Tag Archives: academic libraries

World Education Support Day: an opportunity for school librarians

Four years ago, Education International, the world’s leading international education trade union organisation, launched its Declaration on Education Support Personnel (ESP), defined as covering a wide range of professional, administrative, technical, and general staff working within the education sector such as teaching assistants, school nurses and psychologists, bursars, bus drivers, and, of course librarians. 

The day of the signing of the Declaration, 16 May, was set by the organisation as World Education Support Personnel Day, and since then, each 16 May has brought events and publications highlighting the specific needs of ESP.

With many ESP being members of wider education unions, this was a logical step, but also a reminder of the need to remember that effective education and teaching depends on a wide range of people.

IFLA and libraries have of course long underlined how essential library services are for education throughout life, with both the Public Library Manifesto and School Library Manifesto stressing our institutions’ and profession’s ability to contribute to learning.

Yet is is also true that school libraries in particular face real challenges in the face of cuts to education spending (see stories from the US about ‘disappearing’ school librarians), while university librarians can face challenges in asserting their status vis-à-vis other departments (see, most recently, stories from Texas A&M).

There is a pressing need to ensure that libraries are seen as having a central – rather than a peripheral or optional – role in education. We need it to be clear that libraries are not disposable – a nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have – and indeed are key to delivering the new vision of education set out in UNESCO’s Futures of Education report.

As part of these efforts, Education International’s Declaration on ESP is a powerful support for advocacy. This blog sets out three key arguments which libraries and library associations can then draw on in advocacy:

Librarians and other ESP are central to education:  As already indicated above, the Declaration offers strong support for a vision of schools and wider learning environments that recognises how essential ESP are. They help ensure that learning environments are positive and safe, delivering on the right to education, and indeed contribute significantly to building the ‘whole student’, with the full range of skills needed to succeed.

Crucially, this means, as article 5 indicates, that ‘ESP are a part of a team of education employees that contribute to student learning. They deserve to be valued and respected for their contribution to quality education’. Importantly, and reflecting a wider Education International priority, the Declaration also comes out strongly against out-sourcing.

Librarians and other ESP must be given equal treatment and be involved in decision-making: the follow on from this point is that given their role in supporting learning, ESP should be fully engaged in the way in which schools and other institutions are run. Logically, this includes the way in which knowledge and skills are shared and developed.

Furthermore, the landing page for Education International’s work in this area underlines that for similar levels of qualification and experience, librarians and other ESP should enjoy the same rights and status as formal teaching personnel. This would certainly be welcome, underlining that librarians and others must not be treated as second-class.

Librarians and other ESP deserve decent working conditions: again following on from the above, the Declaration underlines that there is specific need to work to give ESP – and so librarians – quality employment. This is not just about salaries, but also about employment perspectives, and a freedom from threats of harassment or other insecurity.

This is indeed the focus of this year’s World Education Support Personnel Day, which stresses deteriorating conditions for many in the field, and indeed loss of status or job security.


The Declaration is therefore a useful reference for libraries and library associations around the world working to protect the status of librarians based within education institutions, both in mobilising the support of wider education unions, and in engaging directly with governments.

Take a look at the Education International website for additional insights, information and research that can help you in your advocacy.

Lessons from the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Global Innovation Index 2020

Last week the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) released the 13th edition of its Global Innovation Index (GII). This looks to bring together different indicators that can help governments and others understand how different countries are doing in promoting innovation, which is taken to be a key source of growth and progress towards wider development goals.

The index takes a wide perspective on innovation – not just specific activities such as patenting, but also evaluations of the innovation environment (institutions governing innovation, human capital, infrastructures, sources of finance and opportunities to sell innovative products, and businesses’ own behaviour), and a wider range of measures of outputs and their dissemination and use, including online.

The report as a whole – and the measures that underpin it – are worth exploring for anyone interested in how something as broad as innovation can be defined and measured. This is particularly true for the library field, given the role of our institutions in supporting and promoting basic research in particular, through their work with faculty in universities and other research centres.

It is also, clearly, a crucial moment to think about the way that innovation is encouraged and managed, given the impacts of COVID-19 on economies. The report includes various perspectives on funding, as well as insightful commentary on what the pandemic may mean more broadly.

This blog, as a starter, identifies five key points made in the GII 2020, which may be of particular relevance.


Spending on research and development is likely to fall – we will need to ensure what money is there is spent effectively: the most prominent graph in the report highlights that the first three months of 2019 have already seen a drop in spending on research and innovation, likely as companies became aware of the potential costs of the pandemic. Governments too are likely to look to reduce spending also in the coming months – and indeed, the latest proposal for the European Union’s Multi-year Financial Framework already (mistakenly, in the view of libraries) plans to do this.

Clearly, any decision to cut spending on innovation cannot be taken lightly. But where this is the case, it will be necessary to think hard about how to maximise efficiency. A clear way of doing this is through promoting openness in science, which has the potential to make research both faster and fairer. A wider analysis of the way research is shared can also help identify where money is being removed from the system unnecessarily, reducing that actually spent on creating and applying new ideas.


There is a positive trend towards international cooperation between researchers which should be encouraged: the report notes that despite the many stories of countries failing to coordinate around border controls or purchases of vaccines, the scientific community has proven itself readier to work across borders in order to share ideas, data and results. It underlines how much of a positive this is, echoing existing findings by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that cross-border collaborations tend to lead to higher impact research.

Support for research cooperation is a key focus for many academic libraries. Clearly encouraging openness (not only of publications, but also of science in general) will help with this by reducing (or removing) copyright-related barriers to collaboration. So too will progress towards an international legal instrument on copyright limitations and exceptions at the World Intellectual Property Organization. Yet libraries are also, through work around linked data and developing and updating standards, facilitating the sharing and use of information across borders to advance innovation.


Steps to remove red-tape have been welcome and can continue to contribute to supporting innovation: another positive underlined by the report is the effort made by many governments to simplify processes around innovation. These have focused in particular on financing, as well as on some rules around testing. Clearly it will be important in the longer term to assess which of these changes should be made permanent – rules are usually there for a reason – but this will allow for a re-evaluation.

Once again, the value of simplifying rules and processes around innovation will be positive for libraries. For example, in discussions around the copyright rules that should apply to text and data mining, it is clear that research is facilitated when there is no need to seek additional permissions, or buy additional licences in order to carry out mining – the right to read should be the right to mine. Similarly, the complexity that libraries face in giving access to digital resources, each subject to their own set of contract terms, could be easily removed by simply underlining that such terms should not be enforceable when they override copyright limitations and exceptions.


Countries with more flexible copyright regimes tend to top the tables for their regions: Once again, it is countries with flexible rules around copyright – namely fair use or fair dealing – which top the tables in five out of the seven regions highlighted by WIPO. The United States in North America, India in Southern and Central Asia, Singapore in South-East and Eastern Asia and Oceania, Israel in North Africa and Western Asia, and South Africa in Sub-Saharan Africa all have such rules.

The only exceptions are in Europe (Switzerland) and Latin America and the Caribbean (Chile). Nonetheless, both have recently updated their copyright laws to favour access to information in support of innovation. This provides a helpful argument in favour of greater flexibility as a means of supporting more innovation.


Innovation will be essential for the recovery from COVID-19: an overall point – and one that could be expected from a report with this title – is that innovation is likely to be essential for any future recovery from COVID-19. This was already the case before of course, with limits on the world’s resources meaning that ‘doing better’ has to replace ‘doing more’ as a driver of growth. Faced with COVID-19, we need to innovate both in order to find ways of carrying on with lives and services, and to create new opportunities for work and earning.

As a key part of the innovation infrastructure of any country – in particular the basic research that makes major breakthroughs possible – libraries will certainly be able to agree with the importance of a focus on encouraging the development and spread of new ideas. It is only to be hoped that governments, when taking decisions about the future, will do the same.

Library Stat of the Week #31: Where there is more librarian support, the share of women completing degrees compared to men is higher

In last week’s Library Stat of the Week,  we looked at the relationship between the number of librarians per student and per researcher, and rates of completion of studies and publication per researcher respectively.

This week, we dig a little deeper into the first of these two questions by using gender dis-aggregated data for completion rates from the OECD.

In effect, this allows us to understand whether greater levels of academic or research librarian support for students (calculated by the number of students each librarian serves) can be associated with a more or less favourable gender gap for women.

Graphs 1, 2 and 3 do this for students at bachelor’s, masters and doctoral levels respectively. In each graph, each dot represents a country for which data is available.

On the horizonal (X) axis, there is the number of students per librarian. Countries which are more to the left have fewer students per librarian (a proxy for better librarian support), while those on the right have more students (and so less librarian support).

On the vertical (Y) axis, there is the result of subtracting the completion rate for women from the completion rate for men. A figure above zero indicates that a greater share of men complete their studies than women, while a figure below zero suggests that more women finish than men.

Graph 1: Bachelors Degree Completion Gap


Graph 2: Masters Degree Completion Gap

Graph 3: Doctoral Degree Completion GapAcross the three graphs – and so at all levels of study – it appears that where there is greater level of support from librarians (i.e. each librarian has fewer students to support), the gender gap is more favourable to women.

In terms of the strength of the relationship, it is relatively similar across the levels, with the closest correlation seen at doctoral level (which may make sense, given the intensity of research required for this).

Outside of library support, it is noticeable that while the gender gap tends to favour women at bachelors and masters level, more men tend to complete their doctorates than women.

As part of any gender equality strategy, efforts to ensure that more women get the qualifications needed to get into the highest skilled jobs are likely to play a key role. At the doctoral level, there is clearly work to be done. It could be worth looking further at the role that stronger libraries services can play in ensuring that women get the support needed to complete their studies at this level.


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.

Library Stat of the Week #30: Countries with more librarians per student tend to have higher completion rates

In last week’s Library Stat of the Week, we explored in more depth the relationship between numbers of students and researchers as a share of the population, and numbers of academic and research librarians available to support them.

This helped to highlight the variation that exists between countries, and in particular which ones manage to combine a strong student or research sector with adequate librarian support.

Having figures for the number of students and researchers allows us to look at potential relationships between the level of library support they receive (calculated in terms of the number of students or researchers an individual academic or research librarian serves) and outcomes.

Therefore, in this week’s Library Stat of the Week, we will be using, for the first time, OECD data on tertiary education completion rates (as a measure of whether students receive the support necessary to finish their courses), and publishing and patenting data, as used in previous editions.

Graph 1: Academic/Research Library Workers per Student and Student Completion Rates

Graph 1 looks at completion rates (from OECD data, for students at all levels) and compares these with previously calculated figures about the number of students each librarian serves on average.

It finds a small, negative correlation between the two – in other words, the more students an academic/research librarian needs to serve, the lower the likelihood of the student completing their studies.

Clearly, other factors also play out – the OECD itself notes that where courses are shorter, completion rates are higher, and of course student financing also plays a role.

Nonetheless, while of course this sort of analysis cannot show causation, it does indicate that where students have greater access to librarians, they are more likely to complete their courses.


Turning to research, our previous posts looking at the relationship between libraries and innovation were based on numbers of academic/research library workers in the population as a whole.

This, while showing that more librarians tended to mean more publications and more patents, had the weakness of neglecting indicators of the strength of the research field as a whole.

To remedy this, we can now use figures from the last two weeks which calculate the number of researchers each academic/research library worker has to serve, giving a much better idea of whether more (or less) library support for research correlates with outcomes in terms of publications and patents.

Graph 2: Academic/Research Library Workers per Researcher and Publications per Researcher

Graph 2 does this for publications, looking at whether researchers with more academic library support tend to publish more. To do this, we created a measure of number of publications per researcher by dividing figures for numbers of publications (World Bank) by those for the number of researchers (OECD).

The graph does indeed show this – when each academic/research library worker has fewer researchers to serve, the researchers tend to publish more articles each.

Graph 3: Academic/Research Library Workers per Researcher and Patents per Researcher

Graph 3 performs the same exercise for patents, using a figure for patents per researcher calculated again using World Bank and OECD data.

As with publications, this again shows a correlation, with countries where each academic or research library worker needs to serve fewer researchers each, on average, having higher rates of patenting per researcher.


As ever, correlation is not causation, although the analysis here does allow us to focus more precisely on the relationship between the strength of the academic and research library field and innovation performance per country.

While further research would be needed in order to demonstrate direct causality, these figures do allow us to say that those countries which provide stronger library support to students and researchers (as measured by numbers of students or researchers per academic and research library worker) tend to have higher student completion rates, and higher rates of publishing and patenting per researcher.


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.


Library Stat of the Week #29: Mexico, Slovakia and Lithuania have high numbers of academic librarians both per student and per researcher

Last week’s Library Stat of the Week looked at how many researchers and students each academic or research library worker had to serve.

A point mentioned in the conclusions was the fact that from one country to the next (and indeed, from one institution to the next), there may be more focus on teaching students or on carrying out research.

Similarly the work of libraries can vary, for example, from helping undergraduates develop information literacy skills, to helping post-graduates manage datasets and find effective venues for publication.

We can get a little more insight into this question by comparing the numbers of students and researchers per academic or research librarian – effectively the figures from Graphs 2a and 2b of last week’s post.

The results of this are shown in Graph 1.

Graph 1: Students and Researchers per Academic/Research Librarian

This gives a degree of insight into the different communities that libraries are serving. Using the global average (World) as a reference point, we can assess in which countries academic library workers serve more (or less) students or researchers than average.

Those countries in the bottom left part of the graph are where there are relatively low numbers of students and of researchers per librarian. Therefore, in Slovakia, Mexico and Costa Rica, it is possible to see that students and researchers are relatively well served.

In the top left box, we see countries where there are a relatively low number of students per librarian (implying more possibility to provide services), but a higher number of researchers per librarian. In the bottom right, it is the inverse, with few researchers, but more students per librarian.

Finally, in the top right box, we have those countries where the average librarian has to support an above-average number of students or researchers.

Another point highlighted in last week’s blog was the fact that to some extent, the number of librarians per researcher or student is of course influenced by the number of researchers or students overall in the population.

Graphs 2 and 3 explore this further by comparing numbers of students and researchers per academic library worker with the number of students and researchers per 100 people.

Graph 2: Students per 100K, and per Academic/Research Library Worker

Graph 2 starts by looking at the situation for students, and once again uses the world averages (across available data) as a reference point.

Countries in the bottom right hand box combine both a high number of students and a high number of librarians per student (or low number of students per librarian). We can conclude, then, that students in Mexico, Chile, Germany and Lithuania are both numerous and well served.

In contrast, countries in the top left hand box have both relatively few students and fewer librarians per student. Countries in this situation include Japan, Latvia and New Zealand.

The bottom left hand box is for countries with few students, but a strong library service, while in contrast, those in the top right have a big tertiary education sector, but relatively few librarians to serve it.

Graph 3: Researchers per 100K People and per Academic/Research Library Worker

Graph 3 looks at researchers, following the same principle. On this graph, countries in the bottom right hand box are those which have both a strong research population, and lots of librarians to serve it. Countries in this situation include New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Slovenia, Germany, Japan, Finland and Sweden.

In contrast, countries in the top left-hand box have both few researchers and few librarians there to support them. This is the case for Hungary and Italy.

Finally, the bottom right-hand box is for countries with a relatively small research community (but one that is well supported), and the top left for countries with larger numbers of researchers, but lower levels librarian support.


The figures shared in this post have allowed us to build up a more detailed sense of the size of academic and library research fields compared to the communities that they support. Next week, we will return to figures on publications and look at tertiary education completion rates.


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.

Library Stat of the Week #28: On average, there are 305 students and 20 researchers per academic library worker

In recent weeks, we have looked at how numbers of academic libraries and library workers stand around the world, and what correlations there are between these, in relation to total populations, and indicators of innovation such as publishing and patenting.

Another angle worth exploring is the relationship between numbers of academic library workers, and those who benefit most directly from their services – students in tertiary education and people working in the research sector.

We can start to explore this by looking at data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics on numbers of people working in research, and OECD data on the number of people registered in tertiary education, combined with data from IFLA’s Library Map of the World.

In each case, there is not data available for every country. In particular, OECD data is focused on its own members, with a few additional countries, meaning that averages offered are only relative to a part of the world.

Graph 1: Number of Students per Academic and Research Library Worker

Graph 1 looks at students. Students can benefit strongly from well-supported academic libraries, in order to help them benefit from well-designed collections, find resources effectively, and develop key skills.

The data available indicates that on average, each full-time academic library worker serves 207.7 students. The smallest number of students per librarian was in Germany – 157.6, with eight countries in total coming below the global average, of which seven are European, and the other is Canada.

Among other regions for which data is available, Colombia had the smallest number of students per librarian in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Japan in Asia-Oceania. There are some very high figures for numbers of students in some countries, which may be due to under-counting.

Graph 2a: Number of Researchers per Academic and Research Library Worker


Graph 2b: Number of Researchers per Academic and Research Library Worker

Graphs 2a and 2b look at research personnel (to note different scales on the vertical axis). As has been underlined in previous posts, libraries are a key part of the research infrastructure for any country, not only ensuring that researchers can access knowledge and ideas from elsewhere, but also increasing helping to ensure effective dissemination and management of data.

Globally, the data indicates that there are on average 20 research workers for every worker in an academic or research library.

The smallest number of academic and research library workers per researcher was in Colombia, with 0.6. Eight countries in total have fewer than five researchers per academic and research library worker – as well as Colombia, Panama, Kazakhstan, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico and Mauritius.

Meanwhile, a number of countries had figures of more than 100 researchers per academic or research librarian, although this may be down to under-reporting of numbers of librarians.


Clearly the profile of academic libraries themselves varies strongly, depending on institutions themselves. Some will focus much more on educating undergraduates, others much more on supporting more advanced research work.

As a result, a low number of researchers per librarian can be an indicator as much of a large number of librarians (because of strong investment in research libraries) as of a small number of researchers (because a institutions has relatively little focus on research, and more on teaching in general).

A similar reflection can apply to numbers of students. A system more focused on research may therefore employ more research librarians, raising the ratio of library workers to students, but so too could a smaller number of students.

We will explore these issues further next week.


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.

Building Understanding, Building Confidence: Interview with Chris Morrison on the University of Kent’s Copyright Literacy Strategy

Copyright can all too often seem complicated, scary, or both. Yet having a sense of what it does, and does not permit can help avoid accidental infringements, as well as preventing situations where library users do not take full advantage of the possibilities open to them.

Chris Morrison, at the University of Kent in the UK – co-owner of copyrightliteracy.org – has done extensive work on the subject, as well as co-developing games such as ‘Copyright, the Card Game’ in order to build confidence. He has also played a key role in developing a copyright literacy strategy at the University of Kent, UK. We interviewed him to find out more.


What is the state of copyright literacy currently among students, faculty and librarians?

This is difficult to say with certainty. But we did run a survey last year asking our academics how confident they felt in dealing with copyright issues and the majority didn’t feel as confident as they would like to. I certainly still get asked a lot of questions that show people still want clear guidance on how to address copyright issues.

How much appreciation was there of the need for a focused approach to copyright literacy?

As you know, this is something that Jane Secker (City, University of London and co-owner of copyrightliteracy.org) and I have been talking about for some time. Copyright is often not many people’s favourite subject, but when I started talking to colleagues about focussing on a clear institutional vision on copyright literacy they were all very supportive. Everybody seems to have some experience of working with copyright where they have or might benefit from institutional support.

For you, what is the value added of a strategy?

In the past I may have been a bit cynical about strategy documents. They can sometimes seem a bit vague – making obvious statements as part of a box ticking exercise. But after many years of working with copyright, I became convinced that going through a process of making a formal statement would be beneficial. It’s allowed me to present my vision and ideas to my colleagues and incorporate it with their experiences and ideas to create something which I think is really valuable.

What did you need to do to get to the stage of getting this drafted and approved?

We ran the development of the strategy as a project, getting together a representative working group of academic and professional services staff and holding a number of workshops. This allowed us to start off capturing lots of ideas before looking at specific position statements. I then shared drafts with student representatives, as well as experts and peers across the university sector and beyond,  before submitting to the formal approval process at Kent.

How are you approaching the question of balance between exclusive rights and enabling use?

Unsurprisingly this was one of the biggest areas of contention when developing the strategy. Universities use copyright content, but they also generate valuable intellectual property which they may want choose who gets access to and under what terms. When we realised that we weren’t trying to resolve this tension, but acknowledge it and help people make sense of it in the context of their own work, we were able to make progress.

What are you looking forward to most in the implementation?

Other than the satisfaction of a job well done it will be the ability to finally answer the question “but what does the University say about that”? I think this document reflects that a university, or any large institution has multiple perspectives, but that we should ultimately be focusing on our teaching, research and engagement.

What do you think will be most challenging?

We have a huge challenge in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, so I think the interesting question is whether this strategy actually helps us to do the best work we can.

What does success look like in 5 years’ time?

We have a section on measuring success in the strategy. It’s a difficult thing to pin down in quantitative terms, but we’re planning on capturing lots of case studies and examples of where our approach has helped us.

Is this an experience that you think could be replicated elsewhere – both in the UK and globally?

Yes, I think it could. I’ve already received positive feedback from those who have seen the strategy, some of whom have said they are thinking of doing something similar. The strategy is available under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence so others are free to adapt it if they want. But I would recommend going through a proper process of working out what statements might be right for your institution in collaboration with your colleagues and students or users of your library/information service. I certainly wouldn’t recommend adopting a strategy like this as a box ticking exercise.