Tag Archives: climate action

Count Libraries In! Transcript of the COP27 Presentation by Dr. Heba Mohamed Ismail (IFLA Regional Division Committee for MENA)

Between 6-18 November, roughly 35,000 people are coming together in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, for the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference (COP27). IFLA sent a delegation to take part in the first week of the conference which included Dr Marwa El Sahn and Dr Heba Mohamed Ismail, both members of IFLA’s Regional Division for the Middle East and North Africa Committee, as well as Claire McGuire, IFLA Policy and Research Officer. They joined colleagues from the Climate Heritage Network in bringing the voices of culture, heritage, and the arts to COP27.

Below is the transcript of the presentation given by Heba Mohamed Ismail during two events focussing on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), or the critical role that enabling all members of society to engage in climate action plays in facing the climate crisis. Heba’s presentation shed light on how libraries in Egypt are already carrying out work that touches on all six elements of ACE: climate change education and public awareness, training, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation on these issues.

Count Libraries In!

Dr. Heba Mohamed Ismail

IFLA MENA RDC member, IFLA CPDWL SC member, Vice President of Arab Federation for Libraries and Information, Libraries Technical Manager, Egypt’s Society for Culture and Development (ESCD)

Over the past years, libraries across the world have paused to reflect and recommit to a better climate future.

Libraries are institutions in which to turn this commitment into action, as public spaces, as well as champions for access to information and lifelong learning, libraries are well placed within their communities to be hubs and to have a role in Action for climate empowerment.

In this presentation, I will explore examples of what public libraries in Egypt are already doing, and how they have supported the six elements of Action for climate empowerment through their activities

1. Education

Children participate in workshop


Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in cooperation with Senghor University target francophone students and those who are studying French as a second language. Focusing on arts and games, two workshops were conducting and are tailored to increase the students’ environmental awareness; the understanding of changes in the climate; its impact on the quality of life in general, and our role as active members of society towards environmental issues.

2. Public awareness

These programmes feature activities and events dedicated to raise public awareness and inspiring action

Egypt’s Society for Culture and Development (ESCD) in cooperation with the Greater Cairo Water Company (GCWC)
ESCD is non-profit organization that supervise children and Public libraries in 4 governorates in Egypt

  • Organizing awareness programs
  • Educating young people about environmental issues (optimal use of drinking water and reducing its surplus)
  • Organizing regular workshops

Egypt’s Society for Culture and Development (ESCD) in cooperation with the Holding Company for Water and Wastewater

  • Organize a series of workshops
  • Offer visual shows, educational competitions through games and a puppet theater

Bibliotheca Alexandria in cooperation with Greater Cairo Public Library; the Climate Specific Federation, the Federation of Civil Associations and Institutions for Climate, the Egyptian Library Association host a World Environment Day Seminar.

The seminar tackles climate changes, their impact on agriculture and livestock production, and the means to address them. It also discusses the methods of rationalizing water consumption, and examines the role of artificial intelligence and civil society organizations in addressing climate changes, with the aim of achieving the goals of sustainable development and Egypt’s vision 2030.

Misr Public Library System (MPL) in cooperation with the Faculty of Early Childhood Education, Cairo University, which is concerned with educating ordinary children and people with special needs, launched an initiative entitled “Towards a promising environmentally friendly childhood.” The initiative includes several activities and events:

  1. workshops conducted by teachers with ordinary children and people with special needs on origami, paper crafts and recycling.
  2. The second event: held in cooperation with Rotary Egypt, they carry out agricultural activities.
  3. The third event: includes a variety of activities that the teachers carry out with the children, such as the puppet theater and Montessori activities on rationalizing the consumption of energy, water and electricity, preserving the environment from pollution, and making signs and posters that encourage concern for the environment.

3. Training

Different training were provided to librarians and to students on environmental issues and activities.

4. Public participation

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina witnessed the launching of the volunteer program of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), Dr. Nevine El-Kabbaj, Minister of Social Solidarity, addressed the volunteers via video conference during their gathering at the Library. and discussed the Ministry’s efforts in preparing around 1300 volunteers to organize the Climate Change Conference.

Let’s be green: Maadi Public Library

One of ESCD’s libraries- in Cooperation with the U.S Embassy in Cairo conducted environmental activities within the framework of projects for ages from 14 to 18 years, where each team works on a project that represents one of the environmental issues, including:
Air pollution and climate change; deforestation; ozone layer depletion; water pollution; radioactive contamination and trying to find solutions for these activities.

“Alexandria Climathon for Youth” at the BA

The BA Sustainable Development Studies, Youth Capacity Building, and African Relations Support Program organized “Alexandria Climathon for Youth” competition. “Climathon” is an international competition held in several countries around the world through EIT Climate-KIC, which aims at raising the awareness of urban residents about climate changes. The competition is an opportunity for young people to participate in developing ideas that address local climate challenges. The activities of “Climathon” are held internationally on the same date in hundreds of cities, and are supported by local organizers.
This year’s competition was held in several cities across Egypt, as part of the preparations for the United Nations (COP27). Competitors should make suggestions and propose creative solutions that can help alleviate the consequences of climate change in Alexandria.

5. Access to information:

Establishing green corners in public libraries in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment helps transform the library’s space into a greener and more accessible place for children and encourage students to participate in activities, which grow knowledge of social responsibility and Promote public access to information on climate change and its effects.

6. International cooperation

Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in cooperation with Senghor University organized an interactive conference (via Zoom) entitled “Yes to Green: Your Right to a Sustainable Future”.

The conference addressed the role of formal and non-formal education in promoting literacy on climate change, as well as the theme of green libraries as a new trend in the world of libraries and information. It will also tackle the projects that have been classified by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) as green projects set up in African libraries in Senegal and Kenya.

Additionally, the conference highlighted some of the environmental disasters facing the African continent, together with the role of NGOs and universities in promoting awareness of environmental sustainability. It examined a number of proposed green solutions to address environmental change.

Finally, as climate change is a human-caused problem, human-centred solutions will be key to its successful mitigation. Empowering our communities to develop, participate in, learn about, and embrace these solutions is a powerful way for libraries to enable and drive change.

So count Culture in, Count libraries in, and ACT NOW!

Amplifying Library Stories: How Libraries are Taking Climate Action

In the leadup to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), IFLA asked the Standing Committee of the Environment Sustainability and Libraries Section (ENSULIB) to share examples of libraries educating, connecting and empowering their communities to take climate action.

We were happy to share some guest articles on IFLA’s Policy and Advocacy blog to highlight library initiatives that promote climate action and empowerment in their communities.

 Green FUBib: Sustainability at the University Library

This article offers a look at the GreenFUBib group, a permanent working group that is committed to promoting sustainable action in everyday library life at the University Library of the Freie Universität Berlin.

“GreenFUBib wants to contribute to filling the strategic terms of sustainability and responsibility with life in everyday library activities. In line with the 17 global sustainability goals, it keeps not only the ecological, but also the economic, social and cultural dimensions in mind.”

The working group seeks to address the following questions through their activities:

  • Where can something be done for sustainability and climate protection in the everyday work at the library?
  • Which measures are low-threshold and effective?
  • Which ideas can be implemented for all, or at least most, library locations?

Readers can find an overview of activities carried out by the GreenFUBib group, including choosing more sustainable library practices, like finding plastic-free options, organising educational events, and establishing a library garden. The author also offers a look at future plans on the group, and partners within the university community with whom the working group cooperates to achieve their goals.

This article could be a helpful reference for those who might be interested in establishing similar working groups in their libraries, or in implementing more sustainable everyday library practices.

Contributed by Janet Wagner, Librarian at the Universitätsbibliothek der Freien Universität Berlin (Germany).

Read the full article here: Green FUBib: Sustainability at the University Library

Climate Change in the Spotlight of RECIDA, the Spanish Network of Green Libraries

This article offers a glimpse into recent actions of the Spanish Network of Green Libraries (RECIDA).

This includes participation in the 12th Seminar of Environmental Documentation Centers and Protected Natural Areas, held in October 2021. This Seminar brought together state and regional institutions, universities, researchers, representatives of natural spaces and NGOs in a multi-stakeholder forum for collaboration and exchanges through the RECIDA network.

RECIDA, the Spanish network of green libraries, has been working for sustainability for 20 years. Included in RECIDA’s Action Plan are actions to raise awareness and mitigate climate changes and work towards impacting on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Some experiences highlighted by the RECIDA network during this conference which implement their Action Plan include:

  • Establishing reading clubs in environmental information centers which introduce environmental reading material to the public and raise awareness of the climate emergency
  • The initiative Literary Ecomenu, which encourages users to read, gaze, feel and marvel at nature through words and books.
  • Creation of educational materials for eco-social education aimed at addressing social, economic and ecological challenges

Readers may be interested in the approach of this network, which highlights how library and information professionals can have an impact on climate empowerment. In addition to ideas for action, this article also provides resources shared during the RECIDA network’s recent conference. Further, it provides an example of a multistakeholder approach to integrating libraries in climate action – especially through establishing relationships with academia, other NGOs, and government agencies, especially representing national parks.

Contributed by Rosario Toril Moreno, Documentalist at the National Center of Environmental Education, (Spain).

Read the full article here: Climate Change in the Spotlight of RECIDA, the Spanish Network of Green Libraries

Green Library Awards

During IFLA’s engagement in COP26 (read more on that here), we also drew inspiration from recent winners and runners-up of the IFLA Green Library Awards.

Although we only had time to share a few during COP26 events, we invited the audience to explore the many more examples of excellent library initiatives available on our website.

Have you revisited the Green Library Awards lately? Find inspiration here: IFLA Green Library Awards.

Do you have a similar example to share? Please reach out: claire.mcguire@ifla.org

There is a Place for Everyone in Climate Action

The UN is focussing this year’s World Environment Day (5 June) on biodiversity, and the close link between it and human well-being. As the official website underlines, biodiversity – maintaining the widest possible range of forms of life on earth – brings major benefits to humanity. It does this because human life is still fundamentally interconnected with our environment as part of a complex ecosystem.

This ecosystem includes the many relationships of humans to the environment. It includes the links between climate, individuals, industry, and government. In fact, it is the connection between all of the earth’s life and resources. This interdependence, these links, means reliance on one another.

It follows that changes in other parts of this ecosystem can have a real impact on us – not least in the form of the Coronavirus pandemic, or locust infestations, both of which are arguably facilitated by biodiversity loss. A key driver of change in this ecosystem today, and one that is intricately linked with biodiversity, is climate change.

In this blog post for World Environment Day, I would therefore like to discuss interdependence, and where the LIS field and documentary heritage practice fit in.


Culture and the Environment

The environment has moulded human society and culture for thousands of years. We are inextricably tied to it, and so, environmental hazards are also threats to culture. Historically, freak weather, volcanic and earthquake activity, combined with long-term evolutions in temperatures have all had an impact on our cultures.

However now, we are facing the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. In other words, environmental threats are human threats, and therefore require finding human solutions.

Culture under threat

IFLA recently provided responses to a request from the UN Special Rapporteur for Cultural Rights in which we discussed the threats, challenges and opportunities associated with documentary cultural heritage and climate change.

When looking for the link between documentary heritage and climate change, here are just some things to begin thinking about:

  • Fires, flooding, high heat and humidity, severe storms, and resulting power loss all threaten memory institutions which store movable heritage. Developing nations, marginalized communities, and Small Island Developing States are at the most immediate risk.
  • Primary sources of documentary heritage are often delicate, requiring sensitive care to preserve, and are at risk of degradation over time. This threat is exacerbated by rising temperatures and the increased severity of natural disasters and storms.
  • We are likely to see increased numbers of refugees due to climate change, leading to a greater risk of loss, especially concerning the stories and histories of marginalised communities, just as we already see in the case of refugees fleeing conflict and natural disaster. Loss of these stories is a loss for humankind. The work of documentary heritage professionals is essential for allowing us to access the lives, stories, and histories of communities.

It is easy to be overwhelmed and feel that adapting to climate change is more at home in another sector, a duty for other professionals. However, climate action will take all of us, the global library field, cultural and memory institutions included.

Crucially, libraries do not need just to be victims of the effects of climate change, but also vectors of change. We do not only have a duty to contribute to wider efforts to reduce emissions, but can be at the heart of the drive to raise ambition globally, and help the world adapt.

Libraries, Documentary Heritage and Climate Action

There are concrete actions that LIS professionals can take. In addition to leading by example and ensuring that buildings and techniques are low emission, libraries can also help shape opinion and so drive commitment.

A great tool and source of inspiration for this is ICOMOS’s report The Futures of Our Past (2019), which discusses how to engage the cultural sector in climate action, and which has provided the basis for a shorter IFLA overview.

Below we suggest some aspects of librarianship that can impact climate action. You are welcome to share other ideas in the comments.

Bringing climate change home to people

A key action set out in the ICOMOS report is the possibility to highlight the effects of climate change on cultural heritage itself as a means of bringing this to life for the public. Buildings damaged, collections lost or subject to decay, and disappeared cultures are tragic, powerful testimonies to the reality of what is happening.

In other words, libraries and other heritage institutions can humanise scientific data by putting it into people-centred and culturally sensitive terms that everyone can understand. We can learn from the past and put that knowledge into action.

Access to information and Information Literacy

Libraries, information services, and conservation and preservation practitioners provide access to information and cultural resources that can inform research and practice, raise awareness and ease understanding.

Climate data, maps, agriculture and irrigation practices, evidence of traditional economies, and indigenous knowledge are all available to us through the collection, documentation, preservation cataloguing, sharing and provision of access to information. LIS professionals and archivists are essential for this.

Moreover, being able to think critically is the best way to combat the deluge of fake news surrounding the topic of climate change. Literacy, both traditional and digital, are key to the informed, participatory societies we will need to enact change.


Digitisation and secure storage of digitised heritage materials are key ways for libraries to preserve materials at risk due to climate change or other threats. Beyond digitising this heritage, providing access to in and education on it is also critical in ensuring that the knowledge held within is interpreted and applied.

The threat to the world’s documentary heritage posed by climate change should be a catalyst for more systematic document preservation and sharing.  Further, there is an urgent need to advocate for international action on copyright, to ensure that libraries globally are able to preserve the works in their collections, including across borders.

Sharing good practice

Having an impact also means looking to others within the profession and sharing ideas on how to make small difference within your own institution. For example, IFLA’s Environment, Sustainability and Libraries Special Interest Group connects professionals from across the library field and around the world to:

  • Address the effects of climate change on libraries
  • discuss applications of environment-friendly practices in libraries
  • propose environmental recommendations for the profession
  • promote sustainability-related library resources and services
  • increase librarians’ own awareness of environmental concerns.

The group has published a number of tools on their webpage that are a great starting-point when exploring what actions you can take to help make a difference.

IFLA is also proud to be a founding member of the Climate Heritage Network (CHN), launched in 2019, which strives to be a leader at the intersection of climate action, culture and cultural rights. The goal is to reach arts, culture and heritage actors and advocates who can use their expertise and talents towards mobilising for climate action.

IFLA is currently working with the CHN on actions concerning advocacy, awareness-raising, and impactful communication on the role of culture in climate action. We are working to find a common language to communicate on culture’s role in climate action, both to our peers in the cultural field and those in other sectors working on climate-related concerns.

The human right to participate in cultural life, and the protection of our cultural property, are interdependent on the environment, and are at risk of being negatively impacted. Our profession, and all professions, are linked to this work.

We all have a place

Climate action is not only for politicians. It is not only for scientists, leaders of industry, budget-holders, and decision makers.

We are all linked, and the effectiveness of climate action will be the result of the interdependent actions of us all.

In order to make an impact, there need to be cross-sectoral approaches to finding solutions – where all voices are heard and new approaches (both innovative and looking to traditional knowledge) are considered.

Connecting people with information and education, promoting media and digital literacy, counteracting deliberate misinformation, preserving, digitising and providing access to our cultural resources are all ways LIS and heritage professionals can take climate action.

Interdependence means reliance on one another. Our profession is not only reliant on climate action, it is part of it.

The Green Deal and Digital Agenda: Opportunities for Libraries

In the last month, the European Commission has launched two flagship initiatives which look set to focus much of the attention of its President, Ursula von der Leyen, in the coming years.

Delivering on broader commitments, notably to the SDGs, they offer a more concrete and targeted response to two key trends – the growing role of digital technology in all parts of our lives, and climate change.

Each initiative – the European Green Deal and Shaping Europe’s Digital Future – includes a set of proposals and actions, aiming to place the region in a position of strength, while acting to safeguard lives, livelihoods, and values.

Given the role that these two documents are likely to have, it is worth already looking at what they mean for libraries, and where there may be value in pushing for more acknowledgement of the role that libraries can play in achieving their goals.


The European Green Deal

The first of the two documents to appear was the European Green Deal.

Ever since her nomination as President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has highlighted her commitment to action around climate change.

In this document, she sets out a path forward on this. As can be expected, this covers policy action in areas which are traditionally associated with climate change (emissions reduction, green energy, circular economy, energy efficiency, clean transport, environmentally-friendly food chains, protection of biodiversity and reducing pollution).

However, it also calls for sustainability to be mainstreamed into wider EU and national policies, and in turn for other priorities such as equality and growth are also integrated into climate action.


So what does this mean for libraries?

Already, the importance of information is recognised, both at the individual level in helping individuals take specific decisions between products, and at a continent-wide level in supporting research and data sharing. Libraries are a key part of the information infrastructure of any country, and so have a key role to play in success.

But there is also strong potential for libraries in references to the need for building awareness and motivation to act more broadly. Many libraries are already engaged in sustainability education, providing an excellent community space for building awareness of the need for change.

The Green Deal already refers to how schools and universities do this, but if we are to reach entire populations – for example to hold the citizen dialogues promised by the Green Deal, libraries must also be included.

Libraries are – furthermore – excellent candidates for efforts to promote renovation and refurbishment. As public spaces, they can act as models for communities of what is possible, building awareness more broadly.

Finally, it is to be hoped that as the implementation of the Green Deal moves forwards, there will be recognition of the role of culture and heritage in climate action. For more, see the work of the Climate Heritage Network, and IFLA’s own exploration of how libraries contribute to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.


Shaping Europe’s Digital Future

The second major policy document focuses on the different questions raised by the growing role of digital technology in our economies, societies and democracies.

While the previous Commission already saw scattered actions around particular aspects of digital – copyright and terrorist content for example – Shaping Europe’s Digital Future aims to set out a more comprehensive roadmap.

It does this by looking in turn at the individual level (ensuring that everyone has the connectivity and skills they need to make the best of the internet), markets (promoting competition, innovation and consumer rights) and civic life (freedom of speech, diversity of content, and the fight against crime).

The Agenda also underlines the international dimension, both in terms of setting rules and supporting digital development. While this remains to be defined, the whole Agenda is defined by a desire to find a European approach to the internet, and to maintain the possibility to enforce this.

What’s the library angle?

The most obvious is the strong focus on digital skills. With over seven million adults a year in Europe accessing the internet for the first time in libraries, and many more taking part in training activities, this is an area where libraries have a proven potential to contribute. The current consultation on the Digital Education Action Plan – one of the actions foreseen in document – offers an opportunity to highlight this point.

There are further opportunities however. The growing recognition that Europeans need high quality connectivity to the internet can start with libraries. Support through programmes such as WiFi4EU should not limit themselves to lower speed connections. In turn, this allows libraries to become hubs for small businesses, researchers and innovators.

The promise of further efforts to protect privacy and ensure individual rights online is also welcome, but it will be important to take care that such efforts do not in fact just reinforce the position of existing major players, or cause unintended harm to libraries and their users.

One way to ensure this is to use the potential of libraries to help empower people more broadly, not only through media literacy, but through raising awareness of everyone’s rights.

Clearly, these ideas should also form a pillar of the work the EU does in its neighbourhood and globally, ensuring that more people have libraries which can act as hubs for connectivity and skills, in line with the objectives of the agenda.


We are at an early stage in the current Commission’s term, but in these two areas, the potential for libraries to contribute – if properly engaged – is clear. We look forward to working further with the European authorities to make this happen.