Monthly Archives: July 2020

Library Stat of the Week #27: On average, there are 4.7 volunteers for every full-time library worker

Volunteers can play an important role in helping libraries to go further in delivering on their missions. In turn, public and community libraries can be attractive places for individuals to come and offer their time.

At the same time, in some countries there is concern about over-reliance on volunteers. This can be particularly the case when staff and volunteers are seen as interchangeable by governments or other decision-makers looking to cut costs, rather than extend offers.

Both the IFLA Public and School Library Manifestos underline the importance of the presence of a librarian in order to guide services.

Clearly, understanding the respective roles of staff and volunteers depends on looking at individual libraries.

However, we can start to get an overview of the situation between countries by looking at data from the Library Map of the World.

42 countries provide information about numbers of volunteers, counted as the number of individuals who volunteer.

While these figures do not indicate how many hours they work (as opposed to data on the number of library workers, which is calculated in terms of full-time equivalents), they start to give an idea of to what extent library systems draw on volunteers to function.

Graph 1: Volunteers and Staff in Public and Community Libraries

Graph 1 looks at the situation at the global level, and broken down across different regions.

Starting with the figures for the world as a whole (the 42 countries for which data is available, accounting for 276826 libraries and 159141 FTE staff), it appears that there is 0.67 of a full-time library worker per public or community library, but 3.3 volunteers.

In other words, there are almost 5 volunteers for every full-time staff member of a public or community library.

These figures, are, however, strongly affected by the numbers from one country – the Republic of Korea, which alone registers over 433 000 volunteers.

Once these numbers are discounted, the figures are much closer together – 0.67 FTE staff per library and 1.33 volunteers, making for just over 2 volunteers for every FTE member of staff.

Looking across the regions, it is only in Europe and Asia where the number of volunteers is higher than the number of FTE staff in public and community libraries. Of course, with only 42 countries providing data (for example, figures for North America are from Canada alone), the picture is far from complete.

Graph 2: Volunteers and Staff in Public and Community Libraries (G20 Countries)Graph 2 presents data for those larger (G20) economies for which data is available. Among these countries, it is relatively common to have more volunteers than FTE staff, with Germany, France, the UK and Japan in this situation.

Once again, Korea is an extreme case, with data indicating that there are on average 430 volunteers per library. While there are relatively high levels of staffing per library (7.9 compared to the global average of 0.67), this still means around 50 volunteers per full time staffer.

The other countries with the highest ratio of volunteers to full-time staff are Nepal (14.3:1), Austria (10.4:1), Singapore (10.4:1), Germany (4.6:1) and the United Kingdom (3:1).


Countries and territories covered by available data are: Armenia, Austria, the Bahamas, Benin, Bhutan, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Eswatini, France, Germany, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, India, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Lithuania, Mongolia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Paraguay, the Republic of Korea, Saint Lucia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Suriname, Thailand, Uganda, and the United Kingdom.


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.

Meeting NEETs’ Needs: Libraries and Youth Skills

Today is World Youth Skills Day, focusing on the importance of giving young people the skills they need for economic and social integration.

As the United Nations’ own website underlines, young people (aged 15-24) were, even before the crisis, three times more likely to be unemployed than older workers. With the same group often in more precarious work, this figure is likely to have got worse during the pandemic, as was the case with the recession following the financial crash of 2008.

While many young people are not working because they are studying, for many – around 21%, based on 2015 figures from the World Bank – are not. Some may be in informal work, but this is not necessarily a better situation, given that this can be even more precarious and less likely to lead to a career. They are described as Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET).

This is a serious issue. Periods out of work can have ‘scarring’ effects, leading to unemployment or lower skilled or less fulfilling work later in life, as the OECD has underlined.

As a result, a high share of NEETs can be an indicator of a higher rate of inequality later. This is why it is included as one of the indicators used in the Development and Access to Information report, produced by IFLA in partnership with the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington.

To look further into the details, there is strong regional variation, at least among the countries for which data is available. While only 4.6% of young adults in East Asia are NEET, this rises to 23% in the Middle East and North Africa, and 28% in Southern Asia Oceania. In some countries, the figure is higher than 50% – notably the Maldives and Trinidad and Tobago.

Looking across the countries for which DA2I Country Analyses are available, Trinidad and Tobago indeed stands out for its high share of NEETs, although Bulgaria also has a higher rate than average for developed countries.

Meanwhile, Argentina, Austria, Ecuador, Finland and Slovenia all have lower shares of NEETs than both the global and relevant regional average.

For those countries which do have higher shares of NEETs, libraries can offer a valuable tool.

As set out in our blog for last year’s Youth Skills Day, information skills are becoming increasingly important, and libraries can provide an excellent place for developing these.

Furthermore, as our summary of evidence from World Library and Information Congress papers has underlined, libraries are also realising their potential to act as gateways for people of all ages to new skills, jobs or entrepreneurship opportunities.

Indeed, as the chapter of last year’s Development and Access to Information report focused on SDG 4 – Quality Education – by Dr Katarina Popovic underlined, ‘Access to information is an important precondition for achieving the targets of SDG 4. Without a full recognition of this in the discourse about the 2030 Agenda, accompanied by greater investment in education and lifelong learning, huge groups of people will be left behind by 2030.’ This applies as much to young adults as anyone else.

In those countries which do have high shares of NEETs and well-developed public library field – as is the case in both Bulgaria and Trinidad and Tobago, there is therefore an interesting potential to work through these institutions to offer new possibilities to young adults.

Where library networks are less strong, developing them may help strengthen the infrastructure available for helping NEETs, as well as providing a wide range of other public goods.

Making best use of existing library networks and supporting their further development could be a great way of helping build skills and resilience among youth, even in the most difficult times.

Five Library Values that Should Matter in a Post-Pandemic World

Even as the world continues to fight the COVID-19 Pandemic, there is already talk – in particular at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum – of how we can ‘build back better’.

This term – previously mainly used in the context of recovery from disasters – provides a reminder that shocks of different sorts do provide an opportunity to reassess and revise the way we do things.

Of course, this is not to take attention away from the vital immediate responses to the crisis, and in particular the work done by health and other essential workers to keep societies moving. Librarians have also played their part, working to ensure that communities continue to benefit as far as possible from connectivity, access to resources, and advice.

What it should mean, however, is that when we take decisions about the recovery from COVID-19, we do not feel compelled simply to re-create what happened before. Those who take decisions should feel freer to change things, making for a stronger, fairer and more sustainable society.

In this, the experience of the Pandemic already suggests that five key values of libraries could and should play a bigger role:

Information matters: following years of growing concerns about the spread and influence of misinformation online, and the readiness of politicians to dismiss expert perspectives, the pandemic has seen governments in many countries give a much higher recognition of, and profile to, scientists and researchers.

This is a welcome step – the importance of the access to information that libraries provide is only as great as the importance of the information itself, in the eyes of a decision maker.

Now is a good time to ensure a focus on creating strong and sustainable information infrastructures, not least in the shape of libraries, in order to ensure the preservation, organisation and availability of information into the future.

Connectivity matters: libraries’ mission to provide access to information has meant that they were early adopters, and even innovators, in the development of the internet. Almost 2/3 of public libraries in countries for which we have data offer internet access to users, giving opportunities to get online, use computers, and receive training and support.

The pandemic has made clear the costs of being on the wrong side of the digital divide, with almost half of the world population not able to use digital tools to continue their work, education or social interaction.

Faced, in particular, with many students who will have risked dropping further behind their richer peers, there is a strong case for a serious investment in moving towards universal connectivity. Libraries and other public access solutions (including through libraries as nodes in networks) should be a key part of any action plan.

 Universality matters: the pandemic has had far reaching consequences for almost everyone. This is not to say that the impact has been the same for everyone. Clearly those in precarious jobs, with less favourable housing situations, or who otherwise face marginalisation or discrimination, have too often suffered far more than others.

Nonetheless, we may be at a moment where decision-makers – and citizens – are more favourable to universal services. In other words, having seen that there are phenomena that affect everyone for the worse, it is also appropriate to take actions that affect everyone for the better.

Public libraries are a great example of this, with a clear mission to provide universal service, in line with the IFLA-UNESCO Public Library Manifesto. Clearly libraries themselves always need to be aware of how their work may be more or less accessible or welcoming to different individuals and groups.

Culture matters: culture is all too often seen as being at the periphery of policy-making, a secondary concern compared to issues such as finance, security or foreign affairs. Yet the right to participate in cultural life is a fundamental right, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Pandemic has seen many turn to culture as a source of comfort in difficult times, as well as making clear the role of cultural concerns (the norms, values, and behaviours of individuals and groups) in the effectiveness of the response. Cultural institutions, not least libraries, have also been valuable sources of information and stories to inform responses and put things into context.

If we are now to build policies that are more responsive, better adapted, and so more effective, as well as promoting wellbeing as a goal, culture and cultural institutions need to be part of the picture.

Rights matter: a common theme in the four previous sections has been the idea that people have rights – to information, education, public services and culture. There are others to take into account – private life, free expression, and freedom from discrimination to name a few.

The pandemic has brought home to many the value of these rights, often of course when they are compromised. It has also forced greater awareness and reflection on the tension that can exist between rights – freedom of assembly and the right to health, freedom of speech and the right not to be subject to discrimination. The latter has been particularly clear in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

While this may risk being perhaps the most optimistic of the suggestions in this article, we can hope that when we build back after COVID-19, we can be in a world which recognises the value of careful decision-making about how best to enforce rights for everyone. These are the choices librarians themselves make in the services they provide.

The 10-Minute International Librarian #8: Think of an Advocacy Priority

What makes for a successful library or library system?

Clearly, the energy and dedication of staff plays a major role. We are lucky to have so many inventive and focused people in the field.

But there are also other factors, not least the decisions made by law-makers and funders.

This is why it is so important to advocate, in order to shape their opinions. You can do this directly, or indirectly, by working to build wider public support for libraries.

But in doing this, it’s important to have an idea of your goal. This will help keep your message clear and well defined.

So for our 8th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think of an advocacy priority.

Think about what you might want to change, in order to deliver more for your community. This could be funding, but could also be something else – a law that would give you new possibilities, integration into plans for education, employment or health, or rules around staffing.

Think what would have most impact, but would also be achievable. And don’t hesitate to share here – you’ll likely find many others in a similar situation who can share their experience!

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Strategic Direction 1, Key Initiative 3: Work with library associations and libraries to identify key legal and funding challenges to their work, and advocate for action.

As we publish more ideas, you will be able to view these using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box.

Library Stat of the Week #26: Countries with more public and community librarians tend to have higher levels of social cohesion

Eric Klinenberg’s book, Palaces for the People, has popularised the idea of libraries as key parts of the ‘social infrastructure’ of the communities they serve.

This role matters, because social infrastructure supports the development of social capital – strong connections between people, often associated with trust – commonly seen as a key driver of development.

For example, when there are strong levels of trust between people, they need to spend less time protecting their own interests, and can cooperate more easily to achieve other things, such as a strong economy, inclusive social policies, or action to tackle climate change.

Trust can be built through common references and rules, often themselves developed through contacts between people. Libraries – especially public and community libraries – support both, allowing members of communities to meet and exchange in a shared space, often supported by shared resources and heritage.

Klinenberg looks at the role of libraries in building social cohesion at the level of individual cases. But what can we tell at the macro-level?

To do this, we can cross statistics from IFLA’s Library Map of the World with those from the OECD’s Society at a Glance 2016 publication. As previously in our Library Stat of the Week series, we have looked at figures both for numbers of public and community libraries and library workers.

Graph 1: Public and Community Libraries and Library Workers and Levels of TrustGraph 1 compares numbers of libraries and library workers (on the horizontal X-axis) with the share of the population who felt that other people could be trusted. Each dot represents one country.

This graph indicates a positive but relatively weak correlation between numbers of library workers and levels of trust, and relatively little relationship at all between numbers of libraries and trust.

There is a positive story in here, as regards library workers of course. As we have indicated in previous posts, it is clear that the presence of librarians can play a decisive role in ensuring that libraries achieve their outcomes.

However, as concerns the number of libraries, the figure is perhaps a little disappointing. Nonetheless, from looking at the graph, it stands out that the relationship may vary as the number of libraries per 100 000 people grows.

Graph 2: Public and Community Libraries and Levels of TrustGraph 2 looks further into this question, including a trend line only for countries with fewer than 20 libraries per 100 000 people (i.e. one library per 5000 people).

The difference here is striking. There is a much stronger positive correlation between numbers of libraries and trust in countries with up to 20 libraries per 100 000 people (the light blue line), but after this, the relationship becomes much flatter.

Graph 3: Public and Community Library Workers and Levels of TrustGraph 3 repeats the same process for countries with up to 40 public and community library workers per 100 000 people (the yellow line), coming to a similar conclusion. The relationship between library workers and trust is much stronger among countries below the threshold of 40 workers per 100K.

This finding is an interesting one, and would support the conclusion that in particular in countries which invest less in libraries (as measured by the number of public and community libraries and library workers), there are significant gains to be had from strengthening the field (or costs from making cuts).

Beyond a certain threshold, the gains (or costs) in terms of social cohesion are less dramatic, although as seen in previous posts, there may be impacts in other fields, such as skills or equality.

As always in this series, it is important to note that correlation is not causality. Further research would be needed to assess to what extent other factors may be in play, and it is of course also possible that societies that invest more in libraries tend to be those who believe more in supporting communal services and activities.

Nonetheless, the data here does provide a useful indicator that countries with more public and community libraries and library workers, there tends to be higher levels of social cohesion.


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.

Use of Works in Teaching Activities – Article 5 of the EU-DSM directive by Soile Manninen

Soile Manninen is an Information Specialist at Helsinki University Library (Finland) and a member of the working group on legal issues of The Finnish Research Library Association. The mission of the group is to track legislation concerning libraries, and keep Association members up to date about these issues.

Can you explain to us what article 5 of the EU-DSM Directive contains?

This new mandatory educational exception/limitation allows the digital use of works and other subject matter for the purpose of illustration for non-commercial teaching for cross-border uses. “Use of works” covers reproduction (scanning, printing, copying, uploading, downloading, making screenshots, etc.), communication to the public, and making available to the public. “Non-commercial teaching” refers to the nature of the teaching, not the organizational or funding background of the educational establishment.

The responsibility belongs to the educational establishment. Teaching should happen on its premises or at other venues (e.g. libraries, museums), or through a secure electronic environment that is only available for the pupils or students and teaching staff educational establishment. Cross-border teaching follows the legislation of that country where the educational organisation is established. During teaching activities, it is always required to indicate the source and give the author’s name, unless this turns out to be impossible.

Member States may provide that this exception or limitation adopted does not cover specific uses or types of works, e.g. materials that are intended for the educational market or if licenses are easily available. If Member State supports a license-based solution, it has to ensure that these licenses are available and visible in an appropriate manner, and there shouldn’t be any administrative burden to educational establishments. Member States should clarify those situations where this exception or limitation is applicable and when uses require a license. Member States can decide in favor of fair compensation for the right holders for the use of their works.

Some EU countries have already implemented allowed educational exceptions or limitations based on InfoSoc Directive (2001/29/EC) and Database Directive (96/9/EC) but the legislation still differs between Member States so there is demand for common ground to take care digital teaching cross-border activities.

Why is this provision important for libraries?

Libraries support education and are educators. In higher education or school environment the connection between library and education is easy to see because libraries take care of material acquisition and agreements with service providers, but how does this work in public libraries or special libraries? Public libraries are one of the key information resources for education at every level, most importantly for students at primary and secondary levels, and of course, every self-motivated citizen who takes part in non-formal training activities.

It should be pointed out that this exception cannot be overridden by contract but there might be some things to follow when libraries negotiate with service providers. What kind of clauses we have to consider and does this have some effects on the prices of information resources when the potential amount of users is going to bigger? If Member State decide in favor of fair compensation for right holders, how is it organized and who pays all this?

What is the best implementation libraries could hope for with this article?

Libraries and cultural heritage institutions should be mentioned as educational establishments so there will not be any confusion that libraries can carry out educational activities.

Article 5 concerns digital uses, and it does not say anything about printed material, but digitization is allowed. This exception/limitation allows using part of the work and Member States can decide on what extent works can be used. Hopefully, there won’t be specific quantitative measures because those numbers treat different types of works unequally (there is a difference are you using 20% of novel or photo).

In those countries where licensing is the option, there should be clear guidance and awareness of how materials can be used and the compensation system should be transparent for all sides. Based on Article 25 of the DSM Directive it is possible to adopt wider exceptions and maintain possibilities that InfoSoc Directive already offered. If there are exceptions/limitations that have been regulated earlier and they have proven to be functional, there isn’t any reason to make these any worse.

What is your government’s position on the issue?

Implementing the DSM Directive in the Finnish government belongs to the Ministry of Education and Culture. In May 2019 the Ministry started to organize open workshops and discussions where stakeholders worked together to understand what the DSM Directive means and which is the best way to implement the new Directive into our legislation.

Discussion around Article 5 has been quiet. Finland and other Nordic countries have active collective management organisations (CMOs) which represent authors, performers, and publishers, and extended collective licensing (ECL) is not new to us. It seems that copyright societies are now seeking new licensing solutions, and this gets support from the DSM Directive’s Article 12 “Collective licensing with an extended effect”.

Moving towards license-based solutions seems to be the worst-case scenario for many Member States where this kind of arrangement is not common but the license-based solution is reality in some countries. The Finnish National Agency for Education takes care of licensing negotiations with CMOs for primary and second-degree education and the costs of licenses are paid from the national budget. Higher education institutions have to pay these licenses from their budgets. This is how teachers, pupils, and students can use printed and digital material and copyright holders get their compensation of the use.

In Finland, education is public (in copyright language: communication to the public). Teachers make most of the education materials themselves and the basic rule is that they hold the copyright for their material. According to the recent copyright study published by the Center for Cultural Policy Research (2019), the main issue of the primary and second-degree education is the lack of digital material that can be modified, further developed and combined.

It is not always clear when uses fall under copyright law, licenses, or when there is a need to get separate permission from the copyright holder (e.g. using audiovisual material) and these issues arise daily while using digital platforms. Libraries have been actively promoting Open Educational Resources (OER), consulting about copyright and Creative Commons licenses and this work continues.

Virtual Engagement / Actual Connection: building community around digital collections

When COVID-19 began sweeping the world in the early months of 2020, public life made a collective retreat indoors. Schools closed, museums shuttered, and many libraries had no choice but to halt in-person services for their communities. On our COVID-19 and the Global Library Field page, IFLA has made an effort to aggregate methods by which libraries have been able to offer services remotely during full or partial closures.

However, for libraries holding cultural heritage collections, engagement becomes more complex.

For collection-holding memory institutions, connecting people to cultural resources is central to the institution’s mission. For years now, the importance of online presence and social media has driven memory institutions to rethink access beyond physical visits. In 2020, lock-down measures have accelerated this need for innovative approaches to access and engagement.

The reality of online engagement is here to stay, during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the world that follows. How do you start building a community around your digital collections, especially if your institution is new to this?

Human-centred Digital Engagement

 The collections held in Oxford University’s libraries and museums play a major role in the university’s engagement with their academic community and society at large. For that reason, engaging visitors through digital means is a top priority in the University’s Digital Strategy.

Oxford therefore designed their Engagement Strategy with a human-centred approach. In short, this means first establishing the types of visitors to their memory institutions, then designing the rest of the digital engagement strategy to address their individual wants and needs.

Oxford University did this by identifying Audience Architypes – subsets of users that have similar traits, needs, and expectations in common. This could be “university students” or “parents with young children” – it depends on the type of library and collections you have.

Ask: If you had to reduce your collections’ audience to broad subsets of users, who might these be? What types of people may fall into each subset? Why do they visit your institution? How do they use your collections? 

 Finally, how do you offer a similar experience to these audiences by digital means? 

 In this article, we will explore several audience architypes that may be applicable to collection-holding institutions. We will then share some examples of how other libraries are engaging with each of these groups digitally.


The Deep-Divers

They engage with a mission – they know what they are looking for and will explore a subject in depth.

Who they may be: secondary school students, undergraduates, graduate students and researchers, journalists, other members of an academic community.

Why they might visit: to access information relevant to their study, for reference help, to further their research and find new leads.

What they might value: archives, online catalogues, access to academic journals, reference and research assistance

How they might find you online: this group is likely to be familiar with your institution, or with other institutions in your network. They probably come directly to your website looking for specific information.

These audience members are most likely already interacting with your institution. The best way to engage them could therefore be to ensure adequate digitisation and access to your collections’ materials, and to provide research assistance – both in-person and virtually.

See this example from the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil, and their Digital Library of Rare, Special Works and Historical Documentation. This is a result of cooperation between multiple national digitisation initiatives, bringing digitised collections together in one place, free of charge to researchers and the public.

Another example comes from Leiden University’s Digital Collections. Members of the academic community and beyond can engage through online access to digitised and digital born collections, contextualisation through regular blog posts, and services allowing for the digitisation and reuse of materials for research or publication.


The Explorers

They browse multiple topics that interest them, reaching the history behind the headlines, or hunting for interesting glimpses at the past worth sharing.

 Who they might be: members of the general public, travel-lovers, current or past students, art-enthusiasts, museum-goers, history buffs.

 Why they might visit: they are somehow aware of your institution and collections, they value your authority on topics that interest them, they are interested in adding historical context to issues they care about.

What they might value: blog articles, social media posts, thought-pieces, curated collections, contextual analysis, topics relating to social commentary and current events, content that is shareable.

How they might find you online: this group might have visited your institution in the past, liked what they saw, and followed you on social media. Or, they might have seen someone in their network share your content and wanted to explore more.  Perhaps they came across your institution in a blog article, news piece, or other online channel.

The United States-based Amistad Research Centre library and archive holds a vast collection of materials of social and cultural importance regarding America’s ethnic and racial history.

In addition to organising site-based exhibitions, the Research Centre makes use of the Google Arts & Culture platform to deliver online exhibitions. This platform allows for the institution to feature images and videos from its collection, together with text to give context and enrich audiences’ understanding. Their online exhibitions are great examples of using this platform. Check it out here.

Conversations in Color, a video series on topics relating to race in America, builds on the material collection further by engaging experts and promoting dialogue.

The Bibliothèque Forney, based in Paris, France, has found great success engaging audiences with their collection on social media. During the pandemic, staff has had more time to write articles sharing stories and celebrating pieces from their collections. This has enriched their social media presence, and the library has reported thousands of users on their channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).

Collections which have been particularly appreciated for their aesthetic beauty and public interest include commercial catalogues for toys and classic department stores, posters, fashion periodicals, and wallpapers.

Their Facebook page is a great example of curating an aesthetic that resonates with its audience. Check it out here.

Denmark’s Herlev Bibliotek takes curating an aesthetic even further on their beautiful Instagram page. Perhaps this excellent use of a visual platform can be inspiration for featuring your collection on social media?


The Action-takers

They are looking to be inspired or looking for tools to inspire others. They may be interested in interactive activities and opportunities to get involved in crowd-sourced activities.

 Who they might be: artists (professional or hobby), art-lovers, social media creators, students out of school, teachers, parents with young and adolescent children.

Why they might visit: they have free time and an interest in creative pursuits. Or they might be looking for ways to enrich and entertain children, as a teacher or parent/caregiver.

What they might value: interactive projects, open-source material, recognition and sharing opportunities, creative inspiration and prompts, insight from specialists on early childhood education and arts education.

 How they might find you online: Similarly to the Explorers, this group could engage with you primarily through social media. Perhaps they were involved with an in-person event your institution ran in the past.   Or maybe they see others in their network participating in similar projects, and are keen to be involved too.

Also from Leiden University, a very successful project in drawing in members of the public was the Maps in the Crowd project.  It invited anyone with interest to get involved in their geocrowdsourcing project, connecting old maps from their Special Collection with their modern-day locations. Special prizes helped incentivise and recognise participation.

A great example of engaging a different creative audience is the British Library’s Discovering Children’s Books online project.

This project is rich with interactive, multimedia features to deepen engagement with children’s books, like videos depicting illustrators drawing their well-known characters, arts and crafts ideas, and guided activities, such as inspiring children to write their own stories.


Alongside the many challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, there are also opportunities to enhance the way your audience engages with your collections.

In speaking with the Bibliothèque Forney, they said that online engagement during the pandemic, especially on social media channels, has showed that “even if [the library] was ‘dematerialized’, it could still exist and maintain a true dialogue with its public.”

There are many more ways than we listed here to maintain this dialogue. For instance, Europeana has collected more ideas for digital engagement in this article. Many are targeted at museums, but they could certainly be adapted to collections-holding libraries as well. Stay creative and look for inspiration everywhere.

By establishing your visitors’ individuality at the centre of your digital engagement strategy and keeping an open mind towards ways to connect, your collections can have a much further reach than ever before.