Monthly Archives: November 2022

Reports from the Eurasian Academic Libraries Conference 2022 (Astana, Kazakhstan)

Recently, I was honored to deliver one of three keynote addresses at Nazarbayev University’s 11th Eurasian Academic Libraries Conference (EALC) in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The conference theme was Open Access to Knowledge and Libraries: Achievements and Trends. Often in my work with IFLA I’m engaged with developing copyright policy, focusing on where things are going wrong and how they could be improved. Hearing speakers from around Central Asia enthusiastically and the world discuss OA, repository development, and other related ongoing projects, it felt like I had entered a space where OA and related policies were the norm and traditional publishing modes were the alternative. It clearly showed the vitality and utility of OA.

Many Central Asian universities represented at the conference were founded or expanded relatively recently – including conference host Nazerbyaev University, which was established 2010.  Open policies enable students and researchers to tap directly into the global, scholarly conversation in places that haven’t necessarily had decades to develop print collections, and journal subscriptions can be expensive and otherwise challenging to obtain. Access to current, up-to-date material enables everyone join and contribute to the global scholarly conversation.

There was a carefully chosen flow to the speakers, who were drawn from throughout the region and world. The conference featured simultaneous translation between Kazakh, Russian, and English – the three languages of Kazakhstan. The keynote addresses moved from my general discussion of the history of copyright. Broadly speaking, copyright law has always had a public interest goal in the diffusion of knowledge, and in the 20th and 21st centuries a lot of countries adopted or expanded rightsholder interests without paying adequate attention to the vital ‘limitations and exceptions’ that enable user access. In addition to my policy and advocacy role (email me at!), IFLA offers a variety of resources, including our recently-published, 576-page guide to copyright for libraries and statement in support of Open Access.

After my talk, the second keynote Paola Corti (SPARC Europe) discussed Open Access Policy and the third, Ray Uzwyshyn (Mississippi State University), discussed technical aspects of repository implementation. Ray is a standing committee member of IFLA’s Information Technology (IT) Section and editor of its Trends and Issues in Library Technology (TILT) bulletin (see recent issues from June and January 2022). Without meaning to leave out other conference speakers’ many contributions, I was particularly interested in hearing Zhyldyz Bekbalaeva (American University of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan) speak on the specifics of development of ‘open’ initiatives at her university library, and Celia Emmelhainz (the Smithsonian’s US National Anthropological Archives, and formerly of Nazerbayev University Library) talk on critical considerations in deciding which of their collections they should make widely available.

The conference marked my first visit to central Asia. Reading the city through my own anthropological background, I saw the (often material) construction of ideas about 21st-century nationhood in development, reaching back to a vision of the past. While the southern city of Almaty is Kazakhstan’s ‘old capitol’, Astana (which changed its name from Nur-Sultan in September) as it is today largely developed since the country’s first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, moved the capitol there in 1997. Around 750,000 people were expected to call it home, while today 1.3 million people live there. Astana seems like a capitol city like many others, where people move for opportunity amid the attendant pressures of urban life. It is also the world’s second-coldest capital (after Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia), and marked by a sense of seeming full of people, vibrant and somewhat empty all at once.

The globally-recognized architects who designed Astana built a city in part futuristic, in part steeped in global art and culture signifiers – including an Italian-inspired opera house, where I was lucky enough to see a production of La Traviata with production design featuring a giant mirror that reflected the entirety of otherwise-obscured parts of the stage. Housing and business developments have names of global cities such as Budapest and sprawl over the ever-expanding edges of the city. Some buildings are all sleek glass. One displayed Blade Runner-style projections on the side. Distinct landmarks incorporate central Asian motifs and include the tent-like Khan Shatyr shopping center and Bayterek Tower, with a gold ball on top designed to evoke the nest of the mythic samruk bird.

This mix of the futuristic and historically-evocative elements extended to conferences. My hotel was coincidentally hosting a med-tech conference, complete with an astronaut-suited industry rep walking as if in zero gravity and a 9-am chamber quartet. I was likewise very excited to try regionally-characteristic foods, including besbarmaq and smoky horse yogurt.

Thanks for a wonderful conference – and I (and IFLA) plan to continue work with Central Asia’s libraries.

Count Libraries In! Transcript of the COP27 Presentation by Dr. Heba Mohamed Ismail (IFLA Regional Division Committee for MENA)

Between 6-18 November, roughly 35,000 people are coming together in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, for the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference (COP27). IFLA sent a delegation to take part in the first week of the conference which included Dr Marwa El Sahn and Dr Heba Mohamed Ismail, both members of IFLA’s Regional Division for the Middle East and North Africa Committee, as well as Claire McGuire, IFLA Policy and Research Officer. They joined colleagues from the Climate Heritage Network in bringing the voices of culture, heritage, and the arts to COP27.

Below is the transcript of the presentation given by Heba Mohamed Ismail during two events focussing on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), or the critical role that enabling all members of society to engage in climate action plays in facing the climate crisis. Heba’s presentation shed light on how libraries in Egypt are already carrying out work that touches on all six elements of ACE: climate change education and public awareness, training, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation on these issues.

Count Libraries In!

Dr. Heba Mohamed Ismail

IFLA MENA RDC member, IFLA CPDWL SC member, Vice President of Arab Federation for Libraries and Information, Libraries Technical Manager, Egypt’s Society for Culture and Development (ESCD)

Over the past years, libraries across the world have paused to reflect and recommit to a better climate future.

Libraries are institutions in which to turn this commitment into action, as public spaces, as well as champions for access to information and lifelong learning, libraries are well placed within their communities to be hubs and to have a role in Action for climate empowerment.

In this presentation, I will explore examples of what public libraries in Egypt are already doing, and how they have supported the six elements of Action for climate empowerment through their activities

1. Education

Children participate in workshop


Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in cooperation with Senghor University target francophone students and those who are studying French as a second language. Focusing on arts and games, two workshops were conducting and are tailored to increase the students’ environmental awareness; the understanding of changes in the climate; its impact on the quality of life in general, and our role as active members of society towards environmental issues.

2. Public awareness

These programmes feature activities and events dedicated to raise public awareness and inspiring action

Egypt’s Society for Culture and Development (ESCD) in cooperation with the Greater Cairo Water Company (GCWC)
ESCD is non-profit organization that supervise children and Public libraries in 4 governorates in Egypt

  • Organizing awareness programs
  • Educating young people about environmental issues (optimal use of drinking water and reducing its surplus)
  • Organizing regular workshops

Egypt’s Society for Culture and Development (ESCD) in cooperation with the Holding Company for Water and Wastewater

  • Organize a series of workshops
  • Offer visual shows, educational competitions through games and a puppet theater

Bibliotheca Alexandria in cooperation with Greater Cairo Public Library; the Climate Specific Federation, the Federation of Civil Associations and Institutions for Climate, the Egyptian Library Association host a World Environment Day Seminar.

The seminar tackles climate changes, their impact on agriculture and livestock production, and the means to address them. It also discusses the methods of rationalizing water consumption, and examines the role of artificial intelligence and civil society organizations in addressing climate changes, with the aim of achieving the goals of sustainable development and Egypt’s vision 2030.

Misr Public Library System (MPL) in cooperation with the Faculty of Early Childhood Education, Cairo University, which is concerned with educating ordinary children and people with special needs, launched an initiative entitled “Towards a promising environmentally friendly childhood.” The initiative includes several activities and events:

  1. workshops conducted by teachers with ordinary children and people with special needs on origami, paper crafts and recycling.
  2. The second event: held in cooperation with Rotary Egypt, they carry out agricultural activities.
  3. The third event: includes a variety of activities that the teachers carry out with the children, such as the puppet theater and Montessori activities on rationalizing the consumption of energy, water and electricity, preserving the environment from pollution, and making signs and posters that encourage concern for the environment.

3. Training

Different training were provided to librarians and to students on environmental issues and activities.

4. Public participation

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina witnessed the launching of the volunteer program of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), Dr. Nevine El-Kabbaj, Minister of Social Solidarity, addressed the volunteers via video conference during their gathering at the Library. and discussed the Ministry’s efforts in preparing around 1300 volunteers to organize the Climate Change Conference.

Let’s be green: Maadi Public Library

One of ESCD’s libraries- in Cooperation with the U.S Embassy in Cairo conducted environmental activities within the framework of projects for ages from 14 to 18 years, where each team works on a project that represents one of the environmental issues, including:
Air pollution and climate change; deforestation; ozone layer depletion; water pollution; radioactive contamination and trying to find solutions for these activities.

“Alexandria Climathon for Youth” at the BA

The BA Sustainable Development Studies, Youth Capacity Building, and African Relations Support Program organized “Alexandria Climathon for Youth” competition. “Climathon” is an international competition held in several countries around the world through EIT Climate-KIC, which aims at raising the awareness of urban residents about climate changes. The competition is an opportunity for young people to participate in developing ideas that address local climate challenges. The activities of “Climathon” are held internationally on the same date in hundreds of cities, and are supported by local organizers.
This year’s competition was held in several cities across Egypt, as part of the preparations for the United Nations (COP27). Competitors should make suggestions and propose creative solutions that can help alleviate the consequences of climate change in Alexandria.

5. Access to information:

Establishing green corners in public libraries in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment helps transform the library’s space into a greener and more accessible place for children and encourage students to participate in activities, which grow knowledge of social responsibility and Promote public access to information on climate change and its effects.

6. International cooperation

Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in cooperation with Senghor University organized an interactive conference (via Zoom) entitled “Yes to Green: Your Right to a Sustainable Future”.

The conference addressed the role of formal and non-formal education in promoting literacy on climate change, as well as the theme of green libraries as a new trend in the world of libraries and information. It will also tackle the projects that have been classified by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) as green projects set up in African libraries in Senegal and Kenya.

Additionally, the conference highlighted some of the environmental disasters facing the African continent, together with the role of NGOs and universities in promoting awareness of environmental sustainability. It examined a number of proposed green solutions to address environmental change.

Finally, as climate change is a human-caused problem, human-centred solutions will be key to its successful mitigation. Empowering our communities to develop, participate in, learn about, and embrace these solutions is a powerful way for libraries to enable and drive change.

So count Culture in, Count libraries in, and ACT NOW!