Tag Archives: advocacy

Are librarians non-playable characters?

In IFLA’s advocacy work, two recurring phenomena point to a key challenge that we need to overcome.

The first is the surprise people at various conferences and events when they hear that you are representing libraries. The second is the feeling among libraries themselves that they are powerless to make change happen, and must rather do the best they can with the resources and conditions they have.

The root cause of these is, however, the same – a sense that librarians do not have any agency – i.e. the ability to make change happen.

In effect, there is a risk that librarians and libraries are all too often seen (including by themselves) as ‘non-playable characters’ – entities that are pre-programmed to do what they do.

The concept comes from gaming, referring to entities that likely aren’t bad, but rather just cannot be taken on as a personality, and are often simply just victims or playthings for the main characters.

A plaything, not a player?

To go into more depth, the perception of libraries as simply being ‘part of the landscape’ likely to some extent comes from the fact that our institutions have been around for thousands of years. Libraries are in effect not surprising, and plenty of people will already have an idea of what a library is (however outdated this might be).

Given this, the idea of libraries needing to speak up may seem odd to some. Doubtless, the stereotype of librarians as quiet and reserved also likely does not help.

A further factor may be the fact that libraries are often seen as ‘belonging’ to either host institutions or local governments, and so that they are represented by these. This can be a benign assumption, but of course can also be more dangerous if promoted by governments or other stakeholders who do not share libraries’ values.

In parallel, librarians themselves can be at risk of feeling like they are not able to speak up or shape decisions. This can be a result of being in public service (or other) contracts that restrict possibilities to question or criticise.

It is also perfectly human to want to focus on providing services that help people, with advocacy seemingly providing little immediate advantage to users. It of course also necessitates to some extent stepping outside of your comfort zone, and looking to engage with decision-makers and others. On some questions, advocacy will involve facing opposition – a skill that can be learned, but which will be easier for some than for others.

The overall result, as already indicted at in the introduction, is a sense of powerlessness, of not really having a place at the table when decisions are being made. Instead, there is an expectation that libraries should rather just accept what is decided.

However, this should not and does not have to be the case. It’s not good for libraries and their users, as it means that decisions are being made without consideration of what they need. It’s also not good for the library and information workforce – a sense of powerlessness can have consequences for wider wellbeing.

 Ready player 1?

 So what can we do about this, in order to ensure that librarians are seen – and see themselves – as having a sense of agency in the decisions that affect them and their work?

A key step of course is engagement in associations. Whereas many librarians are employed by governments or host institutions, associations are part of civil society, with greater possibilities to say things that individual members cannot. They can also bypass some of the structures that might prevent individual library and information workers from talking to those above them in the hierarchy.

In effect, this is an important role of associations, complementing their role in supporting a vibrant professional community, and one that is unlikely to be done by anyone else in the same way.

Beyond the work of associations, there are of course also opportunities for ‘internal’ lobbying, for example by identifying champions, ensuring that there is clear evidence of what libraries contribute (or the costs of inaction). This sort of advocacy is not public, but is a great way of building a sense that libraries are key players in achieving wider government or organisational goals. We just need to be smart and innovative in how we do this.

Another step is simply to be present in different spaces. With the contributions libraries make to progress on a wide range of development goals, we arguably do have legitimate experience and inputs in lots of different conferences and fora. Other stakeholders should get used to seeing us there, and hearing our voices!

We also need to work on the way we tell the story of ourselves, and remember that we have values and a mission that are unlikely to be achieved if we are not able to work effectively.

Finally, and practically, we can also build a sense of agency by breaking down advocacy into smaller types of activity. This also helps find ways to make the most of everyone’s strengths in advocacy. We do this in our advocacy capacities grids for public and internal advocacy.

Stepping up

As highlighted in the title, libraries and librarians are too often seen as non-playable characters. We shouldn’t accept this, for the sake of our institutions, our missions, and our own wellbeing.

Rather, we need to be ready to challenge, both when we see fatalism and passivity in our own attitudes, but also when we see others discount libraries and what they bring to the table.

Libraries do make a difference to the communities they serve. To do this, they need also to make a difference to the decisions that shape the environment in which they work.

Multi-Level Library Advocacy

Why do we do advocacy internationally, when the most critical decisions about libraries are taken at the national or local levels?

It’s a question that we often challenge ourselves with at IFLA, given the time and effort we put into our work, for example, with the United Nations, UNESCO, the World Intellectual Property Organization and others.

It can feel hard to answer after day-long meetings where it feels like people are just saying the same thing as they did a year ago, and there is far more talking than listening going on!

However, the fact that organisations and spaces like these exist already offers a pointer. Even though final decisions may be taken at the national or local levels, they are shaped by discussions, processes, recommendations and more elsewhere.

Sometimes this is because everyone realises that there is an interest in coordination or even harmonisation, as policies are less effective otherwise. Sometimes it is just because it is valuable to learn from others (both from their mistakes and successes).

Of course, work done at international level can have a greater or lesser impact on what others do as well, either because of the nature of the policy area (for example, trade rules are tougher than recommendations about education), and the attitudes of individual governments.

By engaging international, IFLA effectively works to influence the actions that in turn influence decisions about libraries. In addition, we also work to make sure that you – members, volunteers, and libraries in general – know about these actions, and can draw on them in your own work.

To explain this process – as we see it – in more depth, take a look at our model. We welcome your ideas and inputs!

Ones to Watch in 2024: 6 Library Advocacy Issues to Keep an Eye on in 2024

Advocacy is about making libraries part of other people’s agendas, ensuring that those who take decisions about us (and those who influence them) see why our institutions and profession matter.

Through this, we can help ensure that we have the best possible environment in which to pursue our mission to help everyone enjoy their rights and fulfil their potential through access to information.

But what are the agendas that we’re most likely to be engaging with in 2024, and what does this mean or our advocacy work? This article sets out a few ideas.

Growing alarm about failures to meet development goals: while this is nothing new, the closer we get to 2030, the more worried leaders are likely to be at the UN about how much progress is needed in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

There have already been plenty of announcements of initiatives to accelerate progress, notably the High-Impact Initiatives last September, and this year will include a key moment with the Summit of the Future. This will include a Pact for the Future which is likely to be the key reference or the UN’s work in the coming years.

As set out in our briefing, there are plenty of opportunities to advocate for libraries within the different chapters of the Pact, both in terms of our work in New York, but also in engaging with UN Country Teams and those engaged in UN work nationally.

 ‘Something must be done’ about the internet: while the fact of creating an Internet Governance Forum almost 20 years ago shows that the idea that the internet needs regulation is not new, the pressure for intervention is growing. The power of major digital companies and the potential of digital technologies to do harm, but also the need to ensure digital inclusion to allow for wider inclusion, are behind an intensification of activity to create new rules for the internet.

With national governments and others engaging in a ‘regulatory arms race’ (given that whoever moves first is likely to set the example for others), the UN too has been getting more and more active, with this year’s Global Digital Compact likely to be a highlight.

The Compact, at least as far as documents already shared indicate, offers plenty of hooks for library engagement. However, we have the potential to go further, setting out a positive agenda for what a library-enabled digital knowledge society looks like. This is what IFLA is looking to do with its update to our Internet Manifesto. See our post on digital issues in 2024 for more!

Addressing threats to information integrity: a specific area of focus is likely to be around how the world reacts to mis- and disinformation and hate speech. This will be the subject of a code of conduct from the UN, but likely also many national initiatives. The fact that this is a year of elections in many countries only increases the pressure.

It is certainly a strong positive for libraries that there is so much recognition now of the importance of reliable and verifiable information as an enabler of other outcomes. However, action here risks being quite negative, primarily looking at platform regulation and building skills to spot fake news.

Better, perhaps, for libraries is to use the opportunity the focus on information integrity offers in order to make a more positive case for literate, curious, critical and informed societies, with strong library networks at their heart. See our work on information integrity for more.

 Regulating Artificial Intelligence: a parallel trend related to the above is the sense that the risks posed by artificial intelligence (AI) require regulation, even as countries look to compete with each other to lead in this space.

Libraries, of course, are already experimenting themselves with AI, applying our skills and values, and we should not be shy of sharing our own experiences as part of wider debates. We clearly also have an interest in ensuring that AI makes a positive contribution to the goal of supporting informed societies.

A particular angle is likely to be around copyright. Training algorithms does typically require ‘learning’ based on the processing of large volumes of information, much of which is likely subject to copyright. The concern is that fears around AI will open the door to stricter rules around what libraries and their users can do with the content they access, or at least administrative burdens that make work impossible. Read about the work of our AI Special Interest Group for more.

 Insecurity encourages conservatism: there seems to be little likelihood, sadly, that the world will get more peaceful in 2024, or that we will see fewer extreme destructive weather events or other natural disasters. An immediate area of focus will need to be the inclusion of libraries in wider efforts to plan for uncertainty.

However, this same uncertainty seems likely to encourage a rise in conservativism, in the face of concern around the future, and a desire to focus on our own safety and interests. While such a trend may potentially lead to a greater focus on heritage, it also tends to be associated with reduced public spending and less trust in shared services, such as libraries.

This is clearly a worry for libraries. At the same time, we do not need to be passive! Libraries’ emphasis on allowing people to empower themselves through information, and so the possibility to be more effective actors in their own destiny represents a key strength. From climate empowerment to promoting active citizen engagement, we have a strong message to send. Read our work around climate empowerment in 2024 for more.

 Recognising the role of culture: a final point, and perhaps an optimistic one, relates to the growing understanding we see, at least in international texts, of the role of culture in supporting the achievement of wider policy goals.

This of course covers the direct contributions of cultural actors and institutions (such as libraries), but also the need to recognise and work with underlying cultural factors that influence how people behave and respond. This makes sense at a time of concern about progress towards wider development goals, and the effectiveness of policies in place.

For libraries, there is an opportunity here, not just as part of the wider cultural sector, but also given our intrinsic nature as institutions which are attuned to the cultures and needs of communities. Read our piece about culture in 2024 for more.

Libraries on the political compass: advocating to politicians from different perspectives

This blog starts from the fact that libraries find themselves having to make the case for funding and support to decision-makers with a wide variety of positions, and looks at what sort of arguments could work in each case. It is with thanks to Antoine Torrens-Montebello, who sparked the idea for it. 

In order to be able to offer their services to users for free, libraries rely on support from others – host institutions, funders, and in many cases, governments.

As such, libraries do need to work with people who, at least in democracies, have come to power because they have promoted a certain view of the world. But even outside of this, politicians inevitably have a particular set of attitudes and beliefs about people and society.

While we certainly need to avoid becoming political footballs, library advocates have to be able to explain their contribution to people with different opinions, including to those we may not agree with.

Fortunately, libraries are versatile institutions, and it is possible to argue in favour of libraries in many different ways, in order to convince others. This is not to compromise on our own values, rather to ensure that we can continue to deliver services that we know are important for the people we serve.

A simplified way of thinking about what these arguments are comes from the Political Compass. This provides a way of placing yourself (and others) on a chart along two axes – from economic left to right, and from authoritarian to libertarian.

In our version, we adapt this slightly, and look at axes from economic left to economic right, and from social liberal to social conservative.

As underlined, this is a highly simplistic approach, but a useful starting point. More sophisticated approaches are possible! In each section below, we’ll look at one part of the compass, and the arguments that can be used for libraries to convince people who are there.

Economic right, social conservative

This part of the compass is where you will find politicians who tend to believe in less regulation for business and a smaller state, but also who are relatively less focused on issues of personal freedoms or combatting inequalities. They tend to be more traditionalist or even nationalist.

For libraries, the arguments that are likely to be most effective will centre on the fact that we are institutions with a long history and tradition, as well as a key role in safeguarding heritage for the future. Politicians here may also be positive about ideas focused on libraries supporting community-building and social cohesion, even if this is more from the perspective of avoiding insecurity or social challenges.

Economic right, social liberal

This covers politicians who also believe in a small state and supporting the private sector, but more because they believe that this can and should be a way of helping everyone to achieve their potential, and are ready to regulate accordingly. They can be friendlier to immigration, readier to address social issues, and challenge tradition.

For politicians in this space, libraries can be presented as a great, efficient way of helping people to access a variety of possibilities, and deliver on their potential, if they are ready to take the initiative. The fact that libraries are services for everyone can be promoted as a means of being more effective in delivering services, while their cross-cutting function can be talked about as being innovative.

Decision-makers in this space may also be sympathetic to ideas based on individual rights and freedoms, and how libraries help to make this happen, as well as potentially as a basis for supporting community initiatives.

Economic left, social conservative

Here is where we come across politicians who believe in stronger state spending, including a generous welfare state, as well as broad nationalisation of services and industries. This is accompanied by a relatively strict view of society, and an expectation that everyone – including newcomers – should look to assimilate in order to participate.

When advocating to people in this part of the political compass, libraries may gain from underlining their role as part of the wider welfare state, for example as a key provider of (or portal to) education to people throughout life, a complement to public health initiatives, and beyond. Decision-makers may also be sympathetic to the history of public libraries in some countries, where they were an early form of public service, focused on helping people in the greatest need to develop their knowledge and skills.

Economic left, social liberal

Finally, this is the part of the compass for politicians who combine a readiness to spend money to support both social programmes and wider investments. At the same time, they also tend to be readier to accept and celebrate diversity and downplay nationalist or traditionalist feelings.

Here, libraries can focus strongly on their role in providing adapted services to everyone, as a very modern example of the welfare state at work. Indeed, our approach can even be contrasted with more focused actors like the police, schools or hospitals, and our locations – as dedicated non-commercial spaces allowing diverse communities to come together – can be celebrated. Politicians here are likely to feel warm about spaces where a strong mix of people meet, and equity promoted.


This is, as already mentioned, a highly simplified way of looking at how we can promote libraries to people coming from different political viewpoints, including those we may not personally agree with.

Of course, there also need to be red lines. There are policies and attitudes that we simply can’t work with, given that they stand in opposition to the idea that everyone has a right to be able to access information, knowledge and culture. In such cases, we need to work to find more moderate voices, and work with them, in order to ensure that our communities can continue to benefit from our services.

Overall, there is a strong potential set of arguments for libraries when working with politicians of a wide variety of tendencies, reflecting libraries’ own versatility. Do share your ideas and experiences in the chat below.

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!