Monthly Archives: April 2020

Advoc8: Now and Next Part 2 – What Might a Library Advocacy Agenda for the Post-Pandemic World Look Like?

In our first ‘Now and Next’ blog, we explored a number of potential trends that are likely to shape the library field as it – and the communities it serves – emerge from the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just as in the first blog, it is clear that we are still in the midst of the crisis. Even as some countries are able to relax controls on people’s lives and activities, others are prolonging them. In some cases, we have seen decisions to re-impose them, as the disease has returned. It will likely be a long time until we can talk about a post-pandemic world.

Nonetheless, as calls grow for clarity about how governments plan to go about returning to normal, it will make sense to engage with governments. Indeed, this is likely to be particularly necessary in the light of the serious economic impact COVID-19 is already having.

As institutions which do depend on the financial health of the governments, institutions or other organisations that support them, it will be as important as ever to ensure libraries – and their values – are understood as having an essential role in the recovery, or even in creating better societies and economies in future.

We can only do this by reaching out and making the case. This blog therefore looks to explore potential advocacy agendas in the immediate, medium and longer-term. In this, the short-term is defined as now – with libraries in many countries physically closed. The medium-term is the situation as libraries start to re-open and restrictions are lifted. The long-term refers to the time when the pandemic can be declared over, and only minimal if any rules are in place to address the spread of the disease.

For each, the blog suggests eight key possible messages. Do you agree? Have we missed anything? We welcome your comments!


The Short-Term: Provide Relief, Support Research

  • Copyright should not become a barrier: it should not be the case that just because a library has closed its doors, its users cannot draw on its resources. Governments should make it clear that at a time that physical access is often impossible – for everything from research to storytimes – digital alternatives can take its place.
  • Licensing terms should not override the public interest: where the terms of licences under which libraries access content prevent their use, rightholders should be ready to introduce necessary flexibilities to allow libraries to carry out their missions. Where this does not happen, libraries should be able to bypass licensing terms in the course of their work where this does not cause unreasonable harm to rightholders.
  • Libraries need to be enabled to support their communities: faced with increasing demand for digital content, some governments have already been ready to increase acquisitions budgets. More broadly, other restrictions – such as on offering public access to WiFi, or on lending library equipment or materials to vulnerable groups – should be relaxed if these create problems.
  • COVID-19 must not become an excuse for bad government: many countries have adopted a state of emergency in order to allow steps to be taken against COVID-19. However, the application of these powers should not lead to decisions in other areas being taken without proper scrutiny, and all decision-making needs to be properly documented for future accountability.
  • Restrictions on free expression and access to information must be kept to a minimum: some governments have moved to limit free expression as part of their response, while social media companies are also increasing their efforts to close sites disseminating deliberately false information. Such restrictions should be avoided if other means of achieving the same goals are available, and otherwise applied carefully and proportionately. It is better to promote positive interventions such as media and information literacy.
  • The cultural sector needs support to avoid disaster: while some in the cultural field are benefitting strongly from increased demand for their work (especially digital content), others – especially those who rely on performances or physical visitors – are suffering. Faced with ongoing costs, these require support if they are to avoid having to give up and close their doors for good.
  • Greater dependence on online tools cannot come at the expense of rights: there has been an explosive rise in use of digital tools to work and communicate. However, we need to be vigilant to ensure that this does not increase the risk of cybersecurity breaches or other losses of personal data.
  • Open science should be the default: there have been welcome moves to adopt open science practices in research specifically around COVID-19, with the National Library of Medicine in the United States creating the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD). These should be expanded and supported by governments, and reach out to related disciplines in order to help ensure better informed responses to the pandemic.


The Medium-Term: Returning to Not-Quite-Normal, Safely

  • Official approaches to re-opening need to take safety into account: the news of libraries being able to reopen will be both a source of encouragement and worry for many. Often small, not necessarily set out to allow people to maintain social distance, and offering a lot of direct personal support, it should be clear that libraries are high social-interaction spaces. Where reopening does happen, it should be based on a sound understanding of how libraries really work.
  • Exceptional measures on access to content should not be lifted until the need for them is over: many of the special measures put in place, for example, by publishers to offer remote access to books and articles, or online story-times, are time-limited. While some have noted that their application can be extended, it will be important to keep up the pressure to maintain them until all library users are able to make use of library services again as before.
  • There needs to be meaningful investment in helping learners to catch up: the internet has allowed far more teaching and learning to take place during the pandemic than could have been imagined even a few years ago. However, many have underlined that it is still not the same as being in class, and it will be necessary to help learners catch up, especially those in more vulnerable situations. Governments need to have a plan for this.
  • Insofar as they affect access to government information, states of emergency should be lifted as soon as possible: states of emergency should never be indefinite, given the threat they pose to fundamental rights. In particular, it is important for information about government responses to the virus to be made open, in order to inform researchers as well as journalists.
  • Ensure that efforts continue to help those who will need to be subject to restrictions for longer: the loosening of restrictions is likely to move at a different pace for different groups, with already marginalised populations – older persons, those with disabilities, or prison populations to name just a few – likely to need to wait longer. As the rest of society moves back as close to normality as possible, we cannot forget those for whom this isn’t the case.
  • Ensure that libraries are supported to take on the upcoming rise in demand: it seems likely that not only will libraries welcome back people who have missed their resources, services and spaces, but also those needing to use them to get their lives back on track after losing jobs and even homes. Libraries have a proven track record here, but scaling this up will require continued support.
  • Ensuring that lifting restrictions on movement doesn’t mean new restrictions on privacy: the potential use of tracking apps to contribute to the safe lifting of limitations has received a lot of limitations. If these are introduced, it will be important to protect privacy, ensure that users consciously opt in, and to ensure that no more information is collected and retained than strictly necessary.
  • Continue to promote open science, and invest in discoverability and interoperability: managing the lifting of restrictions is going to require extensive use of research, drawing on a variety of disciplines. We will need to strengthen the infrastructures and resources for open science, allowing researchers to work globally, and across different areas of study, with meaningful tools for discovery and analysis.


The Long-Term: Build Back Better

  • Ensure copyright and competition laws are truly fit for the digital age: the crisis has brought into very stark relief the difference between what copyright laws permit as concerns digital and non-digital uses, and the degree to which libraries have had to rely on rightholder goodwill – rather than the law – in order to continue to fulfil their missions. This should not continue. Moreover, the fact that access to and use of digital content tends to be shaped by the choices of rightholders, rather than the law, has also helped underline the need to look at these markets from a competition angle.
  • Mobilise libraries in the wider effort to rebuild lives, societies and economies: over recent years, libraries globally have worked to realise their potential as a key part of the social infrastructure of their communities. In addition to all they do to promote wellbeing as cultural spaces and centres, they can also act as platforms and partners for efforts to support employment, entrepreneurship and education. As such, they need to be part of relevant government strategies at all levels.
  • Ensure proper scrutiny of decision-making during the crisis: governments at the moment are taking crucial decisions about societies and economies, which may have significant and long-lasting effects. In order to be able to hold them to account, we will need to ensure that researchers, the press, and the public have the access they need to information to allow them to participate fully in a healthy democratic life.
  • Learn from the experience to promote inclusion and well-being for all: the pandemic has helped underline the vulnerability of many groups, whose living conditions, livelihoods or other characteristics have made them more susceptible to the pandemic and/or harder hit by its consequences. These should lead us to design policies and programmes in general that are truly inclusive and pro-equity in future.
  • Achieve universal meaningful connectivity: having access to the internet made it possible to continue with more aspects of life during the crisis that previously could not have been imagined. However, this has only been the case for the half of the world which enjoy connectivity. Even those who are online do not necessarily have the skills and confidence necessary to make the most if it. We need to invest in helping everyone become active and capable internet users.
  • Invest in effective public (health) information systems: one key lesson from the crisis has been the importance of developing a meaningful infrastructure for providing access to information to people. This is not just a case of transmitting information, but rather being able to listen and adapt messages to ensure they have most impact, as well as to build literacy skills for all. Libraries can be part of this.
  • Move to a new level in open science and collaborative research: the potential of open science to inform better policymaking has been clear in the current crisis. It should become the norm, with meaningful investment in platforms, reforms to assessment and recognition frameworks, and careful efforts to ensure that researchers and readers do not risk being locked into any individual providers’ products. Cross-border research should be enabled by appropriate international action on copyright reform.
  • Don’t forget other challenges!: clearly COVID-19 is the focus of attention at the moment. Nonetheless, there are other challenges facing the world at the moment, not least climate change, and the rest of the United Nations 2030 Agenda. Clearly, the way we address these may change, but the underlying priorities remain if we are to ensure that we don’t just return to normal, but to better.


Wikipedia and Academic Libraries: Gathering best practices of professionals

IFLA welcomes Laurie Bridges (Oregon State University), Raymond Pun (Alder Graduate School of Education) and Roberto Arteaga (Pacific Lutheran University), three library professionals to talk about their book project to link Wikipedia and academic libraries.


Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Laurie Bridges (she/her/hers), I am an Instruction and Outreach Librarian at Oregon State University and Associate Professor. I am currently teaching a 2-credit Honors class about Wikipedia and social justice, this is my second time teaching the class. I developed the curriculum and taught it for the first time in the Spring of 2019. I have co-hosted two Wikipedia editathons at my university. I work with a couple of faculty on my campus to help facilitate successful Wikipedia editing assignments (a history course and a writing course). I co-authored two articles in the Journal of Academic Librarianship:

I’m Raymond Pun (he/him/his), a librarian in the Alder Graduate School of Education in California, USA. I’ve organized and participated in Wikipedia-edit-ahons before. I’ve collaborated with teaching faculty in the sciences, women’s studies, and ethnic studies to create opportunities for students to learn about online sources, and the need to engage with online reference materials more critically.

I’m Roberto Arteaga (he/him). I’m an assistant professor and instruction and reference librarian at Pacific Lutheran University. I joined this project after having conversations with Laurie about Wikipedia in relation to library instruction and for-credit courses. I’m just beginning my Wikipedia journey, and I’m particularly interested in developing more pedagogical approaches to teaching with Wikipedia, both in library contexts and beyond.

Librarians collaborated with Wikipedians old and new to improve articles related to Multnomah County, Oregon.
Pdx.leecat – CC BY-SA 3.0

You are developing an open access book project on Wikimedia projects and academic libraries, how did this project get started? 

Laurie: As I was doing research for my courses and articles I used Merrilee Proffitt’s book, “Leveraging Wikipedia,” which is a great introduction for all libraries and librarians. However, it was missing what I really wanted, an in-depth look into academic libraries and librarians and how they’re using Wikipedia. I started chatting with Ray Pun about this, and from here the idea grew.

Ray: Yes, I agree with Laurie! For the events that I’ve organized with faculty, it was important to have students from underrepresented groups contribute to Wikipedia using library resources. Less than 15% of contributors to Wikipedia were women, based on a survey in 2015. In addition, there is under-representation of content on Wikipedia about women and other minority groups and their perspectives and experiences so that’s where I collaborated with academics to address these issues. Wikipedia is one of the most visited websites and it is very important to add and improve its content.

Laurie: And, around the time I was chatting with Ray about this, Roberto reached out to me, he was considering doing a Wikipedia project in one of his classes and wanted to chat. After our video conversation, in which Roberto asked thoughtful and thought-provoking questions, I started thinking he might be the perfect third to a possible editing team. I talked with Ray and we decided to invite Roberto to join us. I really enjoy working in groups of three.

Wikipedia training session in the framework of 1Lib1Ref with 9 librarians and information science professionals in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Jacquitoz – CC BY-SA 4.0


Could you tell us more about the subjects that will be addressed in this book and why?

Ray: Roberto and Laurie created a website covering the subjects in the book that would be of interest to many people. We hope the book covers case studies coming from theoretical and pedagogical approaches. We are looking for academic library workers to share how they utilize Wikipedia content to promote information literacy, collaboration or research.

Laurie: I have several librarian contacts in Spain, and I was aware that some interesting things were being done with Wikipedia in the Catalonia region. Then, serendipitously I received a grant to attend the Wikimedia + Education conference in San Sebastian, the Basque region in Spain. It was during the conference that I learned librarians in the Basque region are also doing some unique activities. And, during the conference, I really began to think about how librarians around the world are probably doing fascinating things with Wikipedia that are not shared widely, beyond the local region or country. I thought an open access online book might be the best way to collaborate and share information across borders and around the world.


Wikipedia workshop at the Faculty of Medicine on the Leios-Biscay campus in the Basque Country. Theklan – CC BY-SA 4.0


Black history month in Nigeria in partnership with AfroCROWD Kaizenify – CC BY-SA 4.0


According to you, what common goals are there between Wikimedia Foundation’s projects and academic libraries?

Roberto: I would say that just like the Wikimedia Foundation, libraries, in general, are committed to facilitating access to information to their communities. While libraries are often bound by contracts with publishers that prevent from fully opening up resources to everyone, librarians are now, more than ever, beginning to advocate for more content to become more widely available and reduce the content kept behind paywalls.

Ray: Agreed! It is especially important, particularly now during the pandemic. As it has been reported, COVID-19’s Wikipedia page has been one of the most visited sites. Creating more works under open access (OA) will certainly help.


Can you tell us more about the open access model and why you choose it? 

Ray: Early in our planning stages, we went with an open access model because we felt that OA would give us and our contributors the flexibility to share their work with colleagues. We envisioned some of our chapters to be multilingual and wanted to enable access to such content. Wikipedia itself is open and for us, it was important to follow that approach.

Laurie: Wikipedia is radically open. Not only do you see the article, but you see the “talk” tab where the conversation is happening, you see the history tab, and you can see contributors’ history over time. One of the reasons Wikipedia is so popular is because it’s available for free, to everyone, anywhere (Of course, there’s censorship, but that’s another story.) Therefore, we felt it was important to have a book that is open and free to librarians.


Finally, what would be your recommendations for libraries wishing to develop Wiki projects?

Laurie: I can answer this question because I just co-authored an article about Wikipedia in libraries for educational use (you can see the post print here). I recommend reaching out and connecting with others, because there is a wealth of knowledge and people are eager to share their successes and failures. Many librarians start with the #1lib1ref campaign, which is low-stakes and easy to get involved with – you just need to add one citation to Wikipedia.

Another popular activity is editathons, happening everywhere in the world. I think the most popular topic for librarian editathons is Art + Feminism. It’s important to note that in-person editathons have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, but there are many remote editathons taking place. In the US and Canada, faculty members can run classes through the WikiEdu dashboard, and librarians can connect with professors who are using the dashboard and offer their expertise. For librarians outside of the US, you can connect with the Wikimedia Education team to find resources in your area.

How can anyone interested find out more?

You can find more information here:


How can the library community serve people in institutions, such as prisons and homes for the elderly, in times of Covid-19?

We are grateful to Lisa Krolak, Chair of the IFLA Working Group on Prison Libraries, and member of the Standing Committee of the Section on Library Services to People with Special Needs for this blog. You can also see our interview with Lisa about her publication: Books Beyond Bars.

Libraries in many places, all over the world are physically closed, and instead promoting their digital services. This is great for those of us who have access to the internet, a device, and the relevant skills. But it is of no help to those people, who for various reasons, do not have this access. This includes prisoners, who are denied access for security reasons, as well as members of our communities who simply do not have the relevant hardware and digital skills.

Locked-Up and Locked-Down: Services to Prisoners

Recently I conducted a global survey on the current situation of prison libraries. It showed that prisons all over the world are in lockdown to prevent the virus to enter this closed space. As a result, visitors and services provided from the outside often have stopped.

This means, for example, that prisoners will not be allowed to see their families for the coming weeks and months, a situation that has already led to riots in some prisons. It also means that services provided by outside staff or community volunteers often have been paused, such as worship and church services, legal advice or vocational training opportunities.

In addition, prison libraries are closed unless they are run by inmates and/or core prison staff. When still open, they often provide restricted services, such as allowing only few prisoners to enter to ensure social distancing, limited opening hours, or denying free access to the library space and rather providing access to materials via catalogue or book carts directly to the cells.

Meanwhile, prison library services implemented or supported by prison librarians or volunteers from the outside, and prison outreach services, such as book clubs, creative writing, reading events or art workshops have been suspended until further notice.

The survey shows the need for creative solutions, such as enabling use of internet telephony services such as Skype to speak with family members, providing more newspapers and news magazines to keep prisoners informed, and sharing donated books or other materials, such as DVDs, CDs, puzzles or games.

Sheltered but not Isolated? The Case of Older Persons

Of course, it is not only prisoners who are limited in their movements. Older persons living in care homes are in a similar situation, with strict restrictions on contact with the outside world.

While such measures are vital in order to reduce the chances of the virus reaching a particularly vulnerable group, they also mean that usual activities which contribute to the wellbeing of residents have been paused.

In these circumstances, there is again a pressing need to find alternative ways to help residents pass the time comfortably, with as many possibilities as possible to learn or simply to enjoy books and other materials.

The same goes for others in restricted situations – patients in hospitals, people living in refugee camps, and those living with vulnerable family members who need to limit their own activities. All would benefit strongly from better access to books and library services.

A Possible Solution?

At a time that there is such a pressing need for access to reading material, (public) libraries are physically closed all over the world, with so many books and materials sitting on shelves unused.  These are materials that would be appreciated by all those who have lost access to services – prison community members, older persons in isolation, patients in hospitals or people living in refugee camps.

In great examples in my home country Germany, a public library has reached out to homes for the elderly by loaning boxes with library books and materials for the coming weeks. Publishers donate books and with the help of a local branch library they are packed into bags and delivered to the doorsteps of people in need. Clearly, in such initiatives, every step needs to be taken to ensure that any such programme does not become a vector of infection – national advice should be followed at all times.

An alternative approach, which avoids physical visits comes from Hamburg. For several years, Hamburg Public Libraries have run an outreach project called “Medienboten”, where volunteer book messengers visit seniors and homebound citizens at their homes and institutions to read and talk with them and to provide them with library materials.

As this is not possible at the moment they offer that their volunteers read and talk with them over the phone. Many use this opportunity to get explained, step by step, how to use their digital devices to be able to Skype, use social media or download electronic library materials.

It would be great to hear about similar initiatives elsewhere, using creative ways to provide access to books and materials for education, information or simply recreation when they are needed most, and to share lessons and ideas on how such practices could be shared further.

I hope, of course, that more (public) libraries will also consider reaching out to their local prisons, elderly homes, refugee camps and others to explore options to assist those who are currently cut off, particularly as they might be locked up in their cells or rooms for the next weeks or months, while many of us slowly are allowed to move around again.

I would be interested to hear your ideas and experiences.

Stay safe!

Lisa Krolak (

Chair, IFLA Working Group on Prison Libraries

Standing Committee, Library Services to People with Special Needs Section

Shared Stories: How documentary heritage enriches monuments and sites

The International Council on Museums and Sites (ICOMOS) has named the theme of this year’s International Day for Monuments and Sites as:

Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility.

Shared heritage brings to mind the many stories that make up a place – the different memories, perspectives, and experiences that are woven into the history of each monument and site.

Through much of the modern era, the narrative of a site often did not include all perspectives. This is especially prevalent in sites where the perspective of a dominant culture overshadowed that of indigenous or other marginalised people. Today, there is a distinct focus across the heritage field in giving voice to these stories, expanding how these perspectives can be more widely shared.

Looking to Diverse Cultural Expressions

We can look beyond the monument or site, to the stories, photographs, music, poetry and archival records made by people who have lived there. People who interacted with the same influences that brought about the site, but who could also show us different facets of its cultural heritage.

Beyond this, exploring documentary heritage together with its contemporary, or otherwise related, monuments and sites can enrich our understanding of the cultures from which they come. It can deepen our appreciation and experience of these cultures, by putting the monument or site into a very human context.

Come along as we explore a few examples of documentary heritage from the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, together with UNESCO World Heritage sites, and see how they enrich one another.



Song of Slaves in Barbados

Photo: Gloucestershire Archives, Song of Slaves in Barbados via UNESCO link

An African Song or Chant from Barbados

The text of this song or chant is the only known of its kind depicting a work song, sung by African slaves in the sugar fields of Barbados. It gives voice to a voiceless community in a very literal way. The lyrics depict life from the perspective of the enslaved, their experiences and their suffering. It also tells of their survival, as song was a tool for resilience.


Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison (Barbados)

This site was included on the World Heritage list as an outstanding example of British

Parliament Building in Bridgetown, Barbados

Photo: Parliament building, Historic Bridgetown, public domain, link

colonial architecture during the 17th-19th centuries. It is a testament to Great Britain’s influence and spread of its empire with colonies in the Atlantic.


The port town was an important trade point for goods including sugar, as well as the import of enslaved Africans heading to Barbados and the rest of the Americas.

The colonial architecture of historic Bridgetown and its Garrison reflect both the British architectural style and the military command and control of the region – very much the dominant culture at the time. When looked at together with the testament of a life of enslavement, offered through the African work song, it is possible to get a far more complete picture of the human cost of colonial expansion – cities built through trade, but at a great expense to humanity.



Archive of Warsaw Reconstruction Office

Reconstruction of Warsaw The State Archives of the Capital City of Warsaw

Photo: from The State Archives of the Capital City of Warsaw, via UNESCO, link


Following the destruction of Warsaw during the Second World War, the rebuilding of the capital became deeply symbolic for the Polish people.

Over the years 1945-1953, the outstanding achievement of reconstruction was an effort of architects, artists, craftsmen, conservators and construction workers. These archives give testament of the massive undertaking that was the city’s rebuilding.


Historic Centre of Warsaw (Poland)

The careful restoration of the Old Town of Warsaw, featuring architecture spanning the 13th to the 20th century, is

Warsaw Old Town Market Square

Photo: Warsaw Old Town Market Square , Maksym Kozlenko / CC BY-SA, link

an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction.


Without knowledge of the story of its reconstruction, the historic centre of Warsaw might appear to be no more remarkable than any other central European city. However, the process of rebuilding after the attempted destruction by the Nazi occupation for ideological and political reasons is of great social significance. Knowing the story of this “invincible city”, deeply seeped in social identity, gives a new meaning to the practice of monument preservation.



Korean wood printing block from the 19th century, CC0 link

This collection of 64,226 hand-carved woodblocks would be used to produce printed documents during the Korean

Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910).  The titles of work printed from these blocks covered a range of subjects, such as literature, politics, economy, philosophy, and interpersonal relations.

These blocks represent a means to exchange ideas, especially those relating to Confucian ideals. The goal of this dissemination of ideas would be to create communities deeply rooted in Confucian morality.


Historic Villages of Korea: Hahoe and Yangdong (Republic of Korea)

Traditional House in Hahoe Village

Photo: House in Hahoe Village, Clsd1 / CC BY-SA link

The historic villages of Hahoe and Yangdong are excellent examples of typical clan villages in the Republic of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). They are representative of a distinct, privileged Confucian culture, reflected in their layout and location among forested mountains, rivers and open fields.

In fact, these villages might be considered the physical embodiment of the ideal community built on Confucian morality, described in documents printed with hand-carved woodblocks.

Considering these historical villages in context with the exchange of information between scholars and intellectuals across centuries, which these woodblocks testify to, allows for a more complete picture of values and ideas during the Joseon Dynasty.



Criminal Court Case No. 253/1963 (State Versus N Mandela and Others)

Travel diary from the Rivonia Trial

Travel diary from the Rivonia Trial (State v. Nelson Mandela and Others), Nelson Mandela / CC0 link


The Rivonia Trial in 1960 saw the state of South Africa arrest and prosecute leadership of the African National

Congress (ANC), one of the country’s largest anti-apartheid organisations. During the subsequent trial, Nelson Mandela proclaimed the ANC’s goal of a democratic South Africa from the courthouse to the public. This trial led to his, and others, imprisonment, which would last until apartheid was finally rejected in the early 1990’s.


Robben Island (South Africa)

Maximum Security Prison, Robben Island

Photo: Robben Island, by Moheen Reeyad, via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0, link

Though this site had many uses since its construction in the 17th century, it is its function as a maximum-security prison for political prisoners which is most infamous.

The story of the detention, and eventual liberation, of Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists at Robben Island is a testament to the triumph of freedom over oppression. Seeing the place where these prisoners were kept following the trail, detailed in the court records, helps to bring the era of apartheid and struggle for democracy to life.



poster for Los Olvidado

Photo: poster for Los Olvidados, via Wikimeida, Fair use,  link

This film by Spanish-Mexican director Luis Buñuel was released in 1950, and is considered among the most

important documents in Spanish language depicting the lives of children living in the margins of 20th-century cities.

Released in the United States as “The Young and the Damned”, Los olvidados focusses on Mexico City, giving a realist, unyielding account of the city’s slums, in which characters live their lives at the mercy of their socioeconomic circumstances.


Historic Centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco (Mexico)

National Palace in Mexico Cit

Photo: National Palace in Mexico City, CC BY-SA 2.0  link

Mexico City, built by the Spanish on the ruins of the old Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, has been important to the region for centuries. It is now one of the world’s largest cities, both geographically and in population density.

Known in colonial New Spain as the “city of palaces”, the largest Latin American Cathedral and fine 19th- and 20th-century public buildings combine with indigenous and purely Mexican elements to give this city its unique identity.

Considering Buñuel’s film together with the World Heritage Site of Mexico City’s historic centre creates a picture of different realities – and sides – to this city. It is a reminder that there are many centuries of stories, overlapping and interweaving with one another, that live in a single place.



Treaty of Waitangi

Treaty of Waitangi / Public domain, link

The Treaty of Waitangi


This document is of great national importance to New Zealand, as The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document

of the nation. It was signed in February 1840 by Captain William Hobson, several English residents and approximately 45 Maori chiefs.


Tongariro National Park (New Zealand)

Mountain in Tongariro National Park

Photo: Tongariro National Park, Peter Lockhart via Wikimedia / CC By 2.5 link

Tongariro National Park is an excellent example of a Cultural Landscape, a site where the natural landscape and the

culture of the people living there are indelibly intertwined.  The heart of the park is home to mountains that are of cultural and religious significance to the Maori people. The landscape throughout this region symbolises the deep spiritual links between the indigenous community and their environment.

The history of New Zealand isn’t complete without including the relationship between the Maori people and the land, and the examination of these two sides to the country’s identity together strengthens one’s sense of place.



the Sarcophagus of Ahiram

Photo: the Sarcophagus of Ahiram, via Wikimedia, CC0 link

The Phoenician Alphabet

Photo: the Sarcophagus of Ahiram, via Wikimedia, CC0 linkThe Phoenician Alphabet was the prototype for all alphabets that came later. This system of writing was adapted

throughout the ancient world and would be used to exchange ideas and knowledge in humanities, religious study, science, and culture.

The development of the Phoenician Alphabet is recorded across a collection of engravings on stone, metal and other materials, from the sarcophagus of Ahiram, King of Byblos (thirteenth century BCE) to items from the Roman era in the first century CE.


Byblos (Lebanon)

The city of Byblos has been inhabited since Neolithic times, but is perhaps most remarkable for its testament to the

Ruins in Byblos

Photo: Byblos Obelisk Temple,: Heretiq via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.5 link

beginning of the Phoenician civilization. The architecture of this site bears witness to its long history as a crossroads of civilizations, with examples ranging from Bronze age monuments to Persian fortifications, Roman roads, Byzantine churches, the Crusade citadel and the Medieval and Ottoman towns.

Byblos was also central to the development and spread of the Phoenician Alphabet, the origin of the contemporary Latin alphabet.

Considering the enormous importance of the Phoenician Alphabet on written word, and the way we communicate today, the record of its development enriches understanding of sites like Byblos, making ancient influence still feel relevant.

Library Stat of the Week #14: Four out of five loans at the median national library are in electronic format

In the last two library stats of the week, we have looked at the relationship between digital and physical loans from public and academic libraries.

Based on countries for which data is available, it is clear that there is a big difference in use of eBooks and other electronic formats. In public libraries, loans of electronic books and documents represents less than 14% of all loans, while in academic libraries, the figure is more than 94%.

What about national libraries?

Often the biggest library in the country, they hold very significant collections, thanks both to legal deposit (where this is in place) and proactive collection policies. As such, they are a critical resource for researchers, educators, and all others simply with an interest in culture and history. Some are even explicitly combined with public or university library functions.

The resources they hold can be subject to particular rules, especially legal deposit copies of works. In some countries, for example, it may be possible to send physical copies of works but not digital ones. In others, there is digital access, but only in specific places.

Clearly, at a time of COVID-19, where digital tools provide the only means of accessing content, there is a need for laws and practices that allow this. In general, of course, more digital access to national library collections contributes to their mission to facilitate research, education and access to culture, without people having to travel.

So what was the situation before the crisis? IFLA’s Library Map of the World offers insights into this, with almost forty countries sharing data on how many books, eBooks, documents and downloads they offer.

Overall, it is clear that many national libraries have already seized the possibilities that digital is offering. Across countries for which data is available, the median share of digital loans and downloads in total loans was just under 80% – this was the case in Malaysia.

This means that almost four times as many books and documents were being shared electronically than physically. In 13 of the 38 countries, national libraries were sharing over ten times as many works in digital form than in physical. Nonetheless, in fifteen the share of digital books and documents in the total was less than 50%.

To some extent, as set out above, differences between national libraries may be down to the rules they face and the nature of their collections. What is certain is that in current circumstances, there is a real value in finding ways to facilitate access to the works that they hold.


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.

Home is Where the Start is: Libraries open the door to Lifelong Learning during COVID-19

What do people lose when they have to stay at home?

  • Social connections, leisure activities?
  • A sense of accomplishment, purpose, mental well-being?
  • Livelihoods, jobs, the security of a regular income?

Losing any combination of these things is deeply personal experience, varying from individual to individual, but also reflect a larger picture of social welfare. This sort of upheaval shows how our societies work and what happens when the status quo that holds our societies together is strained.

For libraries to continue bringing value to their communities, we must explore what opportunities for growth can be found among these challenges.

How can libraries use their function as providers of information, culture, and knowledge to address the losses that our communities are experiencing?

  • Can a distance learning programme bring social connections and fulfilling leisure time?
  • Can discovering a new skill deliver a sense of accomplishment, purpose and mental well-being?
  • Can undertaking a training course help open doors to future employment?

Libraries are champions for learning at every age. Let’s explore what this means in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the world that will come after.

Lifelong Learning

As countries work to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO has estimated that there are more than 1.5 billion learners – over 90% of the world student population – out of school.

However, when you count every person, at every age, as a potential learner, the actual number of learners affected by stay-at-home measures is much higher.

IFLA has long been an advocate for expanding recognition of the role of libraries at the heart of lifelong learning.  At the core of their mission, libraries provide information to all, including those not registered in formal education.

IFLA’s Public Libraries Section affirms that libraries play a role of fundamental importance in creating a society of lifelong learners, through connecting both formal and informal learning environments with global resources of information and knowledge.

As doors are shut and formal learning spaces are closed, libraries can help ensure that this connection is not broken.

Learning from home during COVID-19

Over the past month, there has been a rallying of library associations and representation bodies, IFLA included, to provide platforms for exchanging information and sharing stories of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are stories to be found in every corner of the world where libraries are using creativity, technology and their position within communities to provide resources for learning to continue, at all levels.

Learning for All

It is widely accepted that providing education for all, and opportunities to continue learning throughout one’s life, is an indicator of a healthy, sustainable society.

As vulnerable groups are often the worst affected by global challenges, providing accessible, inclusive and equitable learning opportunities becomes especially challenging. Reaching these communities is the first hurtle, but one that libraries are helping overcome.

For example, in some locations in the United States, WiFi hotspots have been made available to those in rural locations, as has library laptops to the local homeless shelters. This is an especially pertinent service as the loss of jobs due to COVID-19 has brought with it a rise in the number of people losing their homes.

Libraries from Australia to Argentina  to Svalbard are providing book delivery services, some working with taxi services to ensure books get to the public.

Across the world, libraries are providing online access to their collections, where copyright allows. Despite being hit first by the virus, the Hubei Provincial Library in the city of Wuhan launched an online library, with 80,000 digital books, 420,000 audio clips and 8,482 videos, providing access to information to those in hospitals and quarantine hotels, as well as at home.

However, inclusive lifelong learning is more than providing physical or digital access to materials.

21st Century Skills

The Public Library Association (PLA) surveyed over 2,500 unique library systems in the United States, and found 21% are providing non-COVID online resources, such as activities to do at home and unemployment resources. They found an equal number are expanding access to services, including deaf/blind/disabled expanded options, and online assistance to access resources.

Many libraries are finding online alternatives to continue providing access to resources and online material for skill-sharing, language learning, test preparation, and more. For example, the Los Angeles Public Library is offering daily access to online tutors, both for students and adult learners, in English and Spanish language.

Even if libraries are unable to offer such programming directly, there is the need for awareness-raising around programmes and opportunities available to communities. Libraries can act as an aggregator for links to educational, skill-sharing, and tutoring opportunities offered through other providers – connecting their communities to resources that can benefit them.

Across the world, library associations and institutions have been helping to provide their members with tools that will equip libraries to not only train themselves, but to support teachers and formal education providers for a future that involves distance learning.

AFLIA (African Library and Information Associations and Institutions) has compiled an exhaustive list of resources for libraries, including access to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) platforms. Knowledge of these platforms can be delivered to their communities to help them gain professional skills and qualifications while staying at home.

They also provide links to teaching tools to help libraries create digital content for learners, and train teachers to do the same.

Digital literacy in the 21st Century also requires the ability to vet sources and identify “fake news”. The Latin American LIS platform Infotecarios has been discussing the role of libraries in their region in educating communities on stopping disinformation related to COVID-19.

The World After COVID-19

The ability to navigate digital resources is key to better job opportunities, better quality of life and greater ability to learn.

Online learning and the need for online resources won’t go away after physical spaces open once again.

The PLA Survey of Libraries in the United States found that many libraries plan to continue offering virtual programs, outreach and remote services developed to reach their communities during social distancing measures.

Looking to the future, a discussion among UNESCO Learning Cities in response to COVID-19 has identified the need to further expand understanding of the social impact of online learning, including the well-being of vulnerable people and the psychological effects of self-isolation.

A 2019 study on social disconnectedness, perceived isolation, and symptoms of depression and anxiety found social disconnectedness to be the catalyst of a negative spiral among older adults, leading to perceived isolation, and in some cases, depression and anxiety. It suggests that making opportunities for social connection among older adults accessible and structurally optimised are greatly needed.

Providing access for people in this situation to opportunities to connect, engage and learn is critical, not only now, but into the future. It could be beneficial for libraries to think about how their lifelong learning activities could respond to these changing realities. What programming could libraries provide to better support their local teachers, schools, and learners of all ages use and benefit from online learning resources?

We should reflect on the things we have lost while at home during COVID-19 – social connections, leisure, sense of accomplishment and purpose – and remember for some people, this is a reality that won’t end when restrictions are lifted.

Access to learning opportunities and the social interaction that comes with them can help build a fulfilling life at all ages.

When social distancing ends, and we leave home and return to our busy daily lives, libraries can help keep the door to lifelong learning wide open to all.

Library Stat of the Week #13: Globally, 94.6% of documents borrowed from academic libraries are digital

In last week’s Library Stat of the Week, we looked at eLending in public and community libraries, both in terms of loans per user, and the relationship with physical lending.

This underlined that while eLending continued to represent only a relatively small share of total lending – arguably due in part to the conditions under which libraries can do it – this already represented up to 15% of total loans in some countries.

This week, we’re looking at academic libraries. Here, use of electronic materials has been common for much longer.

The internet has opened up exciting possibilities to promote access to research from around the world, and opened the door to a world where it is not only those affiliated to the largest institutions who can draw on comprehensive collections of literature.

Of course, this is not yet the case, due to the slow spread of Open Access, and of course the fact that barely half of the world’s population can access the internet.

A particular concern at the moment – at the time of the COVID-19 Pandemic – is when access is limited to people in the library or on campus according to the terms of contracts. Many of the eBooks borrowed, or documents downloaded, by students and researchers from academic libraries will be subject to such restrictions.

Without action, education and innovation risks serious disruption. With action, we will see the potential of the internet realised – and of course a stronger case still for investing in universal connectivity.

So how extensive is the use of electronic documents in academic libraries? Figures reported on IFLA’s Library Map of the World for eBook loans and document downloads offer an idea.

Across the 55 countries and territories reporting such data, there were almost 12 billion such loans or downloads in the year of reporting. Across the 49 for which both these numbers, and numbers of registered users are available, that makes for over 137 loans or downloads per user per year.

In 51 countries and territories, we can also compare eBook loans and downloads with physical book and document loans. As a share of total loans and downloads, electronic ones account for 94.6% of the total!

Looking across world regions, the highest shares of electronic loans and downloads are in Latin America and the Caribbean (96.4%) and Asia (96.2%), while the European Union and Middle East and North Africa are both well over 80%.

The lowest shares – on incomplete data – are in Africa (47.2%) and non-EU Europe (43.5%). In Micronesia – the only country in Oceania with all relevant data, the figure is only 6.2%.

The data highlights the need for a dual approach for academic libraries in future – both ensuring that those which are already heavily reliant on digital materials are able to use them fully, and working to help those still primarily using physical ones to access all that digital tools have to offer.


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.