Tag Archives: authors

Learning, Making, Doing: Libraries as Incubators of Creativity and the Creative Economy

A vital component in realizing cultural rights, including freedom of expression and participation in cultural life, is supporting cultural actors. This includes those working in the creation, production, and distribution of, as well as access to, expressions of culture.

So, with 2021 being the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, IFLA has explored how libraries open the door to cultural participation and make space for cultural diversity.

This includes work to do so by providing access to lifelong learning opportunities and addressing gaps in the ability to participate in culture on digital platforms, as well as fostering environments where diverse cultural expressions are encouraged, valued, shared, and protected.

To prepare this overview, IFLA engaged with several of our Professional Units and carried out desktop research to find concrete examples of how libraries put these values into action. We have found examples ranging from libraries participating in national cultural strategies to carrying out community-level programmes. Some examples help elevate established creators, while others create spaces where new creators can explore and grow.

Let’s take a deeper look at how libraries can act as incubators of creativity and the creative economy in their national contexts.

Libraries as Partners: Contributing to Government Initiatives

Brazil: National Reading and Writing Policy

In 2018, the Brazilian Special Secretariat for Culture established, within the National Reading and Writing Policy, a permanent strategy to promote books, reading, writing, literature, and publicly accessible libraries (Law No. 13,696/2018) [source].  The Brazilian National Library Foundation is engaged as a partner in this strategy.

The Policy’s objectives include promoting access to books and reading, disseminating Brazilian literature, and valuing and encouraging national authors with an emphasis on bibliodiversity.

Initiatives carried out within this framework have helped stimulate the creative economy by supporting national authors through funding and participation in international literacy fairs.

For example, in 2018, a public call for original works in Portuguese on select themes regarding the history of Brazil was circulated. Fifty works were selected for funding, which contributed to promotion and dissemination efforts.

Colombia: Reading Colombia

The National Library of Colombia partnered with the Ministry of Culture, Vice-ministry of Creativity and Orange Economy and the Colombian Book Chamber on the “Reading Colombia” strategy [source].

A key focus of this strategy was to support the distribution of works by national authors in the international market in order to help increase visibility of contemporary Colombian writers.

In 2018, the scheme awarded 12 scholarships to support translation of the work of Colombian authors into six languages​. In 2019, this increased to 50 works of Colombian literature.

Ireland: Decade of Centenaries Programme

The Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 has been an ongoing programme administered by the Irish Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the most difficult and transformative period of Irish history, 1912-1923.

The National Library of Ireland is partnering with Department and the Decade of Centenaries Programme to appoint a poet in residence to engage with this theme and create original works [source].

This year-long post is supported by a stipend. During this time, the poet will not only create original literary works, but contribute to masterclasses for practitioner-led, experimental or interdisciplinary programmes, participate in workshops to help engage new audiences with the Library’s collections, and work to develop good practice outreach models to connect their creative works with a public audience.

United States of America: Library of Congress National Book Festival

The National Book Festival is hosted annually by the Library of Congress, the national library of the USA. Over past years, more than 100 authors, poets, and illustrators had the opportunity to connect with over 200,000 attendees for book talks, discussions, book signings and other engaging activities.

This has historically been the largest annual literary gathering held in the nation’s capital but in 2021 will reach a much wider audience through a hybrid in-person / online programme.

Content will be available through videos on-demand, author conversations in real time and live question-and-answer sessions, as well as a podcast series, a national television special, and in-person events at the Library.

This Festival will also engage authors from across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, who are each invited to choose a book to represent their state or territory’s literary heritage. The Library of Congress will amplify these authors by holding conversations to discuss their books and what they mean for each State or Territory.


Libraries as Hosts: Artists in Residence

Jamaica: National Library of Jamaica Poet Laureate Programme

The Poet Laureate selected by the National Library of Jamaica carries out a three-year term, during which time he or she is tasked with stimulating a wider appreciation for Jamaican poetry. During this time, the Poet Laureate also helps encourage public involvement in poetry and spoken word arts, including by involving young people in appreciating and writing poetry. The scheme supports the poet during their term through a grant [source].

Within this programme, the Poet Laureate presents their own creations both locally and abroad, is involved in national events, and carries out participatory programmes to encourage developing poets, such as poetry competitions and school poetry reading tours [source].


United States of America: University of California San Francisco Library Artist in Residence program

This programme, carried out by the University Library, invites artists to promote health humanities through creative use of the historical materials preserved in the Library’s Archives and Special Collections [source].

The current Artist in Residence, Farah Hamaden, is a biomedical illustrator and animator, whose interactive storytelling project, “The City is a Body”, seeks to collect and bring to life San Franciscans’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more about her project here.


Singapore – The National Library Board Creative Residency

This programme invites creatives from all different artistic disciplines to use the National Library Board’s collections to inspire their own works, and to reimagine them in ways that help engage a wider community with the collection [source].

Creative work produced in this role can take the form of videos, publications, literary works, artworks, musical compositions, or more. The 6-month post is supported by a stipend, and is open to all Singapore-based creative practitioners (individuals or collectives) working in any discipline or form of expression to apply.

Libraries as Enablers: Supporting New Creators

Trinidad and Tobago – NALIS First Time Authors Programme

National Library and Information Systems Authority (NALIS) highlights first-time authors of Trinidad and Tobago nationality or descent through their First Time Authors Programme [source].

Held on World Book and Copyright Day, this programme celebrates the accomplishment of first time authors, encourages new national writers, and raises public awareness of issues relating to intellectual property and copyright.

During the annual ceremony, national first-time authors of all genres are presented with appreciation tokens and their work is promoted online. See a recent example here.

Australia: Yarra Plenty Regional Library Maker Spaces and Maker Month

Yarra Plenty Regional Library (YPRL), a public library service located in Melbourne, Australia, has established Maker Spaces in 6 of their 9 branches. These spaces allow users to create, connect, collaborate, and learn in a fun and supported environment, and specialise in areas of textile and craft, mental health, gardening, writing and publishing, science and technology, and design

In 2020, the library launched a month-long, region-wide Maker Month programme. This went beyond the Maker Spaces, with a focus on entrepreneurs and events to support and empower those starting out in business or making the leap from hobby to “side hustle”.

This addressed an identified gap for support systems aimed at such microbusinesses, with many not knowing where to start in launching their own creative small business. Built on community feedback, the programme offered local makers opportunities to connect and network, get creative, and upskill. It provided tools to learn about business needs – from developing their idea to running and marketing their business.

Although hampered by the outbreak of the pandemic, many programmes were held online. These included topics such as: Using WordPress to make your own webpage, How and why to create digital content for your business, and How to plan for small businesses.

A number of sessions, including Turning Your Passion into Profit and How to Market Your Business Using Social Media continue to run in an online format.

The library is planning a smaller-scale Maker Month for July 2021, with a mix of online and in-person events including 90-day Business Planning and is launching a co-working space which will have an ongoing focus on business support.


This is just a look at different ways libraries can make a difference for creative actors, connecting them with opportunities to create, elevating and promoting their work, and encouraging learning and exploration.

Through their position in the social fabric and their role as champions of access to information and freedom of expression, it is clear that libraries are an essential piece in a thriving creative economy.

Through examples such as these, libraries contribute to the fulfillment of cultural rights and link them to economic opportunity for creative actors – both of which are needed to enable sustainable development.

This list is by no means exhaustive – we welcome additional cases from all types of libraries around the world! Send your stories to: claire.mcguire@ifla.org

Making the Book Chain Stronger – and Unique

In many countries, the series of actors – and actions – that take a book from idea to bookshelf is known as the ‘book chain’.

The metaphor is attractive because of its simplicity, with a book to be published passed from writer, to publisher, to distributor, to bookshops and libraries, and to readers.

It is also used for planning policy interventions to support culture, with each actor benefitting from different supports – grants, tax reductions, or other tools.

Of course there is disruption. Plenty of authors simply bypass publishers simply by self-publishing. The work of distributors and bookshops (and some elements of the work of libraries) is subject to competition from the internet.

What is more worrying – as has been highlighted in online discussions in Senegal recently – is a tendency to forget libraries. This blog explains both why libraries are essential throughout the book chain, and indeed, why they make it unique.


Support at Every Step: Libraries Across the Book Chain

In the most simple terms, libraries are a market for publishers – in some cases, they are even the predominant ones (notably for scholarly works). However, this is to forget the other ways they provide help.

Authors – who tend to have a very positive attitude towards libraries – benefit from not only form the possibility to carry out research, but also to meet with some of the most passionate readers out there, and to be discovered by new audiences. Given that, alongside the desire to earn a living, simply being read is a high priority, this makes libraries into natural friends of authors.

For publishers, libraries are also effectively free advertising space, and make it feasible for them to produce a wider variety of content than would be possible if only working through bookshops. Libraries are also key players in developing the book-buyers of the future by encouraging literacy and a love of reading.

Similarly, libraries also be a useful source of feedback about demand for individual books, complementing that provided by bookshops. They are also are a vital part of the overall infrastructure for books – through running ISBN agencies, managing national biographies, and ensuring the preservation of works for future generations.

For bookshops, where perhaps the risk of competition can be seen as highest, there is in fact complementarity. Various studies from the US have shown that not only are people using libraries also more likely to use bookshops, but that discovering a new author in a library often leads to buying a second book at the bookshop.



Making it Unique: Why Libraries Make the Book Chain Special

What is missing from the previous set of actors are of course readers – libraries’ primary focus.

Indeed, it is this focus on meeting reader needs, first and foremost, that makes libraries and the book chain as a whole so special. No other sector of the creative industries has such a central focus on ensuring that it is not only about profit, but also about access.

This makes sense. Literacy is a core life-skill, and it is clear that a love of books and reading tends to make for better chances in life.

Arguably, as set out in the UNESCO Recommendation of 2015, the written word has a special role in sharing the thoughts and ideas that animate societies, and spreading the knowledge that drives progress. In this situation, giving everyone an equitable chance to access and enjoy it is essential to ensuring social cohesion, innovation, and compliance with international obligations.

Libraries, then, can be a source of pride for all others in the book chain – the thing that marks it out as being truly democratic, truly a contribution to broader social goals, rather than just a market or elite activity.



Clearly, the book chain is not without its problems, not least the need to hold its ground in the competition for people’s attention with other activities.

Moreover, there are ongoing discussions about how it is most appropriate for governments to support the creation and dissemination of new ideas, how to ensure that authors get a fair deal. As with any activity involving public money (including of course libraries), it’s important to be careful about how it is spent.

What is certain, at least, is that libraries are, and should be, part of the solution.


Find out more about how to support new authors – and creativity in general at session 188 – From Consumers to Creators – of this year’s World Library and Information Congress.

The Wrong Target: Resistance to Exceptions to Copyright for Libraries and a Sustainable Book Chain

The Wrong Target? Why opposition to copyright reform won’t guarantee the future of the book chain

Copyright reforms introducing or updating exceptions and limitations to copyright can easily become a lightning rod.

Recent examples have regularly seen apocalyptic claims about the collapse of the book chain – understood as all those involved in writing, editing, publishing, distributing and reading books – and the demise of creativity in general.

In a sector marked by concern about falling author incomes (despite overall growth in the sector), fears for the future sustainability of the publishing industry, and worry about the role of major internet platforms, it is understandable that there is a desire to take action.

It is true that policy reforms seem to allow this, given the possibility to engage politicians, make statements and get involved in the media debate. Many have done this, claiming that by preventing libraries from enjoying new rights, it is possible to secure the future.

However, just because it is possible to take a position , it does not mean that it is sensible or correct to do so.

This blog explains how in the short term, modern copyright exceptions and limitations for libraries do not pose a threat to the future of the book chain. Instead, it argues, a healthy library sector, enabled by such exceptions and limitations, is a key guarantor of future success and viability.


A Complex Challenge Deserves Better Than a Simplistic Response

A number of questions are at play in determining the health of the book chain.

Effective cultural policies supporting new and diverse voices, competition policies to prevent individual actors (such as Internet platforms) taking too powerful a position, and regulation of contracts between authors and publishers are all important. Other regulations, such around book pricing or taxation, as well as copyright enforcement, can also play a role.

There are also factors beyond policy – a shift to digital and the ability (or inability) of the sector to keep up, growing competition for readers’ attention, and changing trends in education and research.

In effect, the challenges and questions facing the book chain are multiple, as are the tools for responding to them. A short-sighted focus only on stopping copyright reforms is highly limiting, and will do nothing to increase authors’ shares of revenue from their works, provide targeted support for new voices, or address the dominance of digital platforms.

This has not stopped some from trying to argue that modern copyright rules will mean disaster. However, each time there has been a truly comprehensive effort to look at the evidence recently, this argument has been rejected.

In Canada, for example, where the Parliament’s Industry, Science and Technology Committee held a thorough review of the country’s 2012 copyright reform. However, despite intense calls for one particular reform (the extension of educational fair dealing, confirming decisions already made by the courts) to be repealed, it rejected the claims made:

“Despite the volume and diversity of evidence submitted throughout the review, the Committee observed a problematic lack of authoritative and impartial data and analysis on major issues. Multiple witnesses either overestimated how strongly the data they presented supported their arguments or failed to disclose its limitations”.

Similarly in Australia, the Productivity Commission, charged with making an independent assessment of the impact of different policy actions, found very little evidence to back up claims that fair use would cause any unjustifiable harm to the publishing industry.

As Deputy Commissioner Karen Chester noted in a speech, the claims made against reforms which would benefit libraries and users simply have evidence behind them. Moreover:

“It was claimed that fair use destroys publishing industries and has done so in Canada, and particularly their educational resource sector. That claim did not stand up to even modest scrutiny: the experience in Canada has been grossly misrepresented and ignores specific market factors there”. 

Similarly, impact assessments in the European Union and Singapore have also underlined that well-designed copyright exceptions are very much a positive sum game, with no harm to publishers or authors, and significant gains to researchers, educators and readers.


Sacrificing the Long-Term?

Of course in the long-run, it is not a case of there being two ‘sides’ to the debate – rightholders and readers. Today’s readers may well be tomorrow’s creators, innovators and researchers.

This is where libraries come in. Through promoting literacy and a love of reading, supporting responsive and innovative teaching, and helping students and researchers, they have a key role in ensuring a ‘pipeline’ of new talent.

Moreover, through giving access to heritage and existing ideas, they are spaces where new ideas can come to life.

They also have a key role in ensuring the legitimacy of the book chain, by ensuring that it does not simply become the preserve of the wealthier. The goal of the great library builders of the 19th Century to democratise knowledge is still relevant today.

Yet to continue to play this role, libraries need to benefit from a basic set of exceptions and limitations that work in the digital age. Preservation, lending and supporting education and research are core functions around which there should be little disagreement.

There is a growing body of evidence that underlines the costs to library users of rules that do not allow libraries to fulfil their missions. This contrasts – as set out above – with the lack of evidence that library exceptions and limitations actually do any short-term harm to the book sector.


In the light of this, it is perhaps time to look more broadly at the actions that can be taken to guarantee the future of the book chain. This may be hard – the questions are difficult ones, and the effort required will be higher. It also involves stepping away from old and comfortable assumptions.

Nonetheless, this would certainly be a more constructive approach than to spend time and energy opposing reforms that would in the short term be neutral, and in the long term be positive, for all involved.