decided neither to publish new editions nor to sell copies through the customary channels of commerce. Sometimes, such works are referred to as being ‘out-of-print’. In some understandings, out-of-commerce works also include works that were never-in-commerce (i.e. not produced to be published).

Preservation Exceptions

Preservation exceptions allow beneficiaries to make copies of materials subject to copyright, without seeking authorisation, for the purpose of preservation. For example, it can include digitisation, taking copies on microfilm, photocopying or other forms, depending on the specific terms of the law.

Press Publishers’ Right:

The right of press publishers is the subject of Article 15 of the European Copyright Directive. This was introduced following efforts from publishers to obtain a share of incomes from online news-aggregators such as GoogleNews by forcing them to pay to display even sort snippets of text. The Article risks leaving aggregators with two options: using the contents of press publishers for remuneration or no longer indexing them (reducing the visibility of publishers). Google has said it will not pay compensation in Germany and France and has left it up to publishers to choose whether they want free indexing or not.

Public Domain

The public domain includes all works which are not subject to economic rights under copyright. The public domain is not always explicitly defined in law. Some countries try to oblige payments for use of public domain works.

Public Lending Right

Public Lending Right refers both to the right some countries give rightholders to decide whether works are lent or not, and to the payment they can be entitled to receive when this is the case.

Remunerated Exceptions

There is an ongoing debate about whether exceptions to copyright should be subject to remuneration or not. Given that exceptions, according to international law, should not cause unreasonable prejudice to the legitimate interests of rightholders, some argue that it therefore makes no sense to make enjoying exceptions conditional on making payments. Others suggest that there should nonetheless be payment.

Reproduction Right

The right of reproduction is a legal provision giving copyright holders the exclusive right to produce copies of works. In order to make a copy, anyone else needs to seek authorisation from the copyright holder, unless an exception exists.

Retracted Works

Retraction takes place when an author or publisher removes a previously published work from an academic publication, usually on the basis that it is considered not to have followed good scientific practice. Retracted works are generally removed from online collections.

Research Exception

Research exceptions allow beneficiaries to make copies of materials subject to copyright, without seeking authorisation, for the purpose of research. They can also cover other uses of works, such as analysis. For example, research exceptions allow students to copy parts of books or articles to read them, and can also support text and data mining.

Reversion Right:

This refers to the right of authors who have signed away their rights to publishers to recover these after a defined time, or if their work is no longer on sale. Versions of this possibility are included in laws around the world, but are not standardised.

Safe Harbour

Safe harbour refers in general to situations where, by complying with certain criteria, actors can avoid liability for copyright infringement. This is often used to describe limitations on the liability of internet platforms, which do not face liability if they act to remove infringing content when notified (it is assumed that prior to notification, they do not know whether the content they host is legal or not). Safe harbour can also benefit other actors, such as scientific repositories, allowing them to enable content sharing without the cost of having to review everything uploaded by users.

There are currently various efforts to restrict possibilities to benefit from safe harbour provisions. For example, Article 17 of the EU’s Copyright Directive looks to suggest that platforms such as YouTube can be held immediately responsible for infringing content appearing, even if it has been uploaded by a user.

Scientific Repositories

This refers to a platform hosting research papers (not just in the sciences), facilitating open access to these. They often hold ‘pre-print’ versions, rather than the final ‘version of record’, with publishers retaining the right to distribute the final version. In many cases, researchers themselves are responsible for uploading papers, bringing the risk that the wrong version may be uploaded.

Technological Protection Measures

Technological protection measures (TPM) are any digital management tools used to restrict what users can do with digital materials. See also Digital Rights Management.


Term refers to the length of time for which works enjoy protection. This is usually measured in a certain number of years from the death of the author – a minimum of fifty under international law, but seventy in the European Union and United States. There are different term lengths for different types of work and right.

Text and Data Mining

Text and data mining (TDM) refers to the use of automated analysis of data sets in order to identify trends or correlations. It promises both to accelerate scientific research, as well as providing a basis for machine learning. Given that TDM can involve taking a copy of works to be analysed, some see it as requiring a copyright exception or authorisation. Others suggest that given that data itself should not be subject to copyright, there is no need for an exception. Among countries where legislation has happened, some have limited exceptions to certain purposes, while others offer broader possibilities

Unpublished Works

When a work hasn’t been formally published or otherwise divulged to the public, it is described as unpublished. Archives, for example, are often unpublished works. They can be subject to different rules to published works, and in some countries still enjoy eternal copyright protection.

Upload Filters

Upload filters, also called web filters, refer to tools that check content uploaded to an internet platform in order to identify (potential) copyright infringement. They are controversial in that they effectively treat users’ as guilty until proven innocent of copyright infringement. There is no evidence, furthermore, that such filters can systematically recognise when the re-use of a copyrighted work is legitimate because of an exception or limitation. There is a lot of discussion about upload filters due to Article 17 of the EU’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which risks obliging all platforms to use such filters.


This is the term used to apply to materials which may be subject to copyright. It covers books, articles, other publications, visual art, audio and audio-visual creations and more. There are sometimes efforts to have vaguer things such as tastes, ‘themes’ or even smells classed as ‘works’, and so to gain them copyright protection.


The HathiTrust Digital Library: A Fair Use Story

Sara R. Benson, Copyright Librarian, University of Illinois.

If you are unfamiliar with the work of the HathiTrust Digital Library, fair use week is a great time to familiarize yourself with it.  The HathiTrust Digital Library “is a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries preserving 17+ million digitized items.”[1]  Essentially, partner libraries digitize volumes of in-copyright and public domain books for preservation and access through the library.  The library makes the works available to the fullest extent possible under United States copyright law.  Thus, for public domain works, the works are fully available to read and access through the digital library.  (The HathiTrust also works with library partners to review works to determine whether they are in-copyright or have fallen into the public domain due to failed formalities).[2]  For in-copyright works, researchers can search to see how many times a particular term is used in the book and on which pages the term is used.  This search feature has been deemed a quintessential fair use by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals[3] and paved the way for the broader Google Books fair use court decision.[4]

Select member affiliated researchers can also engage in text mining with in-copyright books through a special Data Capsule.  This capsule allows researchers to use a secure online environment to engage in research and text mining with the book corpus.

If you are unfamiliar with the HathiTrust Digital Library and the HathiTrust Research Center, fair use week is as good a time as any to get familiar with it.  What are you waiting for?  Dive into the resources available through the HathiTrust and discover a whole new text-mining world!



[3] Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, 755 F.3d 87 (2d Cir. 2014).

[4] Authors Guild v. Google, Inc., 804 F.3d 202 (2d Cir. 2015).

Report on status of Copyright Amendment Bill by Denise Nicholson

Over the past few years, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has been engaged in the reform of copyright laws in South Africa. Indeed, IFLA has submitted on many occasions comments and proposals on draft amendments.

This reform contains ambitious provisions which could have an extremely positive impact on libraries and heritage institutions, enabling the latter to benefit from legal provisions similar to the fair use provision as in the United States. It will also provide a positive example for neighbouring countries.

There is strong opposition, however, from other groups, notably collective management bodies, and from the academic publishing sector, even though.   

Despite the reforms being approved by Parliament, they have yet to be signed by the President, who faces both loud opposition internally, and, more recently, a threat from the US Trade Representative to try and remove South Africa’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade privileges with the United States.

As part of the week on Fair Use and Fair Dealing, we therefore welcome an update from Denise R. Nicholson, Scholarly Communications Librarian, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.



by Denise Nicholson, BA HDip Libr (UNISA); LLM (WITS) Scholarly Communications Librarian, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


In terms of Section 79 of the Constitution, President Ramaphosa must either sign the Bill within a reasonable period, or, and only if there are constitutionality issues, he must return it to the National Assembly to address those concerns.  The Bill has been on President Ramaphosa’s desk for 10 months (far beyond a ‘reasonable period’).

There has been a lot of support for the Bill internationally, regionally and locally.  However, there has also been strong opposition to the Bill mainly from rights-holders, collecting societies, musicians, some authors and creators (under the umbrella of the Copyright Coalition of South Africa) and international publishing and entertainment conglomerates and collection management organisations.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), a lobby group for 5 large entertainment corporations in America, petitioned the US Government last year to review Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) agreements like AGOA and others with South Africa. They claimed that the exceptions in the Bill are too broad and that American rights-holders would be prejudiced if the Bill is passed. They want the US Trade Representative (USTR) to withdraw the preferential trade benefits that SA currently enjoys.  Apparently, R35 billion in South African exports to the USA are at stake if such a review goes ahead. Ironically, the SA Bill has adopted fair use provisions from the US copyright law, and other provisions enjoyed by other developed countries.  It is also premature for such a review to be considered as the Bill has not been enacted, so there is no possible evidence that American rights-holders’ interests are at stake.  The law would need to be in place for a while before any evidence could be collected in this regard.

In response to the IIPA petition, the US Trade Representative’s Office called for public submissions on this matter and held public hearings on 31 January 2020.  Forty-two submissions were lodged with the USTR. Thirty-two submissions called on the USTR to withdraw its review on trade agreements and the majority supported the Bill, whereas ten submissions opposed the Bill and supported a review of trade agreements.  Stakeholders can still make further submissions until late February 2020.  The Minister of Trade and Industry has met with officials in the US to discuss this matter.   It is not certain whether the USTR will take action in this regard. Asked if she believed South Africa would change the two laws (Copyright Amendment Bill and Performers’ Protection Bill) to meet US concerns, the new US Ambassador to SA, Lana Marks (SA-born) said the laws “must be within every aspect of the Constitution of South Africa”.  The Daily Maverick reports that Marks is confident that South Africa is not going to lose either its GSP or its AGOA access, directly or indirectly.  “It’s not going to happen,” she says, firmly.

Various international and local organisations have written to the President asking him to sign the Bill as a matter of urgency.  BlindSA has written a strong letter to him pointing out he has a constitutional duty to act on the Bill, and that if he does not act by the anniversary of the passing of the Bill by Parliament (i.e. 28 March), then BlindSA will consider taking him to court on this matter.

We hope that the President will act on the Bill soon.

See IFLA’s contribution to the US Trade Representative hearing.

Library Stat of the Week #6: Almost 2/3 of public libraries offer internet access globally. In Russia, over 27 000 public libraries do so!

Libraries have always been about access to information, in the present and into the future.

Traditionally – and of course this is what gave them their name – they were about books.

However, with a growing share of information now online – including from sources that used to be printed – internet access has, in many places, become a core part of the library ‘offer’ to users.

Libraries can bring particular strengths to this. Clearly, public internet access in itself provides a solution for people who do not have their own connection.

But it can be combined with other services, such as access to terminals, training, or wider support. Libraries can even act as nodes in wider connectivity schemes.

But how many libraries are already connected to the internet, and offering this possibility to their users?

Data from IFLA’s Library Map of the World allows us to start building an understanding of the situation, using latest available numbers.

For the moment, 30 countries from almost all world regions (only North America is missing) have submitted data about both the number of public libraries they have, and the number offering internet access.

Across this group, almost 2/3 (64%) of all public libraries offer internet access, with the largest single number being in Russia, with over 27 000.

In Europe, a number of countries have internet access in all public libraries, including Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Andorra and Finland. In Africa, 92% of Kenya and 84% of South African public libraries offer access. In Latin America, 89% of libraries in Saint Lucia do so, while in Asia, there are figures of 100% for Mongolian and 99% for Thai public libraries.

These figures help underline both the potential in some countries to use libraries as a network for digital public projects, as well as the need for investment in others.

Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.