Monthly Archives: February 2021

A quick word about an exceptional exception (you should get to know or start to consider using)

As part of the fair use and fair dealing week, IFLA is delighted to welcome Eric Chin, from the General Counsel at the National Library Board of Singapore, to share his views on the importance of making the best use of the flexibilities provided by the fair use and fair dealing provisions.


  1. Your mission as a librarian is to enable teaching, learning and research.  How much you can achieve depends on the extent to which libraries can collect, preserve, give access, present and exhibit library materials.  This in turn depends a lot on copyright laws that govern how library materials can be used.


  1. For example,  one of the exclusive rights of a copyright owner is the right to make a copy.  This impacts your day to day work ranging from the request by a teacher to make a copy of a photograph for a lesson, to whether the much used book that is deteriorating and is out of print (but still in copyright) can be digitised to preserve the content from being totally lost, to whether a video in an obsolete format (but still in copyright) can be migrated to a new digital format;  and to whether the non-profit museum down the road can make a copy of part of a map for an exhibition.


  1. Before we go further, it must be said that there is nothing wrong about the principle that copyright owners have exclusive rights for a period of time as just reward for endeavours and ability and it is beneficial to society because, among other things, it does create incentives for the production of more library materials.  It is not often said but it is not unfair to say that copyright is partly the lifeblood of a librarian’s job!  The question is about how this is balanced against what rights or exceptions there are to also ensure that exclusive rights do not act as unintended and undue barriers to progress in science, in the preservation of heritage and culture and the dissemination of knowledge.


  1. So copyright laws typically include a set of provisions that act as exceptions that will  allow for your mission as a librarian.  I say “typically” because copyright law is territorial in nature and each country has its own set of copyright laws. This means the scope of exceptions can vary (very) widely from country to country.  To see where you stand in the wide spectrum of copyright laws, it is useful to look at this study covering 191 countries: (the Study on Exceptions).


  1. Starting by knowing where you stand allows you to consider if you need to advocate for copyright exceptions that fellow librarians in other parts of the world can already use but you simply cannot.  What you cannot do will have a negative impact on the amount of teaching, learning and research that can be done in your own country. In an ideal world for librarians,  all countries will learn from one another and all will level up until all countries share the most useful exceptions in common. However,  it must sometimes start with ground up advocacy to the right powers that be in our countries, which is partly in our own hands.


  1. Looking at the range of exceptions in each country in the Study on Exceptions, you will see a fair few countries that do not list what is called “fair dealing” or “fair use” (collectively Fair Use) among the exceptions. Fair Use is a general exception that anyone can use and is not a specific exception available only to libraries but libraries can benefit greatly from it.  Each country will of course have an argument to make for its own copyright traditions and doctrine that their society may be comfortable with, but in my own view,  countries that do not have this exception may be missing out on an exceptional exception.


  1. Most library specific exceptions are generally prescriptive in nature with fixed criteria that must be met in an unchanging way in order to become applicable and this oftentimes can make it challenging for us especially in the fast changing digital era. On the other hand,  Fair Use is special because it is normally stated in a flexible way.  Certain broad factors (that are also usually not exhaustive) are set out as matters to be considered in a fair use analysis such as whether there is transformative use (i.e. use of the original library material or part of it in a beneficial way to society that is different from the intended use of the original) and whether the amount of the original library material used is appropriate in the circumstances including bearing in mind whether it would unfairly eat into or destroy the livelihood of the owner of the copyright.  Those who have had the benefit of using Fair Use will know that these broad factors for fair use analysis are such that the law in Fair Use can automatically adjust to new, evolving and challenging situations that you will face in your daily work.


  1. Around the world, in countries that have the Fair Use exception, it has been crucial in allowing for the use of library materials (including copying to an appropriate extent only) for research or study, criticism or review, reporting of news, to support teaching and learning,  to publicise library programmes, to create exhibitions, to preserve at risk items, to enabling use for those who are disabled and to making a record of ephemeral but culturally significant matters posted on the internet.


  1. This short piece cannot hope to set out all the details of what the best practices and exemplars are for Fair Use that gets the balance right between your mission and the rights of creators and publishers,  but urges you, as a librarian, to see where you stand in the spectrum of copyright laws that may be available across the world to support your mission.  As it is Fair Use Week,  and if you are one of those that does not have the benefit of Fair Use or actually do have the benefit of such an exception but have not used it,  go find out about it through the lawyer or other experts supporting your library and see how it can be fairly used.  If you then think it is useful, consider how you can advocate for it to be introduced or used as part of your workplan in the not too distant future.


  1. In the meantime,  it is Fair Use week and time to use those research skills to discover and read more about an exceptional exception that is not a fair weathered friend to librarians!


Eric Chin

General Counsel (and would be librarian and archivist)

National Library Board, Singapore


Note:  The views set out here are personal and do not represent the official view of any organisation I am associated with.


How HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) supports Libraries in pandemic times

By Sara R. Benson, Copyright Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Check out Sara’s podcast titled Copyright Chat at

It’s Fair Use/Fair Dealing week and that means it is once again time to let folks know about exciting developments with the HathiTrust Digital Library. Last year on Fair Use Week I highlighted the ability of researchers to engage with copyright protected materials for text and data mining through the HathiTrust Research Data Capsule. This year, I would like to make readers aware of the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service or ETAS.

What is the ETAS? It is a portal allowing affiliated libraries to permit their patrons to access in copyright works remotely. Why is the ETAS available? COVID 19 has caused many libraries, such as my own (the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Library) to temporarily limit physical access to library materials. Almost half of our collection, however, has been digitized and is available in the HathiTrust corpus. Normally, users can only perform searches for how many times a given term appears in copyright protected works in the HathiTrust corpus. However, due to COVID 19, the ETAS allows users to view (but not download) entire copyright protected works remotely. Libraries participating must have the physical book in their collection and agree not to lend out the physical book. Thus, the book is being lent remotely on a one-to-one ratio to the Library’s physical collection on the basis of fair use. This type of lending is made possible because it is non-commercial, educational in purpose and justified due to the emergency nature of the pandemic virus. As noted by April Hathcock in a public statement created by copyright specialists and available at, “fair use is made for just these kinds of contingencies.”

So, as you celebrate Fair Use/Fair Dealing week this year, note that the pandemic has brought with it many challenges, but Fair Use has enabled libraries to keep lending their works digitally so that researchers and the public can continue to create, thrive, and produce . . . even during a crisis.

The 10-Minute International Librarian #40: understand your users’ expectations

Librarianship is all about providing service.

Our institutions are there to help people find the information they need to make decisions, and to take part in economic, social, cultural and civic life.

As a result, we have a strong focus on working to identify and respond to user needs, both in terms of building collections and developing services and wider communities. User needs are of course also key when designing libraries in the first place.

But in addition to needs, it’s also worth thinking about what users expect of the library. This matters, because how libraries match up with users’ anticipations will affect overall experience.

So for our 40th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, understand your users’ expectations.

What do they want from the library in terms of type of service, and how it is delivered. What is it that they want to do in the library, and how can you make this simpler?

Don’t forget that these expectations can be affected by experiences of other services, both public and private. What makes these attractive or easy to use? Can you replicate ideas?

Let us know your about your experiences of responding to user expectations in the comments section below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 2.3 Develop standards, guidelines, and other materials that foster best professional practice.

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 b

Celebrating flexibilities provided by fair-use and fair-dealing

This week is Fair use and Fair dealing week, organised by the Association of Research Libraries! It is a week to celebrate these doctrines implemented in many countries all around the world and the copyright provisions that allow libraries to benefit from flexibility to continue their missions.

Although libraries have similar missions around the world, trying to serve the best interests of users, they operate under very different laws.

As libraries have seen their doors closed and physical services interrupted or adapted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the qualities and flaws of the varying legal provisions of each country concerning access to and use of content have been thrown into relief. The results are concrete: disparities result in significant divisions between the capacities of access to library resources by citizens around the world.

These varied laws reveal areas for improvement which in the midst of a global pandemic are only becoming more glaring.

Why and how have fair-use and fair-dealing been able and continue to support the needs of libraries during the pandemic? 

While many countries are subject to very detailed, prescriptive rules, tied to specific interpretations and technological supports, and even sometimes forgetting the spirit of the initial law, fair use and fair dealing have undoubtedly enabled libraries to obtain greater flexibility, thereby supporting the delivery of their missions.

To determine what is fair use, there are typically several criteria which are explored. These include the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and the effect of the use upon the potential market. These criteria are applied with reference to the objectives of the uses and not by the materiality of the medium on which the contents will be delivered, avoiding limiting library uses to specific formats of works.

Libraries that operate in countries with fair use and fair dealing benefit from an important advantage – the ability to continue their missions online to a greater extent, in order to meet the needs and expectations of users.

This is because fair use and fair dealing offer a more flexible framework, allowing for the taking into account of societal technological evolutions and therefore, consequently, the evolution of library practices. When a copyright law uses the term “analogous” in its legal vocabulary, this provision will, if not already, become obsolete as we move to other forms of media.

Fair use and fair dealing, an international doctrine

When we talk about fair use and fair dealing, it can seem that this is a doctrine whose scope is only applicable to North America. Certainly, opponents of more flexible laws try to claim that they can’t work elsewhere.

However, the reality of copyright implementations is much more complex than this, demonstrating the possibilities and compatibilities of fair use and fair dealing under current global regulations.

For example, other countries such as Israel, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea have fair use provisions.

In 2007, the Israeli government updated its copyright regulations to include a fair use exception. It did this by creating an open-ended list of permitted purposes of use, with fairness being determined using a set of four factors similar to the US criteria for determining whether the use is fair.

In 2012, South Korea decided to add a fair use exception to its copyright regulations. Once again, the four determining factors are included as in the US. The same applies to Malaysia (2012) and Singapore (2004).

As far as fair dealing is concerned, in addition to the countries traditionally identified as fair dealing countries such as Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, there are many other countries that still use these principles today. A list of 40 countries using fair dealing provisions has been compiled, including India, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Barbados, Canada, Cyprus, Gambia, Namibia, Nigeria, Saint Lucia, Guyana, Jamaica, Vanuatu, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.

The fact that legal provisions on fair-dealing are implemented on all continents, in industrialized countries and countries in transition, is of considerable importance in demonstrating that there is no reason to limit these doctrines geographically. Moreover, given how long-established they are, without challenge, they are arguably also compatible with trade agreements and international copyright law.

We look forward to sharing further posts this week both about the benefits of fair use and fair dealing, and the practical implications for libraries.


Digital Social Justice: A Natural Library Mission

The theme of this year’s World Social Justice Day is ‘A Call for Social Justice in the Digital World’.

The focus is timely – the last decades have seen digital technologies play a more and more central role in the economy, shaping the way we work, and the type of work we do.

As the United Nations’ own note for this year’s commemoration underlines, this has brought new opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship which, previously, would not have been imaginable. It highlights that those who are left offline therefore risk enjoying fewer opportunities, while others move further ahead.

However, there are also concerns, notably around platform-based business models and their impacts, both on competitors and their own employees or contractors. Within the workplace, tracking of employee activity raises the prospect of greater surveillance and reduced wellbeing.

These too risk driving inequalities between companies and between individuals by giving some greater opportunities than others.

As such, the UN makes a case for efforts to define responses and actions, firstly to tackle the imbalance between those who are off- and online, but also to address challenges that give more possibilities in the digital world to some than to others.

But what then about libraries?

As this blog will argue, efforts to build digital social justice today can take inspiration from the long-standing work of libraries to promote information social justice (a term explored in the next section). Furthermore, our institutions are well placed not only to contribute to practical efforts in the field, and to support further reflection.


Information Social Justice

While it may not often be talked about in these terms, the work of libraries to provide universal access to information is could be described as promoting information social justice.

This work is about giving everyone the opportunity to access the information they need to fulfil their potential, either through collections within a library, or through document supply.

It is also about giving everyone the possibility to use information effectively, through the application of copyright exceptions that would otherwise put many works out of reach, and through the provision of skills and support.

Yet it is not just a question of opening the doors to all, but also taking proactive efforts. Public libraries in particular have a mission, as set out in the UNESCO-IFLA Public Library Manifesto, to make particular efforts to ensure that everyone benefits.

This work supports employment and entrepreneurship for all, as set out in our research piece for this day two years ago, alongside a wide variety of other economic, social, cultural and civic goals.

Digital Social Justice Implementors

Increasingly, the work of libraries to promote information social justice takes place through digital means of course.

Connecting libraries to the internet and opening access to users has allowed our institutions to provide access to a greater volume of information. At the same time, it has also required further work to help users improve their ability to navigate through what is there.

This can stretch from helping people to look for work online and prepare digital CVs, to holding coding classes that can open the way to new jobs. The need for more advanced information literacy, in particular to understand how information is created, shared and presented, is clear.

Crucially, these services are provided in a way that looks to respect the principle of universality, with efforts to ensure that no-one should face unjustifiable barriers to accessing and using digital tools to improve their own lives.

The role of libraries in delivering on effective connectivity and digital skills strategies has already been recognised by many governments. Nonetheless, this is not to say that the situation is perfect everywhere. There is always space to share ideas, innovate and improve practice in order to reach further.

Joining the Debate

In addition to their own efforts, a key determinant of libraries’ ability to contribute to digital social justice will be the choices made by governments themselves.

The experiences – and values – of libraires can have much to contribute in discussions around how the internet should operate in order to promote the ability of everyone to participate actively in economic, social, cultural and civic life.

IFLA has engaged on these questions for a number of years, with statements on privacy, net neutrality, the right to be forgotten, digital literacy, internet shutdowns and beyond. In each case, there has been an emphasis on how to ensure that restrictions on universal access to information are minimised, protecting the capacity of all people to draw on information without unjustified restrictions.

In each case, poor decisions can leave those with fewer resources exposed to greater exploitation of their personal data, a narrower range of materials available (at reasonable speeds), and less ability to exploit the opportunities the internet presents.

Libraries also bring in extensive experience of acting as ‘platforms’, providing access to works by others in an equitable fashion. To do this, they must negotiate questions around balancing human rights, respecting the law, and accountability.

In doing so, they rely on professional judgement and ethics that could contribute much to discussions today around the role of platforms.


With digital technology advancing rapidly, the combination of measures needed to ensure digital social justice – from personal connectivity and skills to wider regulation – are evolving, even if the goals of social justice are lasting. This in turn requires a process of ongoing learning and action not only amongst governments, but also among all relevant stakeholders.

In this process, libraries have much to offer, both in delivering on fundamentals such as internet access and providing a platform for skills development, and in contributing experience and expertise to wider discussions.

(Pre)Conditions for Success: What Governments Need to Do to Fulfil Libraries’ Potential

Much library advocacy at the moment is focused on how libraries can contribute to the response to, and recovery from, the COVID-19 pandemic.

In previous blogs here, and from libraries and library organisations around the world, there has been a focus on what our institutions can do to build back better – through wider and more meaningful access to information, stronger connectivity, better competences, more rapid innovation, and making the most of culture and heritage.

We promote the importance of school and public libraries in building foundational literacy skills from a young age. Of public and community libraries in promoting inclusion, offering internet access and training, and providing a portal to new opportunities for those at risk of being left out or left behind. Of academic and research libraries in supporting more open science and scholarship, and helping the researchers of tomorrow. Of national and heritage libraries in ensuring that documentary heritage can both inform decision-making today and build identity and community cohesion.

In short, the library vision of the future is of more literate and better informed people, and fairer, more inclusive and more engaged societies.

As before, our staff, services and spaces will be at the heart of this.

Yet these are things that cannot be taken for granted. While libraries and library staff – with the support of organisations like IFLA and other library associations – work to deliver the best possible support in the circumstances, they also rely on the actions of governments and other decision-makers – policies, laws and funding – to fulfil their potential.

This blog sets out five ways in which governments and other decision-makers can support libraries:

1. Ensure that librarians working in frontline roles should benefit from the same vaccine priority as other frontline workers: there is a clear value in ensuring that if libraries are to re-open to provide in-person services, staff should be able to benefit from the protection that vaccination can offer. Of course, this also is a plus for users, who will be able to make use of better staffed institutions, although precautions seem likely to remain necessary until a much larger share of the population is vaccinated.

2. Ensure that libraries benefit from adequate internet connections and hardware: the pandemic has made clear the importance of connectivity in enabling at least some elements of life to continue despite lockdowns, accelerating an existing trend towards digital tools and services. With the need for continued care to limit infections, the ability of libraries to make full use of the internet will remain important for some time to come. Stronger connectivity also opens up possibilities for extending internet access out into communities, for example through TV Whitespace technologies or community networks, allowing users to make more use of library content and beyond, helping to combat digital exclusion.

3. Ensure that libraries are involved in planning: as governments and other decision-makers look to define plans for ongoing response and future recovery, we cannot take for granted that they will understand the specific nature of libraries and the services they offer. Outdated perceptions of our institutions can make things worse, often ignoring the rich programmes of activities and support offered by libraries of all types in the pursuit of their missions. The best solution to this is to make the case to be part of committees or groups which are planning ahead. This can help not just ensure that the rules applying to libraries are relevant, but also open up possibilities to engage in wider programmes and projects.

4. Ensure that libraries are funded and staffed to offer support: while the need for adequate funding to support the work of libraries is nothing new, it is likely to be necessary to make the case as strongly as ever now. This is both because of the pressure on funding that is likely to result from the economic consequences of the pandemic, but also because providing services in a pandemic may simply be more expensive. For example, digital resources can cost a multiple of the price of their physical equivalents, while implementing services under restrictions can prove more staff-intensive. In such situations, innovation and efficiencies alone are unlikely to be enough if a good level of service is to be maintained.

5. Ensure that libraries benefit from flexibilities to carry out their missions: connected to the question of resources is that of what libraries can do with them. It is essential that the public or institutional funding that goes into libraries is not made less effective because of laws and regulation. A key example is around copyright, which determines what uses libraries – and their patrons – can make of works they have acquired or accessed. But other restrictions may also limit what libraries can do, for example by preventing the extension of library card privileges to refugees or others in the community, or by preventing the formation of partnerships.

The subject of how libraries can realise their potential in the context of the response to, and recovery from, COVID-19 will be at the heart of a series of side-events organised at UN regional sustainable development fora in the coming months – watch our website for more, and share your own ideas below!

Multilingual Libraries: Approaching Language as Identity and Inclusion

Multilingual learning, including mother tongue instruction, is a vital element of equitable access to education and opportunity (see UNESCO Languages in Education). The IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto encourages “linguistic diversity and respect for the mother tongue” as part of the mission of multicultural library services.

But are we truly fostering inclusive, multilingual environments through our practices?

For this year’s International Mother Language Day (21 February) on the theme: “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society”, we encourage readers to take a careful look at their library’s collections and services through the lens of language as identity and language as inclusion.

Beyond Utility: Language as Identity

Language is more than a way to share ideas, thoughts, and knowledge (although these are important aspects). It is the culmination of a shared past – an indicator of community and a means of experiencing cultural identity.

In a globalised world, this results in a balancing act between the values of a lingua franca and of preserving the nuances of localised, Indigenous, dialectal, and otherwise marginalised languages. While there is great utility in having a shared language for cultural exchange, knowledge transfer, and international relations, language is about more than just utility.

Preserving a language means preserving and passing on the cultural memory of those who speak it. Losing a language is a loss to cultural identity, and therefore preserving language is a necessary element of cultural preservation.

This theme was explored in depth through the case of Indigenous languages during 2019’s International Year of Indigenous Languages. For more, take a look back at our series on how libraries preserve and promote Indigenous languages, which examines the impact libraries can have for endangered Indigenous languages.

Accessing mother tongue languages

Beyond endangered languages, global migration caused by lack of economic opportunity, climate change, conflict, and other factors leads to groups finding they must speak a language other than their mother tongue to navigate daily life. IFLA’s Library Map of the World collects multiple cases of libraries helping migrant and refugee communities acquire necessary language skills to adapt and integrate into their new homes. See SDG stories from Germany and Canada for some examples.

However, as highlighted above, language is about more than utility. Having the ability to access one’s mother tongue can greatly impact one’s experience of identity. This requires language support to go beyond helping users acquire necessary new language skills; it should also enable people to use their own language.

In their paper presented at the World Library and Information Congress 2019, Keira Dignan, Hannah-Lily Lanyon and Rebecca Wolfe of ECHO for Refugees shared their experience providing mobile library services to refugee camps and marginalised communities in and around the Athens area. Click here to read the paper in full.

While providing support for learning English and Greek, the authors expressed the importance of also offering users access to resources in their mother tongue.  They stress that this is vital for providing “a piece of home, for community building, and for survival” and well as for ensuring children who may have missed formative school years gain language ability in the native tongue.

To treat language truly as identity, rather than as utility, consider which groups in your community of users could benefit the most from accessing mother tongue resources.

A Benefit for all Learners

Fostering an environment where all languages are valued and valid has a benefit for all learners – those that are bi- or multilingual as well as those that are not.

The pedagogical strategy known as translanguaging encourages educators to refrain from placing value on one language over others – especially in multicultural and multilingual learning environments. It refers to the way multilingual speakers blend languages and allow their mother tongue to inform the way they learn new languages and express themselves.

In practice, this means that everyone in a learning environment is empowered to express themselves in whatever language – or blend of languages – they feel comfortable. It can also mean that all participants strive to incorporate words from other languages into their daily use and are made welcome to share aspects of their native language with others.

The EAL Journal describes this process as being concerned with communication rather than with only learning the utility of the language.  To do this effectively, it requires everyone in the learning environment to become co-learners – growing multilingual respect organically.

Librarians, especially those working with multicultural communities, may be interested in exploring this approach in their practice. For more of an introduction to this concept, refer to this article from the EAL Journal: What is Translanguaging?

Language and Power

In all the previous examples, it is critical to examine the power structure behind multicultural environments that is expressed through the languages we speak. Language has social implications that intersect with systemic inequalities relating to class, national origin, race, and privilege.

In their article, the team from ECHO for Refugees stress that practicing multiculturalism leads to examining inequalities on the global and local scale, especially in terms of power and access. They report experiences working with refugees who themselves place a higher value on English language than their mother tongue, as English is perceived to have higher marketability.

This topic is explored in depth in the article Multilingualism, Neoliberalism, and Language Ideologies in Libraries from the online journal In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Author Ean Henninger explores the intersection of power and value dynamics with the languages of available library collections and services. The following passage is especially interesting:

In supporting specific languages and giving them power, libraries set conditions for who can engage with the library: who can access resources, who feels included, and who sees themselves in collections and services… If a library treats a given language only as an object of study, something that resides in individual books, or something that must be supplied to meet demand, not as something that is intertwined with culture, race, gender, and access to power, then the picture is incomplete. (Source)

The article advises against the commodification of library users and information services. This can be expressed in such seemingly innocuous ways as policies determining which resources are eligible for collection and a focus on customer service which avoids examining social responsibility.

It is vital to consider multicultural and multilingual library services not only through their potential benefit for users, but also as actions taken in direct response to, and under the influence of, inequalities in power and access.

Although individual action cannot solve large-scale, systemic inequalities, acknowledgement of these structures and creating inclusive space to address them is a step in the right direction.

Taking Action Towards Inclusion

How can libraries truly address the language needs of their communities? Perhaps start by examining the current multilingual resources and programmes you have available. Here is a short checklist that may be helpful to get you started:

  • Do your resources and programmes accurately reflect the language needs of your community? How do you know for sure?
  • Have you made assumptions on the language(s) your users speak? Could some communities not feel comfortable or empowered enough to make their needs known?
  • Have you approached multilingual collecting and services in a participatory manner? Could there be more avenues for user input?
  • Do users feel empowered to speak in their mother tongue (or other languages) in your spaces and during your programmes? Could you increase their comfort through practices, such as multilingual signage?
  • Have you considered the different dialects or variations used by local communities in collection development?
  • Is providing language support or translation an extra task for employees who are multilingual? Are they compensated for this additional labour?

This is only a start – we are interested to hear how you provide multilingual services that meet the needs of your community! Share feedback in the comments below.