Tag Archives: access to information

Day for Universal Access to Information: Libraries, Freedom, and the US Law

Why US Courts consider public library as the “quintessential locus” of information in a free and democratic society.

By Tomas Lipinski (Professor, School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)

Anyone following recent library developments is the United States is likely to have seen legislative efforts in various states to restrict access to LGBTQIA+ or Critical Race Theory-related content.

Yet these challenges often do not have success in court. In one recent case, a Texas court ordered initially-restricted content be restored [Little v Llano County, 2023 WL 2731089 (W.D. Tex.)], and in another, a new Arkansas law regulating content in public libraries was held unconstitutional [(Fayetteville Public Library v Crawford County Arkansas, 2023 WL 4845636 (W.D. Ark.)].

Why do courts protect a patron’s access to a wide variety of content in public libraries?  Such access is essential to a free and democratic population.  It is so essential that many courts have concluded that it is a Liberty Interest under the U.S. Constitution which cannot be deprived unless the requirements of Due Process are satisfied under the Fifth Amendment.[i]

As the Texas court observed: “First Amendment right to access to information in libraries, a right that applies to book removal decisions … many courts have held that access to public library books is a protected liberty interest created by the First Amendment.” Little v Llano County, 2023 WL 2731089, *8 (W.D. Tex.). The case is currently on appeal; Little v Llano County (23-50224, 5th Cir., April 4, 2023). Oral arguments were heard on June 7, 2023. A decision is expected this fall.[ii]

Texas court decided to “follow[] our many sister courts in holding that there is a protected liberty interest in access to information in a public library.” Id. at *9.[iii]

The nature of the public library Liberty Interest has solemn historical origins.: “Our founding fathers understood the necessity of public libraries for a well-functioning democracy.” Fayetteville Public Library v Crawford County Arkansas, 2023 WL 4845636, *3 (W.D. Ark.). Over time, the public library emerged as the prime source of the supply of information in society – and the legal protections that support libraries endure in our changing information society. “By 1956, Congress formally acknowledged the need for all citizens to have access to free, public libraries by enacting the Library Services Act, which authorized millions of dollars in federal funds to develop and improve rural libraries and fund traveling bookmobiles to serve rural communities. Through public libraries, free access to knowledge became possible for all Americans, regardless of geography or wealth.” Id.at *4 *footnote omitted). The Texas court observed similarly: “Silencing unpopular speech is contrary to the principles on which this country was founded and stymies our collective quest for truth.” Fayetteville Public Library v Crawford County Arkansas, 2023 WL 4845636, *5 (W.D. Ark.).

The Arkansas law used an “appropriateness” standard when considering challenges to library content, vested final authority for removal (and acquisitions) not with trained library professionals but with local officials, and removed the immunity for libraries from criminal prosecution for having library materials that are obscene or harmful to minors content. A public library belongs to the people, not the government that funds it.

The court commented that: “By virtue of its mission to provide the citizenry with access to a wide array of information, viewpoints, and content, the public library is decidedly not the state’s creature; it is the people’s.”  Fayetteville Public Library v Crawford County Arkansas, 2023 WL 4845636, *5 (W.D. Ark.).  “The State is wrong on all fronts, starting with its treatment of Pico. The Pico case [Board of Education, Island Trees Union School District No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982)] does not stand for the proposition that there is no constitutional right to receive information.” Id. at *20.  The right to receive information is best accomplished through the free public library. As best said in the seminal Kreimer v. Bureau of Police for Town of Morristown, 958 F.2d 1242, 1255 (3d Cir. 1992) case: “Our review of the Supreme Court’s decisions confirms that the First Amendment does not merely prohibit the government from enacting laws that censor information, but additionally encompasses the positive right of public access to information and ideas. Pico [Board of Education, Island Trees Union School District No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982)] signifies that, consistent with other First Amendment principles, the right to receive information is not unfettered and may give way to significant countervailing interests… this right… includes the right to some level of access to a public library, the quintessential locus of the receipt of information.”

On this day celebrating access to information, let us celebrate the critical role that our public libraries play in that achieving a free and open society.

[i] “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militi[i]a, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

[ii] The restricted content in the Texas case were the following titles: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson; Called Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti; Spinning by Tillie Walden; In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak; It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health by Robie Harris; My Butt is So Noisy!, I Broke My Butt!, and I Need a New Butt! by Dawn McMillan; Larry the Farting Leprechaun, Gary the Goose and His Gas on the Loose, Freddie the Farting Snowman, and Harvey the Heart Has Too Many Farts by Jane Bexley; Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings; Shine by Lauren Myracle; Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale by Lauren Myracle; Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero; and Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark.

[iii] Other courts have come to similar conclusions: “The right of the public to use the public library is best characterized as a protected liberty interest created directly by the First Amendment. Since the right is not absolute, it can be lost for engaging in conduct inconsistent with the purpose of public libraries.”  Doyle v. Clark City Public Library, 2007 WL 2407051, *5 (S.D. Ohio) and Wayfield v. Town of Tisbury, 925 F. Supp. 880 (D. Mass 1996) (4-month suspension from public library without a hearing in response to a disruptive event): “this court finds that Wayfield states a sufficient claim to support a finding that the suspension of his access to the library was a deprivation of a ‘liberty or property right.’” Id. at 885.


The Mission of the Public Library Today: Exploring what’s new in the Public Library Manifesto

The forthcoming update to the IFLA-UNESCO Public Library Manifesto re-examines the role of the public library – expanding on previous versions to more thoroughly reflect the ways libraries serve their communities today.

This update was informed by a global survey, as well as ongoing consultations with UNESCO’s Information For All Programme

UNESCO has been facilitating critical input from its member states represented on the IFAP Bureau. Upon completion of this process, the updated Manifesto will be ready for action as a cornerstone of library advocacy.

Key concepts that have been added to this updated version include:

Sustainable Development

As publicly accessible spaces for the exchange of information, the sharing of culture, and the promotion of civic engagement, libraries should be considered essential agents for sustainable development.

The updated Manifesto upholds that, through their activities relating to information, literacy, education, and culture, libraries contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the construction of more equitable, humane, and sustainable societies.

This is especially pertinent when concerning the public library’s role in ensuring inclusion, access, and cultural participation for marginalised communities, Indigenous peoples, and users with special needs.

Libraries in Knowledge Societies

The ways in which people access and use information have evolved. The updated Manifesto reflects the public library’s role in enabling knowledge societies through helping all members of society access, produce, create, and share knowledge.

This includes an increased focus on remote and digital access to information and materials, as well as access to the competencies and connectivity required to bridge the digital divide.

The previous version upholds the public library as a local gateway to knowledge, providing a basic condition for lifelong learning, independent decision-making and cultural development of the individual and social groups.

The update expands on this, adding that libraries underpin healthy knowledge societies through providing access to and enabling the creation and sharing of knowledge of all sorts, including scientific and local knowledge without commercial, technological or legal barriers.

It further states that, in the digital era, copyright and intellectual property legislation must ensure public libraries the same capacity to procure and give access to digital content on reasonable terms as is the case with physical resources.


The Evolving Mission of Public Libraries Today

Below you will find an overview of key concepts that have been expanded on in the updated Manifesto.


Previous Versions

The Update

Stimulating the imagination and creativity of children and young people. Providing opportunities for personal creative development, and stimulating imagination, creativity, curiosity, and empathy


creating and strengthening reading habits in children from an early age; Creating and strengthening reading habits in children from birth to adulthood


Access to information and material Providing services to their communities both in-person and remotely through digital technologies allowing access to information, collections, and programmes


Awareness of cultural heritage, appreciation of the arts, scientific achievements preservation of and access to cultural expressions and heritage, appreciation of the arts, scientific achievements, research and innovations, as expressed in traditional media, as well as digital material


Ensuring access for citizens to all sorts of community information Ensuring access for all people to all sorts of community information and opportunities for community organising, in recognition of the library’s role at the core of the social fabric


Ensuring inclusivity, especially relating to marginalised communities Preservation of, and access to, local and Indigenous data, knowledge, and heritage (including oral tradition), providing an environment in which the local community can take an active role in identifying materials to be captured, preserved and shared, in accordance with the community’s wishes.
Awareness of scientific achievements


providing communities with access to scientific knowledge, such as research results and health information that can impact the lives of their users, as well as enabling participation in scientific progress.


Facilitating the development of information and computer literacy skills


initiating, supporting and participating in literacy activities and programmes to build reading and writing skills, and facilitating the development of media and information literacy and digital literacy skills for all people at all ages, in the spirit of equipping an informed, democratic society;


Five information disorders that could sink the SDGs, and how to prevent this

In IFLA’s work around the SDGs, our core theme is the importance of meaningful access to information as a key driver for development.

This access, to our understanding, consists of a combination of the practical possibility of access (accessibility), a favourable socioeconomic situation (affordability), the presence of relevant information and the possibility to use it (availability) and the skills to make the most of it (capacity).

This can, however, risk being a difficult sell when working with policy makers who either take information for granted (policy-makers themselves will tend to come from more favoured, educated backgrounds), or are not in the habit of thinking about information in a holistic way (as of course we do in the library field!).

So what other options are available to us when trying to make the case for information as a key area of focus for work on the Sustainable Development Goals?

One option – admittedly a potentially alarmist one – is to look rather at what the costs of inaction in the face of information disorders can be.

The term information disorders, taken from the work of Divina Frau-Meigs (but then very loosely applied), refers to situations where the way in which information is created, shared, internalised and applied somehow goes wrong, leading to negative consequences.

This can be powerful. Given that we tend to be more concerned about what we might lose than what we might gain, it can be a good way of focusing minds.

And by bringing together arguments about what there is to lose by a failure to address information disorders, we can, perhaps get closer to building the case for a comprehensive approach to information (and libraries as essential information institutions) in SDG implementation.

This blog lists five such disorders that we face today, and what they mean for the chances of success in the 2030 Agenda.

1) Illiteracy: the inability of millions around the world still to engage with the written word has to represent one of the ongoing challenges of our time. Next week, the International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA) will meet, with the ongoing need to ensure universal adult literacy likely to be high on the agenda.

Literacy of course is already highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as in many other key reference texts, as a pressing goal. It should be. For as long as people cannot read, they will struggle to seize so many other opportunities linked to aspects of the wider development agenda – finding work or launching a business, learning more generally, engaging in democratic life. Continued investment in universal literacy needs to be a priority.

Libraries of course have an established and recognised role, both as a venue for basic literacy training, and a key resource to help those with fundamental skills consolidate and build on them. As highlighted in our review of LitBase last year, libraries can be providers, promoters and partners in this mission.

2) Mis and Disinformation: a serious and growing concern, in the light both of the polarisation of the political debate in many countries, and the fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic, has been the rise of mis- and dis-information as a phenomenon.

Clearly, lying is not a new thing, and people and governments have been doing this forever. However, it does feel that recent years have seen a greater brazenness in dismissing scientific advice, and the internet has created possibilities for mis- and disinformation to spread more quickly than before. This may well be accelerated too by business models that promote the controversial or shocking. As such, and as set out in the UN Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda, there is a need to take stronger action to call out lies, and to combat the means by which they are spread.

Without this, there are risks to policy effectiveness in key areas of the SDGs – not least health – as well as more broadly to the ability of democratic systems to work in a way that best serves people. This is also an area where libraires have an obvious and existing role to play, both in building up the skills to recognise mis- and disinformation, and in parallel, to promote a sense of openness and curiosity about the world that doesn’t just focus on simple and lazy responses.

3) Information Poverty: information and knowledge have an immense role to play in achieving the SDGs. While often taken for granted, they are essential if we want people to be able to take optimal decisions about themselves and those around them, to innovate, to learn, to participate in democracy, and in broader social and cultural life.

Yet for too many people, this isn’t a reality. For some, it will be an economic question – more on this below. But for others, it is simply because the information isn’t there, or at least not in a form that they can access. A lack of materials in relevant languages or accessible formats – both as concerns persons with disabilities, and simply written or presented in a way that can be used – can also mean that people end up suffering from information poverty.

There is of course action on this point already, for example the Marrakesh Treaty (which addresses the book famine), and many initiatives to promote multilingualism. Technology of course offers possibilities here, but in turn needs to be affordable and accessible.

Libraries have always acted as an antidote to information poverty, a way of working around the fact that it is only by pooling resources that it can become feasible to acquire and give access to information and the tools for this. They continue to do this, in ways that suit the needs of the communities they serve.

4) The Privatisation of Information: highlighted above was the risk that economics could get in the way of the access to information needed to enable development. While of course there need to be means of paying correctly for the production of information, these become problematic when they leave the less wealthy empty handed.

However, with the shift to digital, we have seen a deregulation by stealth of the market for information and knowledge. Going from selling books and other materials to licensing access gives rightholders huge powers over who can access works, how, and what they can do with them. Unless there is action to ensure that licenses cannot take away core knowledge rights, protections for core public interest uses risk being undermined.

Linked to this is the way that data and information itself has become a market, with companies realising how powerful control over, and exploitation of, data about users and their behaviour can be. Possibilities to track what people are doing not only raise questions about privacy, but also the potential distortion of behaviours as platforms and others seek to maximise attention.

The risk here is that people are unable to access the information that they need to improve their situation, because of their situation – i.e. they are not of interest to profit-orientated players. Furthermore, they risk being manipulated, or having to trade in their rights to be able to access information, or are pushed in sub-optimal directions, all of which can hold them back from doing what they need to do.

There are clear and welcome calls for a digital commons at the UN level in Our Common Agenda, and for a knowledge commons in UNESCO’s Futures of Education report – these both imply putting the interest of the community above those of individual private actors.

Again, this is an area of library strength traditionally. By pooling resources, libraries help overcome the economic barriers to copyright, although certainly require the protections from the hollowing out of protections for public interest uses mentioned above. They can also bring insights and values to discussions about how information and data should be regulated, in the interests of all.

5) Lack of connectivity: finally, there is the ongoing challenge faced by those who cannot yet access the internet reliably, and quickly. This is of course a point closely related to that about information poverty above, given the increasingly important role of the internet as a means of accessing information. As print-runs of books, journals and newspapers disappear, those without digital access are cut off, and of course cannot take advantage of all the new possibilities created.

An obvious example here is open access – this has been a transformative movement, bypassing cost-barriers to access to knowledge, and so allowing researchers around the world to draw on materials that would previously have been out of reach… If they have an internet connection.

The costs of leaving people unconnected are similar to those of other disorders set out above – the lack of possibility to access information to take decisions, and to participate in social, economic, political and cultural life. It can leave people isolated, unable to realise the potential to build connections with others. It can also of course reduce the effectiveness of government efforts, especially those that rely on eGovernment tools.

Again, libraries are key players here, providing public internet access both as a last recourse for those who cannot access in other ways, and as a complement to home connectivity, or via a mobile device. They can even be hubs for local connectivity as anchor institutions.


Across these areas, there is a risk that inaction, or inadequate action, will leave the world less able to deliver on the SDGs. They underline that there is a need for information to be taken seriously as a policy issue, in order to avoid this. More positively, they also represent a call for a more proactive approach to ensuring that everyone benefits from access to knowledge. Any such effort will need to have libraries at its heart.

#1Lib1Ref 2022: Your chance to broaden access to verifiable information!

The coming of the internet has, at least for those who are adequately connected, allowed billions of people to enjoy an extraordinary increase in the volume of information available to them.

This represents major progress towards libraries’ goal of guaranteeing meaningful access to information to all, but it is far from being the same thing as achieving this goal fully.

For one, there are still billions of people who have no access to the internet at all. Furthermore, those counted in the statistics as being online often only have slow or limited connections, and only have access to a restricted range of content in their own language, or covering the issues that matter for them.

Crucially, quantity and quality of information are also not the same thing. There is a big difference between a random claim, and an assertion backed up by references to other works which can be checked, controlled, and shown to be accurate and reliable.

While library users – especially those affiliated with national or academic libraries – may have possibilities to access high quality research collections, this may not always be easy as it should be.

Copyright laws may mean that it is only possible to consult works in person (something that may of course also be impossible, for reasons of COVID or disability for example), or simply local libraries may not have the resources for a major collection. Paywalled information sources are, by definition, only available to those people and institutions with the resources to pay.

The easiest option is therefore just to turn to the internet.

This is why, in order to achieve libraries’ mission of meaningful access to information, it is so important that people can benefit from a free and reliable – verifiable – source of information online. This is what Wikipedia seeks to provide.

Crucially, Wikipedia does not replace the work of libraries, but rather complements it. And in turn, librarians, libraries and their collections can have a key role in turn in delivering on Wikipedia’s potential as a comprehensive, accessible, and verifiable source of information.

This is what #1Lib1Ref is all about, with its call on librarians around the world to add just one reference to a Wikipedia article, in order to improve its verifiability!

#1Lib1Ref is taking place for the 7th year on 15 January – 5 February, and then again on 15 May – 5 June, with the first period coinciding with Wikipedia’s 21st birthday.

The Wikimedia Library, which organises the event, sets out some great ways to get involved, with translations in 46 different languages! Take a look at the blog they have prepared for more.

Key opportunities involve:

  • Add a reference: look at the instructions on how to find an article that requires citations or improved sources, including using the CitationHunt tool which is now available in 7 more languages!
  • Create a new article: for example, in order to help diversify the information available on Wikipedia, to celebrate unique people or things covered in your collections, or to share your expertise – find out more here
  • Organise an event so that others can add references with you!: take a look at the guidance on how to set something up (it doesn’t just need to be during the period of #1Lib1Ref!)
  • Create WikiData items for works on WikiSource: help strengthen Wikipedia by creating WikiData items for works already mentioned in your local WikiSource
  • Share!: as part of the guidance for adding a reference, there are instructions on how highlight that it is a #1Lib1Ref edit. If you are organising an event, you can register it on the Wikimedia platform (you’ll need to create an account first). And of course, just use the hashtag #1Lib1Ref to talk about your participation on social media!

Good luck!

Happy Public Domain Day: three ways of looking at why it matters

1 January of each year is Public Domain Day, the day that a new set of historical works enter the public domain, opening up wide new possibilities for access and use.

The reason for this all happening on 1 January is because many copyright laws provide protection for a set number of years (at minimum 50, often more) after the end of the year in which the creator died.

This protection gives an exclusive right to control things like reproduction, distribution, translation, performance, or communicating to the public online. These tend to be known as ‘economic’ rights; meanwhile ‘moral’ rights (such as to be named alongside a work) do not have a limit in time.

As such, in countries with protection lasting for life plus 50 years, it means that the works of creators who died in 1971 are now far more freely available. In countries with protection lasting for life plus 70 years, it is the works of creators who died in 1951. Some other countries have more complex rules – you can find out more on the relevant Wikipedia page.

While of course it may seem odd to be celebrating the fact that a certain time has passed since a death, in reality, entry into the public domain brings many benefits, including of course to creators insofar as their original motivation for creating will have been to share their ideas with the world.

Nonetheless, there is an unfortunate trend towards trying to extend copyright terms, often as part of trade deals, limiting when new books, songs and images enter into the public domain. There are also efforts in some countries to charge fees for use of public domain works, or at least direct reproductions of them.

This blog sets out three connected angles to the argument for celebrating Public Domain Day.


Library collections liberated

Public Domain Day is an important moment for libraries holding works whose economic copyright protection comes to an end.

To survive until this point, relevant books, documents, recordings, images, and other materials will likely have benefitted from significant investment in preservation and conservation.

And while they may well have been open for limited access and use already, entry into the public domain is what creates many new opportunities to ensure an impact in terms of access to and use of works.

For example, new possibilities emerge to make digital copies of works which can be made freely available online, to use copies in class or even research, in person or remotely without payment, and library users have much wider options to play with or remix works.

In effect, it allows for a much deeper, richer engagement between library users and the heritage and ideas of the past, going beyond the simple ‘consumption’ of works.

Clearly, in providing access, it remains important to remember that copyright is not the only factor at play in deciding whether to provide access to works or not. Factors such as the interests and preferences of indigenous groups, privacy and beyond will also come into play!


Building the knowledge commons

Connected to the previous point is about what entry into the public domain means for the ability of libraries to make an impact, a second argument focuses on how this contributes to the building of the Knowledge Commons.

This is a term that has existed for a while already, building on previous ideas of ‘commons’ – things and resources that are owned by, and available, to all, contributing to individual and collective wellbeing.

It receives particular attention in the recent UNESCO Futures of Education report, which refers to it as ‘the collective knowledge resources of humanity that have been accumulated over generations and are continuously transforming’.

The UNESCO report underlines how important it is for young people, as they learn, to be able not only to access this commons, but also to contribute to it. It cites this as a step away from rote-learning, with young people simply forced to accept the status quo.

Clearly, possibilities for access, analysis, and re-use are at their strongest when works are in the public domain! In effect, each year on 1 January, we can mark the moment that the knowledge commons grows stronger, offering new possibilities for learning, sharing and creativity.


Maximising welfare

Of course, a key argument for copyright in the first place is that it is by keeping works out of the public domain, and so crating artificial scarcity, that it is possible to generate the income necessary to cover the costs of creation.

While of course it is unsurprising that actors depending on a business model built on the exploitation of copyright will tend to paint this as the only possible means of supporting creativity, it is also true that no other dominant single dominant model has yet emerged to replace it, at least in the creative industries. Clearly we do have an interest in ensuring that those who have a talent for developing and expressing new ideas should have a means of earning a living by doing it.

The question then is where to find the balance. One way of thinking about this is by looking at costs and benefits over time.

Graph suggesting that the cumulative net benefits of copyright peak at a certiain time, and then fall awayGraph A offers a way of reflecting on this, for a complete set of works published in a given year. The horizontal axis represents time after publication, and the vertical, benefits/costs. Figures are not included, as the graph provides a model, rather than a set calculation, and because it can be hard to put a clear figure on monetary costs or benefits to some things.

The blue line represents the benefit to rightholders from copyright – in effect what is earned from sales and other licensing revenue. This starts high, but rapidly falls, with a ‘long tail’. This reflects the fact that most copyrighted works have a very limited commercial life, and just a few will continue to make money for a long time while others are effectively forgotten or worse, lost.

The green line represents the costs to the public – the impact of people who would benefit from having access to the full set of works not having it, for example to support education, research or wellbeing. Clearly some people can buy works, but it’s assumed that they have paid what they felt the work was worth, and so there is no net cost or benefit to them.

The red line therefore represents the net benefit of copyright to society as a whole – i.e. the benefit to the rightholder minus the cost to the public.

At first, this is positive. However, after a time, the cost to the public of not being able to access works becomes greater than sales or licensing fees for rightholders. At this point, the red line drops below the axis, representing a net loss to society as a whole.

Finally, the dark grey line represents the cumulative net benefit over time. At first, this is growing. However, once the costs of copyright grow higher than the benefits, this line starts falling, representing a falling total benefit to society over time.

Graph indicating that the net cumulative benefits of copyright peak and start falling at some point. However, by having a date of entry into the public domain, it is possible to halt this fall in net benefitsEntry into the public domain provides a response to this situation of a falling cumulative net benefit over time. Graph B illustrates this. At halfway along the horizontal axis, works from a given year enter the public domain, and so benefits to rightholders from sales and licensing fees (blue line), which were already low and falling, are reduced to zero. However, the costs to the public (green line) also disappear, and in fact turn into benefits as people are able to use and enjoy works freely.

The impact of this is that there is now a net benefit to society again (red line), meaning that cumulative net benefits (grey line) also start to rise again, reversing the downward trend previously seen.

Of course, the specific shape of some of these lines can be discussed (and of course, date of entry into the public domain most often depends on when the author dies), but in effect, this provides a more economic model for understanding why the public domain matters for the societies that libraries serve.

In particular, assuming that the term of copyright protection is already longer than the point at which the costs of copyright start to outweigh the benefits, then any extension of terms would certainly lead to further net losses to society.


In summary, public domain day is something to be celebrated, both for libraries themselves, and for the societies we serve. It creates new possibilities for libraries to get the best out of their collections, it significantly expands the knowledge commons, and it corrects a situation of falling net benefits to society.

Happy Public Domain Day!


Interested in finding out more? Key organisations associated with the public domain are holding a celebration on 20 January, with a particular emphasis on the sound recordings now becoming available – find out more here!


The 10-Minute International Librarian #75: Think about a barrier to use of your services

Libraries have a universal mission.

Our goal is to make sure that every person has the possibility to access the information that they need in order to fulfil their potential and realise their rights.

In particular, people in difficult situations may be the ones who need information most – to find out about opportunities and support open to them, to seek well-being, to launch a business, or simply to communicate.

Yet universal access to information remains a goal – something to aim for – rather than something we can claim to have achieved already.

Far too often, people who could benefit from library services are not doing so.

In order to progress towards our goal, we need to be able to understand what is stopping us.

So for our 75th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think about a barrier to use of your services.

You could think both about factors that are within your control, and those that are outside of it.

Are there aspects of your buildings, or the way you organise your services, which risk preventing some people from using the library?

It could even be a small thing that risks, otherwise, making some people feel unwelcome or unable to use the library.

Looking more broadly, are there challenges in law, for example to providing remote access to works? Or to providing library cards to certain groups?

Once you have identified a barrier, you can think about how to overcome it, either through direct action or advocacy.

Share your ideas in the comments box below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 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 com

The 10-Minute International Librarian #65: Be able to explain why access to information matters

Tomorrow is the International Day for the Universal Access to Information, which highlights the importance of access to information of all sorts for development.

However, this access is often only seen narrowly – for example around access to government information for the purpose of supporting transparency.

This is of course an important aspect, but does not cover all of the other types of information and uses that can contribute to better lives and stronger societies.

Access to information matters in agriculture, health, education, innovation, climate action and beyond, but is all too often seen as only a marginal issue, or even forgotten entirely.

Libraries of course know that this should not be the case, and that to achieve sustainable development, there need to be comprehensive, and properly supported strategies to ensure access to information.

A key challenge in our advocacy is to convince decision-makers, and those that influence them, of the same thing.

So for our 65th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, be able to explain why access to information matters.

If it helps, imagine a particular person you need to convince, and adapt your arguments to match what you think will be most effective for them.

Just as in in our 13th exercise (develop your 1-minute pitch for libraries), you should try to make your argument as short and convincing as possible.

Don’t assume that your interlocutor understands what libraries do, and so try to make it real for them, underlining the impacts of your work.

You can share the arguments that work best in your experience in the comments below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 1.1 Show the power of libraries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

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.