Tag Archives: advocacy

Advocacy look ahead: August-December 2022

With over half of 2022 already passed, and the northern hemisphere at least about to go on, or already enjoying holidays, it’s a good moment to look ahead to some of the major advocacy opportunities that will happen in the second half of the year.

Many of these are international days and weeks, many of which include possibilities to hold events and celebrations in order to gain attention at the global and national levels on the back of wider awareness. Others are events and conferences where libraries may have messages to send and goals to achieve.

You can use the below to think about where you may want to concentrate your own advocacy efforts in order to make use of the ‘hooks’ that these occasions provide. Keep an eye on the IFLA website as well for more information about how we plan to mark them.

9 August: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

This year’s celebrations revolve around the theme ‘The role of indigenous women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge’, offering interesting opportunities for libraries to highlight their work to support women in indigenous communities in their role, as well as good practices in doing so.

8 September: International Literacy Day

This is a major opportunity for advocacy about the work of libraries to support universal literacy which, amongst other things, features as a target under the Sustainable Development Goals. Last year, we released an evaluation of library references in the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning’s LitBase collection of good practices in literacy promotion.

15 September: International Day of Democracy

This is the day given over to looking at the state of democracy in the world, and the forces which are strengthening or weakening it. For libraries, it can be a time to join the discussion and stress how libraries promote citizen participation in decision-making, as well as enabling democratic institutions such as parliaments to do their job.

19 September: Transforming Education Summit

This is one of the first events to take place contributing to the United Nations Summit on the Future next year, likely to represent a major milestone towards the definition of a post-2030 agenda. This builds on the Futures of Education report, which set an agenda which provides a lot of opportunities for libraries, given its focus on links with community learning, and the development of knowledge. IFLA plans to engage closely in this work, and attended the pre-summit late last month – watch this space for more!

28 September: International Day for the Universal Access to Information

IFLA is already engaging with UNESCO in the run-up to this occasion, which follows on from the Right to Know days promoted by civil society in many parts of the world. There is a strong emphasis in programming on access to government information, but the UNESCO Director General has made clear that the sort of wider access – to whatever type of information is relevant – is also covered here. We look forward to sharing more about our plans!

28-30 September: MONDIACULT 2022

UNESCO is bringing together culture ministers and decision-makers from around the world to set a new agenda for cultural policy, and to place this centrally in the sustainable development agenda. IFLA is closely involved, both in its own right – we have already organised a contributing event – and will be both present and organising a further side-event in Mexico. We are also working with the Culture 2030 Goal campaign in order to encourage ministers to affirm their support for an explicit culture goal in the post-2030 Agenda.

1-31 October: International School Library Month (ISLM)

This is promoted by the International Association of School Librarianship (https://iasl-online.org/ISLM), an annual celebration of school libraries worldwide and an effective way of advocating for the importance of school libraries, library professionals, and the students that make them great!

The 2022 theme for ISLM is “Reading for Global Peace and Harmony.” It is based on the 2022 IASL Conference theme “School Librarianship and the Evolving Global Information Landscape”. We know that there are many countries around the world that are facing grave situations. One thing we can all agree on is the need for peace and harmony across the globe. Our theme will encourage all who participate in ISLM this year to reflect on how reading can help us understand and support one another. Truly experiencing the journeys of others through storytelling leads us on our own journey to greater understanding and compassion.

This year participants are invited to think about and celebrate the link between books, reading, school libraries, and how together they can promote peace and harmony, a theme that is accessible to all our participants (aged 3 to 20 years) who can be engaged in projects and activities to explore, interpret and express this year’s theme in many ways. Whichever way we choose, it underlies the important role of school libraries in the lives of young children.

4 October: World Habitat Day

This event opens ‘Urban October’, and provides a reminder of the importance of ensuring that everyone has housing and a community setting that allows them to fulfil their potential. The specific theme of 2022 has yet to be announced, but it is – like Cities Day at the end of the month – a chance to talk about the role of libraries in building communities.

20 October: World Statistics Day

This day brings together the elements of the UN system working on gathering and publishing data as a support for policy making. Libraries are not just important as managers of data, on behalf of institutions and wider society, but of course are the subject of data gathering, not least through the Library Map of the World. We will be promoting the Map, as well as our statement on Open Library Data.

24-31 October: Global Media and Information Literacy Week

This is another major opportunity for libraries to place themselves at the centre of discussions, given how big a contribution we can arguably make. This year’s theme is Nurturing trust: A Media and Information Literacy Imperative, which offers interesting possibilities for libraries given the levels of trust that they tend to enjoy from citizens. The main conference will be held in Nigeria, and IFLA is involved in the planning of this, although there will also likely be an invitation to stakeholders around the world – including libraries – to plan and share their own events.

27 October: World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, and the 30th Anniversary of the Memory of the World Programme

This will be a big chance to underline and celebrate the role of libraries in safeguarding heritage for the future. The theme will be ‘Enlisting documentary heritage to promote inclusive, just and peaceful societies’, with a strong focus on how this enables peace, justice and strong institutions. IFLA is closely involved in preparations for the day, and will share more about opportunities to engage in due course. Find out more on the UNESCO website.

28 October: World Development Information Day

While perhaps not one of the most high-profile international celebrations on the calendar, this day coincides with UN Day itself, recognising the importance of gathering, processing and giving access to information as a way of enabling decision-making about development. This is, of course, also what libraries do, both by enabling research in academic settings, and in providing information in a format that works for decision-makers.

31 October: World Cities Day

Like World Habitat Day above, this day focuses on the importance of making the right choices around how we design and run our cities, in favour of sustainable urbanisation. It is a time to show how libraries, as key civic institutions, can make cities more inclusive, more cohesive and more liveable. See our analysis of how, in the urban studies literature, libraries are seen as driving regeneration for more.

3 November: Digital Preservation Day

While not an official UN observance, this day has built up momentum thanks to the work of the Digital Preservation Coalition. There will likely be events and blogs to mark the day, offering opportunities for libraries to share, and promote the importance of, the work they are doing to ensure both digitisation and to preserve born-digital heritage. IFLA has of course already led in the updating of the PERSIST Content Selection Guidelines, a valuable tool in this area.

6-18 November: COP27

The 27th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (i.e. Member States) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change follows up from the landmark meeting in Glasgow last year, and focuses on the theme: Unite the world to tackle climate change. There is plenty of work to be done, both to strengthen commitments to reducing emissions, and better mobilise citizens and culture for climate action. We are working with contacts in the host country, Egypt, in order to ensure presence, and will set out more about our work here on our website.

20 November: World Children’s Day

Marking the anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, this day looks at what these rights are, and how they can be upheld. Children do have a right to information, including to appropriate materials to support their development, something that libraries of course have a key role in enabling – see our blog on the topic for more! The day offers an inspirational entry-point to advocate, promote and celebrate children’s rights, translating into dialogues and actions that will build a better world for children.

28 November – 2 December: Internet Governance Forum

This year, the biggest multi-stakeholder meeting on how the internet is run is taking place in Addis Ababa, under the theme Resilient internet for a shared, sustainable and common future. Governments, UN agencies, experts, business and civil society organisations will all be there, talking about the full range of issues that shape the digital world. IFLA will look to organise side-events, as well as engage in other sessions in order to build partnerships and encourage others to reach out to and support libraries.

10 December: Human Rights Day

This is a major observance, marking the day when the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was signed in 1948. It of course includes the right of access to information (Article 19), alongside rights to education, science and culture. It is a day therefore to remind all about the fundamental role of libraries in delivering on these rights, and the importance of addressing issues that unreasonably stand in their way.

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;

 

The 10-Minute International Librarian #85: Think of a library myth that you can debunk

Libraries have long been key institutions in communities.

While this means that we have strong name recognition, it’s not always the case that people know what we’re about. There are a lot of library myths out there.

Look up library stereotypes on the internet, and there’s plenty of material. Although of course, you have probably come across many of these yourself in your work.

While some myths are relatively harmless, others give a dangerous false impression of what we do.

They can influence decisions about libraries – from discouraging someone from visiting the library, to giving a politician the impression that there is little harm in voting against library funding.

It is therefore important to be able to identify and correct these impressions.

So for our 85th 10 Minute International Librarian exercise, think of a library myth that you can debunk!

What false ideas do you come across that shape the way that people think about where you work?

How are they wrong? Maybe they are outdated (many people’s last experience of libraries was from their student days or childhood, which may be a long time ago)? Maybe they ignore the diversity of libraries?

Think then about how you can show why they are wrong – either in words or in your actions – and how to do this in a way that will change someone’s mind, for example with humour, or by remaining positive.

Share your best examples of debunked library myths in the comments box below.

Good luck!

 

This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 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 below!

The 10-Minute International Librarian #76: Update your references

In advocating for libraries, it is always powerful to have data or stories to hand.

As mentioned in previous posts, these can make your message stronger and more credible, both in terms of making your arguments real for others, and adding hard facts for the more statistically-minded.

Crucially, it means that you are not just sharing opinions, but that you can reinforce what you are saying with facts.

Of course, stories and data don’t last forever.

In particular, the experience of the last two years with the COVID pandemic has changed the way we perceive what is ‘normal’.

With it not sure whether we will ever return to previous ways of doing things, we cannot only refer to that world in making a relevant case for libraries.

So for our 76th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, update your references.

Think about the stories and data you use in your advocacy. How old are they? How relevant are they still?

Can you bring them up to date, for example with evidence of the contribution of libraries, or the need for them, during the pandemic?

Can you find stories and evidence that responds to the issues that are highest on the agenda now?

Share your favourite examples of recent library impact in the comments box below.

Good luck!

 

This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 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 com

Upcoming Advocacy Opportunities

Making the most of ‘international days’ and other events for communication and advocacy can be a great way to join the wider conversation, and underlined both the relevance of libraries, and the need for support in order to realise our potential.

Even as we look to clear our desks before the holiday period in many parts of the world, it’s worth already taking a look ahead to the main opportunities coming in the first half of 2022.

IFLA will mark each of these, producing new materials or highlighting existing ones that are relevant. You can take a look through, pick the ones that are closest to your work – and your interests – and think about how to get involved.

Your contribution can be anything from simply reposting social media (either to help non-library people in your network see the importance of libraries, or to get professional colleagues thinking about wider policy issues), posting a blog, attending an event or meeting, or even organising your own!

 

January

  • 1 January – Public Domain Day: This is when, under copyright law, protections on copying and using works from a range of authors are lifted. It gives new possibilities for libraries to make their works available to users, enabling wider access – a list is available on Wikipedia. There’s also an event organised by the Internet Archives and others celebrating sound recordings which enter into the public domain in 2022, to be held on 20 January. IFLA will mark the day with a blog and social media post.
  • 15 January – 5 February: #1Lib1Ref: while much of the activity that takes place around 1Lib1Ref, organised by the Wikimedia Foundation is focused on strengthening the quality of Wikipedia through the knowledge of library and information professionals, it is also a chance to underline the importance of information literacy and access to knowledge. Find out more on the 1Lib1Ref website!
  • 24 January – International Day of Education: This is a relatively new UN observance, focusing on the role of education in supporting development and peace. The formal theme is yet to be announced, but will appear on the UNESCO website. Once the theme is clear, IFLA will prepare an article or blog, focusing on the contribution that libraries are making to education.

 

February

  • 7-16 February – Commission on Social Development: The 60th meeting of the United Nations’ Commission on Social Development takes place in February, bringing together Member States to discuss in particular the need to fight poverty and hunger in the wake of COVID-19. There may be opportunities to approach relevant parts of government (or representations to the United Nations) to encourage them to highlight the work that libraries are doing, or could be doing with the right support. IFLA will prepare a note and communications in the run-up to the session.
  • 8 February – Internet Safety Day: this is a growing observance, although not yet officially recognised by the United Nations. It has already seen strong library mobilisation in previous years, focusing on the role our institutions can play in giving people the knowledge and skills to become safe and confident internet users. In particular, it can be a great opportunity to build partnerships with other actors in this space. IFLA will be sharing examples of libraries’ work on the topic.
  • 20 February – World Day of Social Justice: this day comes from work at the International Labour Organisation to promote social justice and policies that promote it. It refers not only to justice in the world of work, but more broadly across society, with themes such as race and the digital environment taken up in recent years. The theme for 2022 has yet to be announced, but when it is, it will appear on this page. IFLA will plan for engagement once the theme of the Day in 2022 is known.

 

March

  • 3-5 March: African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development: the eighth such event will be organised in Kigali, Rwanda, under the theme: Building forward better: A green, inclusive and resilient Africa poised to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063. It will bring together UN and African Union officials, governments and NGOs, and develop a summary, key recommendations and declaration which feeds in to the High Level Political Forum. IFLA’s Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Division Committee will have a key role in preparing plans for a side-event and wider participation.
  • 8 March: International Women’s Day: the theme of the day in 2022 will be ‘Changing Climates: Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow’. Further information will be issued in due course, but this is of course an opportunity to highlight how libraries are promoting equity, for example as highlighted in IFLA’s review of plans to deliver on the Beijing Platform and Plan of Action. We will look to work, in particular through our Women, Information and Libraries Special Interest Group, to prepare effective communications around the day.
  • 8-10 March: Forum of Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development: we are still waiting for further information about the plans for this event, with no website yet online. Information will likely be shared on the general site for the Forum. Once information is available, IFLA’s Latin America and Caribbean Regional Division Committee will have a key role in preparing plans for a side-event and wider participation.
  • 15-17 March: Arab Regional Forum for Sustainable Development: we are still waiting for further information about the plans for this event, with no website yet online. Information will likely be shared on this page. Once information is available, IFLA’s Middle East and North America Regional Division Committee will have a key role in preparing plans for a side-event and wider participation.
  • 28-21 March: Asia-Pacific Regional Forum for Sustainable Development: the 2022 session of the forum will focus on the theme: “Building back better from COVID-19 while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific”. A website has already been prepared, and an agenda is available, highlighting in particular items focused on the theme of the Forum as a whole, the SDGs in focus in 2022 (4, 5, 14, 15 and 17 – see above), and on countries undertaking Voluntary National Reviews in 2022. IFLA’s Asia-Oceania Regional Division Committee will have a key role in preparing plans for a side-event and wider participation.

 

April

  • 6-7 April: UNECE (Europe) Regional Forum on Sustainable Development: we are still waiting for further information about the plans for this event, with no website yet online. Information will likely be shared on this page. Once information is available, IFLA’s Europe Regional Division Committee will have a key role in preparing plans for a side-event and wider participation.
  • 21 April: World Creativity and Innovation Day: the first of a series of days in the space of less than a week focusing on promoting new ideas and expressions, this one looks at the role of creativity and the creative economy in supporting development. The theme of this year’s celebration has yet to be released, but will be available on the UN website in due course. IFLA will highlight the role of libraries in supporting creativity and innovation.
  • 23 April: World Book and Copyright Day: an important one for libraries, this is a chance to underline the importance of books in supporting wellbeing and development, and in particular in the case of libraries, the need to ensure that everyone has equitable access (including through promoting balanced copyright systems). Many libraries and associations already plan events and actions around this day already. Global celebrations are planned by UNESCO, with further information to be available on the website in due course. IFLA will plan for communications around the day early in 2022.
  • 25 April – 8 May: UN Conference on Biodiversity: delayed from last year, the UN Conference on Biodiversity marks an important milestone in the implementation of the Convention on Biodiversity, itself a key pillar of sustainability. Libraries have the potential to use the event to celebrate their work in preserving information about biodiversity, as well as supporting research. IFLA will produce a blog or story to mark the day.
  • 26 April: World Intellectual Property Day: the final in the series of related events looks more broadly at intellectual property of all sorts. The theme this year will be IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future. While the website has yet to be updated, information should be available here in due course. IFLA will look to prepare an article and social media around the day.

 

May

  • 3 May: World Press Freedom Day: an important day for marking the importance of freedom of expression, IFLA has in the past highlighted how libraries are supporting journalism, as well as promoting the media and information literacy that can go hand-in-hand with press freedom. This year’s focus will be ‘Journalism under Surveillance’, highlighting the importance of privacy for freedoms, with a main conference held in Uruguay. Find out more on the Day’s website. IFLA will follow preparations, and look for opportunities to stress how libraries are contributing to freedom of expression.
  • 5-6 May: UN Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Development: this is an annual meeting, looking to explore in particular the role of science and innovation in supporting development. Falling just a couple of months before the High-Level Political Forum, it also provides an opportunity to contribute ideas and insights. Details are still to be published, but in general, this is a chance to talk about the importance of open science for development, and the role of libraries in enabling this connection to be made. IFLA will share details about how to follow the session, and potentially bid for a side-event.
  • 17 May: World Telecommunications and Information Society Day: driven in particular by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), this focuses on the role of communications and technology in supporting the achievement of wider development goals. Again, not much information is yet available, but IFLA will share more about the theme and planned events on this when it becomes available, and opportunities to be involved. There is already information around the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum, which will open in March, but come to a conclusion in early June. IFLA will consider bidding for a side-event, and share information about sessions that could be of interest.
  • 21 May: World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development: this day celebrates the importance of protecting and promoting cultural diversity both as a valuable end in itself, and as a driver of progress. Details about the theme of the day will be published in due course on the UN website, but it is an opportunity to celebrate what libraries are doing both to preserve and promote diverse materials, as well as to encourage creativity. IFLA will plan for a publication and social media around the day, and potentially more depending on the theme.

 

June

  • 5 June: World Environment Day: the 2022 edition of World Environment Day will focus on the theme of ‘only one earth’, and discuss the importance of living in harmony with nature. Sweden will host events, marking 50 years since the Stockholm Conference which led to the establishment both of this Day, and of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The day will be an opportunity to highlight both what libraries are doing to reduce their own environmental impacts, but also to look at how our institutions are contributing to wider sustainability. IFLA will produce an article and social media at least around the day.
  • 20 June: World Refugee Day: libraries in many countries are strongly engaged in helping refugees and other newcomers to communities not just to integrate and develop skills, but also to find wellbeing, and maintain contacts with their friends, families, and cultures. World Refugee Day is an opportunity to highlight this work, and the need for wider investment to support those who have been forced to leave their homes. The specific theme of the 2022 day has yet to be announced, but this information will appear on the UN website in due course. IFLA will plan a publication around the day, and potentially more depending on the theme.
  • 26-30 June: World Urban Forum: this biennial event takes place in Katowice, Poland, under the theme Transforming our Cities for a Sustainble Urban Future. It is the primary UN-organised event around urban policy, bringing together national and local governments, experts, and NGOs from around the world in order to talk about how to build sustainable cities and communities (SDG11), as well as to deliver on the New Urban Agenda. IFLA has already responded to the concept note for the event, and will plan for engagement highlighting how libraries make a reality of digital and cultural rights, and promote regeneration and positive transformation.

The 10-Minute International Librarian #73: Think of a communications tool that works well on you

Communication is an important part of impact.

It allows us to engage more effectively, both with users and with the decision-makers who determine the future of our institutions and profession.

Improving our ability to talk about what we do and why it matters is therefore essential.

Fortunately, it’s also an area where there is plenty of experience and inspiration out there.

From advertising to political campaigning, and from education to public information, we come across good – and potentially bad – communications all of the time.

Crucially, we can be reflective. Given that we are the target of so much communication ourselves, each of us can bring to the table our own experience of what is most effective, and draw on this in our work.

So for our 73rd 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think of a communications tool that works well on you.

What have other people done that made you pay attention, better understand an issue, or even change your mind?

Was there a specific tool, approach, or format that made thus communication more effective?

Is this something that you can do in your own work to communicate the value of your work?

Let us know about what you have learnt from others about communication in the comments box below.

Good luck!

 

This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 4.4: Increase our visibility through excellent and innovative communications

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.

What advocacy activities are libraries undertaking? Analysing the Results of the IFLA Regional Advocacy Priorities Study (Part 2)

IFLA’s Regional Advocacy Priorities Study collected responses from library associations, institutions, and individuals in June and July of 2021 in order to build up an understanding of the status of library advocacy in the world today.

Its goal is to get library and information professionals around the world (and in particular in IFLA’s new Regional Council and Division Committees) thinking critically about library advocacy.

As set out in the first part of this blog last week, reflection is important. Our time and energy is far from infinite, and so we need to keep on asking ourselves how to use it most effectively. Priorities change, so too do circumstances.

The same reflection is necessary around the way in which we advocate.

As such, the Study included a question about the degree to which libraries in different countries carry out different types of activity as part of their advocacy efforts. You can read the full answers on p56 onwards of the Report.

The question draws on IFLA’s Advocacy Capacities Grid, which aims to break down the different elements of advocacy. It is a tool, allowing libraries to think about where they are already strong, and where they may be able to do more.

It recognises, in particular, that advocacy involves a range of steps, reaching from what can be seen as lobbying (working with politicians, around specific legal changes) to broader public relations.

A first set of activities relate to engagement with laws and lawmakers – practices which are more at the ‘lobbying’ end of the spectrum of advocacy:

  1. Understanding laws and policies: this refers to the ability of libraries to understand the content of laws and policies, and follow the process by which they are developed and approved. This matters, if libraries are to be able to spot issues and seize opportunities on a timely basis to obtain better laws and policies (or avoid bad ones)
  2. Contacts with government officials: this refers to whether libraries have a strong network of contacts with ministers and civil servants who prepare and take decisions which can shape the situation facing libraries.
  3. Meet regularly with government officials: this refers to the particular importance of being able to talk regularly with policy-makers and shapers. Such meetings are both an opportunity to share views and build common understanding, as well as being important in order to respond to emerging issues.
  4. Contacts with legislators: in addition to work with the executive, it can also be powerful to work with members of parliament. They are important not only when voting on law, but can also help hold governments to account when they are not doing enough for libraries, or even propose laws that could help libraries in their work.

A second set focuses on who carries out advocacy work:

  1. Staff focused on advocacy: this refers to whether there is a named individual or individual who is responsible for carrying out advocacy on behalf of libraries. Allocating responsibility can help with coordination of work, as well as allow for the development of relationships and knolwedge.
  2. Members as advocates: this refers to whether individuals across the library field are mobilised to advocate for libraries. This can help ensure that libraries can engage effectively at the local level, as well as making the voice of libraries stronger.

A third set looks at communications:

  1. Attractive communication tools: this refers to the ability of libraries to create communication tools which are professional and appealing. This is important if libraries are to be able to seize people’s attention.
  2. Impact communication: this refers to the ability to present evidence of the impact of libraries, for example through collecting powerful stories of how libraries contribute to development, or to share data. This can help convince people of the need to support libraries.

A fourth set looks at working with and through others to deliver on advocacy goals:

  1. Contacts with journalists: this refers to whether libraries have relationships with the press and other commentators or influencers. This can allow library messages to be heard by a wider audience, potentially in a way that is more effective than if libraries communicate themselves!
  2. Partnerships: this refers to relationships with other organisations and stakeholders who can support library advocacy, such as non-governmental organisations. They can open up possibilities to build new contacts, and convince new audiences.

Finally, there is evaluation:

  1. Advocacy impact evaluation: this refers to the capacity to assess the impact of advocacy efforts in order to inform future work. It is an important step in order to ensure continuous improvement in the effectiveness and reach of your work.

 

As set out in the previous blog, the study is limited by the number of respondents. It should therefore not be taken as a definitive snapshot of advocacy around the world, but rather a conversation starter.

To help with this, the study breaks down responses by region, by type of respondent (association, institution, individual), and by size (of association and institution), allowing us to highlight interesting trends in library advocacy practices around the world.

Looking at the answers to the question around advocacy activities, we can therefore identify the following potential findings, as a basis for further discussion.

Libraries focus more understanding laws, than engaging with lawmakers: a consistent finding across regions was a tendency to more active in work to keep track of laws, and understand what they mean, than to engage with decision-makers (and in particular, members of parliament).

Chart 1: Level of activity on different elements of advocacy - results for all respondents (by region)

Chart 1: Level of activity on different elements of advocacy – results for all respondents (by region)

Clearly, understanding laws is important, in order both to be able to follow them, and to understand and set out how they can be improved. Yet relations with decision-makers matter, given that in the end, they are the ones determining whether libraries will get the policies and provisions they need.

It is particularly interesting that legislators receive least attention. It is true that a single member of parliament is likely to have less power than a minister, but they can be powerful advocates, and may be freer in making proposals than those in government already.

Chart 2: Level of activity on different elements of advocacy - association respondents only (by region)

Chart 2: Level of activity on different elements of advocacy – association respondents only (by region)

Looking in particular at associations, it is also notable that the place of this engagement varies by region.

In Europe, North America and the Middle East and North Africa, understanding laws and maintaining contacts with decision-makers stand out as areas of focus. Meanwhile, for associations in Asia-Oceania, these activities stand out less, while in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa, they play a relatively smaller role than other types of activity.

Chart 3: Level of activity on different elements of advocacy – association respondents only (by size of association)

There is also a distinction between larger and smaller associations, with larger players more likely to be involved in engaging with law and lawmakers. This may be explained by the fact that this sort of engagement does require time and resources which may be less readily available for smaller players.

This raises an interesting challenge – what can be done to strengthen the ability of smaller associations to carry out these aspects of advocacy?

 

A varying focus between dedicated advocacy capacity and mobilising the field: as highlighted above, it is important both to have named individuals who can lead and coordinate advocacy work, and to enable librarians everywhere to speak up in favour of our profession and institutions.

In almost all regions of the world, there is a stronger emphasis on helping individual librarians to act, than on building a central capacity for advocacy, with only North America focusing more on the latter (see chart 1 above).

Nonetheless, the gap is not a wide one in Asia-Oceania, Europe, and North America. It is wider, however, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa, indicating a potential area of focus for capacity-building.

Looking specifically as associations, the picture is different. In Asia-Oceania, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America, there is a slightly stronger focus on dedicated advocacy capacity, while in the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, a lot more effort goes into mobilising members.

Turning in particular to associations of different sizes (see chart 3), the data indicates that larger players may be more focused on dedicated advocacy capacity, while smaller ones emphasise mobilising their memberships more.

In the end, the goal must be to ensure a similar focus on these two elements, and so learning how to develop both types of capacity, in order to support advocacy that is as strong as it is coordinated.

 

Partnerships complement libraries’ own efforts: as highlighted above, forming partnerships can be a powerful way of supporting library advocacy by recruiting a wider range of voices, able to reach out to a wider audience.

In general, the importance of building such partnerships appears already to be well recognised . Looking across all respondents, by region (see chart 3), in Asia-Oceania and North America, it appears to be the element of advocacy where there is most activity. In every other region, it is in the top three or four elements of advocacy.

The same does not go for contacts with journalists – it is only in the Middle East and North Africa, and in Europe, where there is the same level of activity in working with them as in partnerships in general. In Latin America and the Caribbean, and in North America, there is a significant gap.

Looking only at associations, the picture is similar – there is more activity around forming partnerships than working with journalists, with the exception of the Middle East and North Africa where the scores are equal (see chart 2).

Turning to associations of different sizes, it is notable that while the focus on partnerships is relatively similar, it tends to be bigger associations who work more work with journalists (see chart 3).

Overall, there is a welcome strong focus on partnerships across the board, but evidence that there may be some benefit in helping smaller associations develop their ability to engage with the media.

 

Communications plays a key role in respondents’ advocacy, but with varying responses for content and design: around the world, the importance of being able to communicate evidence of the value of the work of libraires, in an effective way, seems to be well recognised when looking at all respondents. Indeed, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, both of these are in the top three in terms of level of activity (see chart 1).

Looking only at associations, these two elements stand out less strongly, although the Middle Eastern and North African and Sub-Saharan African associations still focus strongly on these compared to associations from other regions (see chart 2).

As for associations of different sizes, smaller associations tend to focus more strongly on content, while larger ones indicate that they focus more on the presentation of materials – something that may be associated with the fact that they have more resources available for design work (see chart 3).

Looking across these results, it may be possible to conclude that when faced with more limited resources, many may decide to focus on communications which can be sent to a variety of stakeholders, rather than concentrating on individual decision-makers. Certainly, this work can play a useful role in trying to shape broader public opinion, and indeed there may be useful lessons to share about how to do communications on a small budget.

 

Evaluation underrelated?: a final point to note is the relatively low level of investment of energy in the evaluation of advocacy efforts. Indeed, looking at all respondents, this comes last in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and North Africa, and near-last in Sub-Saharan Africa (see chart 1).

Looking at the data only for associations, impact scores slightly higher among smaller associations than larger ones (potentially because of greater pressure on advocacy resources) (see chart 2). Moreover, associations in Asia-Oceania and Latin America and the Caribbean are also readier to engage, it seems, than those elsewhere.

Overall, it appears that advocacy evaluation may well be an area where there are lessons to share and to learn from.