Tag Archives: connectivity

Guest Article: Connectivity and Cooperation: How RENs, Libraries and Universities Are Combining to Accelerate Open Science

We are happy to publish a guest blog, by Omo Oaiya, Chief Strategy Officer, WACREN and Pamela Abbott, Senior Lecturer in Information Systems, Head of the Information Systems Research Group, Global Challenges Research Fund Lead, Deputy Programme Coordinator at the Information School | The University of Sheffield.

This shares experience about an exciting collaboration which has brought together three key elements of meaningful internet access – connectivity, content and skills – demonstrating the potential of libraries in achieving the goal of giving everyone the opportunity to get the best out of the internet.

 The emergence of open access in the early 2000s was arguably made possible by the spread of the internet, removing the need for an extensive infrastructure for printing and distributing journals.

 Today, open access is well-established, and the talk is increasingly of open science – a broader term covering openness throughout the scientific process.

 But for all the progress made, we cannot and should not forget that students and researchers using libraries in many parts of the world continue to face a combined challenge. Not only is connectivity too often poor, but even when it works, it can be hard to access relevant content. 

 Resolving these issues – and so realising the potential of open science approaches to accelerate research in all parts of the world – was the challenge taken on by the LIBSENSE initiative in West and Central Africa.


Core Team and Core Beliefs

 The West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) serves to bring connectivity to educational institutions across large parts of Africa.

 Like other Research and Education Networks (RENs), WACREN aims to use a combination of economies of scale, expertise, and understanding of user needs to provide better access to the internet for universities, schools, and of course, their libraries. 

 Yet experience has demonstrated that connectivity alone was not enough to drive use. People needed a good reason to get online, and in the case of students and researchers, this meant relevant content.

 This is what lay behind the LIBSENSE project, born out of tightening relations between WACREN and with partners who could help – COAR and its experience of developing open access repositories, EIFL and its work to train librarians and form consortia, and The University of Sheffield (TUoS) information school, and its research expertise in open access and information management.

 The four organisations shared a commitment to promoting open science as the future of research in general, and in particular, as offering possibilities to allow researchers everywhere to contribute fully to scientific progress.

 They also saw the value of collaboration, with specialists in infrastructure, repository design, and of course, content providers – students and researchers themselves – working together.

 And they understood that to achieve this, it was vital to take the time to understand the attitudes, skills and priorities that different players had in order to bring them together.

 While the core team of WACREN, COAR, EIFL and TUoS led this work, they made sure to keep things open, drawing on the strengths of a wider community and allowing greater reach than would otherwise be the case.


In Practice: Action for Progress

 The combination of the strengths of the different parties involved in the LIBSENSE project has allowed for achievements that would have been impossible, or far slower, on their own.

 A first key area of action has been around infrastructure support, with libraries supported to develop open access repositories. Drawing heavily on articles produced by staff and students within institutions, these repositories represent a key resource for learning and research, as well as a platform for researchers themselves. Thanks to REN infrastructures, these repositories can be connected, allowing for the development of thematic hubs, facilitating collaboration and accelerating discovery in areas most relevant for Africa. 

 A second area has been around capacity building. This proved crucial both as a means of ensuring that library staff are well placed to make best use of new digital infrastructures, but also to be able to engage in global initiatives around open access and open science. 

 Finally, work on policy development has focused on ensuring that rules and practices keep up with the opportunities created by the tools the LIBSENSE initiative has provided. The focus here has been not just on Institutional policies around publication, but also the development of national open science roadmaps.


Where Next?

 In addition to successes of the growing community in creating and filling open access repositories, a key achievement of the LIBSENSE project has been to establish an incubator for further projects and collaborations. Through this, new tools and services have emerged to support the drive towards open science. 

 These collaborations do not only need to involve higher education libraries however! Public libraries are potentially key collaborators in efforts to democratise knowledge production.

 Adopting the same model of collaboration between RENs and libraries, using the pillars of infrastructure support, capacity building, and policy development backed up by research, it could be possible to develop library hubs, support community learning, or better collect and draw on traditional knowledge, in addition to the wider advantages that working with RENs can bring.

The work of LIBSENSE, we hope, will not only endure in Africa but also provide a model and inspiration for collaborations elsewhere.

You can access the full article about the LIBSENSE project by Pamela Abbott on the IFLA website.

Library Stat of the Week #43: Not everyone counted as having internet access has the speed or device needed to use it

This week and next, the Internet Governance Forum is taking place, fittingly enough, online.

This is an opportunity to return to data about connectivity in order to provide more background on the role of libraries in helping people get the most of the internet.

The Forum itself has a strong focus on the internet as a driver of inclusion. Clearly, the most immediate way of looking at this is by counting the number of people or households which do have access.

However, simply having a connection is not always enough. When this is not fast enough (for example, where it is still a dial-up connection), or where the household does not have a computer, there is less potential to realise the full potential of the internet.

Clearly, during the pandemic, this has been a major issue, with low speeds or data caps, and a lack of (enough) computers making it more difficult for people to learn, work, or apply for support.

Libraries have long provided a valuable complement to home access, offering higher connection speeds and the necessary hardware to use the internet, even in countries which are nearing 100% connectivity officially.

To get a better idea of the numbers, we look this week at Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development data about internet access, and in particular the differences in the shares of people counted as having internet access, and those with broadband access (i.e. higher speed internet) and computers (the devices to use it).

Graph 1: When Access Doesn't Mean Access...

Graph 1 looks at the share of households in the overall population which count as being officially connected, but which in reality lack the key conditions to use the internet – a good quality connection and a computer.

In this graph, a longer bar indicates a higher share of households in the categories set out (connected to the internet, but not with a computer, or connected but without broadband)

In the median country, about 1 in 40 households are connected but do not have a computer, although in a number of countries, this share is much higher, reaching over 1 in 5 households in Turkey, Chile and Korea.

Meanwhile, about 1 in 100 households are connected to the internet, but do not have a broadband, but this rises to around 1 in 14 in France and Brazil.


Do these numbers stand throughout the population, or does the challenge of inadequate home internet access affect some groups more than others?

To start, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the degree to which coming from a richer or poorer household affects the likelihood of having a good internet connection and a computer.

C:\Users\stephen\Downloads\LSOTW43Graph2b.pngGraph 2b: Inequalities in Internet, Broadband, Computer Access


Graphs 2a and 2b do this, showing the gaps in the share of households in the top and bottom income quartiles (i.e. the richest and poorest quarters) which have internet access, broadband, or a computer.

In these graphs, each dot represents the difference in the share of richer and of poorer households having access.

These show big gaps, in particular in computer access, with a difference of over 50 percentage points between rich and poor in Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Hungary, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and Slovenia. Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden tend to have the lowest inequalities here.

Graph 3: Households with Internet Access, but Without Broadband

Graph 3 repeats the analysis in Graph 1, but focusing on people with ‘slow’ connections (i.e. connected but without broadband). It breaks out the figures for poorer and richer households, in order to establish whether people in poorer households are more likely to be stuck with such ‘slow’ connections than richer people.

This does appear to be the case in almost all countries. For example, in Germany, Poland, France and Brazil, over 4% of all poorer households are stuck with slower connections. This represents 5% of all those people in poorer households classed as connected in Germany, around 10% in France and Poland, and nearly 17% in Brazil.

Graph 4: Households with Connections, but Without a Computer

Graph 4 does the same, but looking at households which are connected, but which do not have computers. It is even clearer here that richer households are less likely to find themselves in the situation of being connected, but not having a device, than poorer households.

In Korea, Chile, Costa Rica and Brazil, over 25% of poorer households are in this situation of ‘device-less connectivity’. In effect, 2/3 of poorer Korean households which are officially connected to the internet do not have devices, while the figure is around 50% in Costa Rica and Brazil, and over 1/3 in Chile.


What lessons from this for libraries? Next week, we will combine some of this data with information about libraries offering internet access. What is does indicate, already, is that there is not only a significant issue in terms of inequality in internet access, but that even where households are officially connected, we need to look hard at whether they have the speed and devices to make this meaningful.

This is of course not to mention the more human aspects – skills, confidence, support – which may also hold people back from using the internet fully as well!

As highlighted in the introduction, libraries have a role not only in providing connectivity for the unconnected, but also a solution when this home connectivity is not good enough. As this post shows, in many countries, addressing this need is a real issue.


Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.

Not a Gift, Not a Privilege, but a Right: Access to Information

The COVID-19 Pandemic has both underlined the importance of access to information, and how far we are from achieving this for all.

From the need for rapid access to research to inform policy making, to the development of media and information literacy skills amongst individuals in the face of misinformation, the need for comprehensive policies on information is clear.

Yet at the same time, with so many parts of our societies and economies moving online, the costs of being unable to access and use information easily have been made clear.

This comes as much through the months of schooling lost for those unable to take part in distance learning or work and do business online, as through the and isolation stress felt by those unable to communicate with their friends and families, or access culture online.

These are of course key issues for libraries too, as key pillars of the infrastructure for access to information in any country, and so for the delivery of this right.

While of course the spread of internet has created exciting possibilities to access information directly, libraries contribute in three essential ways: helping to ensure that those without an internet connection can get online, helping to ensure that works which are otherwise protected or restricted (for example by copyright) are still accessible, and helping to ensure that users have the skills and confidence to be successful information users.

The Pandemic has disrupted all of these, and with it the right of access to information. If we are to be better prepared in the future to ensure the continued enjoyment of this right, there are a number of steps we can take.

All represent good risk-management practice, by removing unnecessary uncertainties in the ability of libraries to respond. All work to ensure that access to information should be protected, and enacted, as a right, rather than seen as a gift or a privilege.


Towards Universal Connectivity: the goal of ensuring universal internet access is not a new one, with public access in libraries cited already in the WSIS Agenda of 2003 as a means of doing this. Technologies such as WiFi and models such as community networks offer promising means of bringing library connectivity out to communities – an essential step if libraries are forced to suspend in-person services again.

Achieving this will certainly require investment, and in many cases regulatory change, but would certainly bring returns in terms of higher uptake of services (such as education, eHealth and similar), create new business opportunities, and fulfil what is increasingly being seen as a moral obligation on governments to treat internet access as a basic utility like water or electricity.


Copyright Fit for the Digital Age: the failure of copyright laws to adapt to the digital age in many countries has meant that libraries have been unable to carry out online many of the services they would have offered in person. Physical collections were stuck behind library doors, with little possibility to provide digital access, for example through sharing scanned copies. Storytimes that previously took place in the library could not, in many cases, be done online.

Fortunately, this was not the case everywhere. In many cases, there have been welcome moves by publishers, distributors and others to allow for access – many are detailed on the page hosting the ICOLC Statement on the Global COVID-19 Pandemic and its Impact on Library Services and Resources. Others – including agreements between publishers and library associations to allow for storytimes – are noted on IFLA’s COVID-19 and Libraries page.

However, it is arguable that where libraries have already been given the possibility to offer a service to users in person – through an exception or limitation to copyright – they should be able to count on being able to do the same online, in as similar a way as possible. In other words, having already paid for a work, the possibility to allow users to access it digitally should not be a gift depending on the goodwill of the rightholder, but rather a legal certainty.

This can be guaranteed through using secure networks, and tools to prevent simultaneous uses. Achieving this will require copyright laws to be updated, notably to make it clear that digital uses are permitted, and to ensure that they cannot be taken away by contract terms, as is currently typically the case. Further help would come from deeper understanding of the pricing and availability of electronic resources for libraries.


A Digitally Enabled Population: finally, with it clear that skills and confidence play a major role in whether people make use of the possibilities that exist to access information, there is a need to have a greater focus on promoting digital and information skills, at all ages.

Clearly with the Pandemic, the potential for libraries to offer in-person support has been limited. Yet libraries have sought to be in touch with users by phone and other means, and provide guidance and support, as well as developing tailored tutorials to help people develop digital skills. In the longer term, what seems necessary is a more comprehensive approach to developing digital skills in the population, with libraries as key delivery partners within this, as some are already doing.

While many elements of this may require in-person support – and so will need to wait for the Pandemic to have receded – others can already be scaled-up in order to do the best possible in the months and years to come.


With the recognition of the International Day for the Universal Access to Information by the UN General Assembly as a full UN-level observance, there is a new opportunity to raise awareness of the steps needed to make this right a reality for all, whatever the circumstances.

Meaningful plans to ensure internet connections, digital access to library collections, and the skills needed to make the most of both, can all help ensure that when the next crisis hits – and even before – access to information is a right, rather than just a privilege or a gift.

Library Stat of the Week #32: More can be done to close the digital access gap through public libraries

Libraries were often early adopters of digital technology, both for their own internal operations, and in support of their users.

By installing computer terminals and allowing for public access, they have given millions their first taste of the internet, in an environment where they could feel comfortable and supported in trying something new.

It is also well understood that that libraries can play a key role in bringing the unconnected online through providing this sort of public access. In some cases, this can act as a stepping stone towards private access, in others, an essential backstop for those unlikely ever to get a connection or device at home.

Frequently, those in the greatest need of this support are the poorest members of a society, who may not be able to commit to regular monthly payments, either for fixed or mobile internet. Instead, they can be stuck with pay-as-you-go options which end up more expensive.

This blog, the first in a sub-series, therefore looks at the connections between the digital access gap and the presence of libraries offering internet access. It draws on OECD statistics on internet access and usage for households and individuals, and IFLA’s own Library Map of the World.

First of all, it is worth understanding the scope of the challenge. Graph 1 indicates the differences in internet access rates (use of the internet in the past three months) between people from households in the first (poorest) and fourth (richest) quartiles of the population.

Graph 1: Internet Access Gap (Richest 25% - Poorest 25%)

In this, only three countries – Denmark, Luxembourg and Sweden have a gap of less than 10 percentage points. Meanwhile, in Hungary, the gap is almost 55 percentage points – nearly 92% of people from richer households have accessed the internet, but barely 37% of those from poorer ones.

Interestingly, only one of the nine countries with the biggest gaps does not belong to the former Eastern bloc – we will return to this point later.

Graph 2: Public/Community Libraries Offering Internet access per 100 000 peopleGraph 2 displays (with the same order of countries as before) the number of public and community libraries offering public internet access per 100 000 people. The Czech Republic scores highest here, with just over 50 such libraries for every 100 000 people – that’s one for every 20 000 citizens.

Lithuania and Latvia also have more than 40 public libraries offering internet access per 100 000 people, and Estonia is only a short way behind.

Again, it is noticeable that most of the countries with high numbers of libraries offering internet access are from former Eastern Bloc countries.

Graph 3: Library Internet Provision and Access GapsWe can cross these figures in Graph 3, which aims to look at the relationship between income-related internet access gaps and the availability of libraries offering access.

This shows a correlation between the number of libraries offering access and the gap in access between rich and poor. This applies both for the difference between the richest 25% and the poorest 25% (4th quartile minus 1st quartile), but also between those roughly in the middle and those at the bottom (2nd quartile minus 1st quartile)

On the one hand, this suggests that there is – fortunately – the infrastructure in place in order to help bridge this divide. The challenge, then, is to ensure that the possibilities that libraries provide turn into smaller access gaps in reality.

Graph 4: Library internet provision and access gaps (without Central Europe)As an additional step, Graph 4 carries out the same analysis, but not including countries from the former Eastern bloc.

Here, in fact, we can see that the correlation goes in another direction, suggesting that having more libraries offering internet access tends to be associated with a smaller gap between rich and poor in terms of internet access.


The analysis presented here raises interesting questions – what more can be done to realise the potential of connected libraries to close the gap between rich and poor in terms of internet access in countries of the former Eastern bloc? Can we take the more positive correlation between equality and the existence of libraries elsewhere as a positive?

Next week, we’ll explore the same question from different angles, including age and level of education.


Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.

Attitudes and Actions: What Might COVID-19 Change in the Way We Think?

For all that anyone would like to be purely objective or rational, we are all influenced by our attitudes. Consciously or sub-consciously, we tend to have preferences for certain ideas, values, or types of behaviour, which help shape our decisions.

This is why such a key focus of library advocacy is how we change people’s attitudes, in order to ensure that, when a key decision-moment comes, this is as favourable as possible for our services.

Yet of course, attitudes do not just shape the decisions of politicians or funders, but also affect choices within the library field, as well as those taken by users.

Moreover, while advocacy can take time, sometimes attitudes can be changed or shaped by relatively sudden events. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be no exception here.

So what attitude changes could we expect as a result of the pandemic, and how might these in turn affect the way that libraries work? This blog shares some initial ideas, and welcomes further reflections.


Interpersonal Relations: for many, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way they think about contacts with others. From efforts to avoid other people when going to the shops, limitations on the size of gatherings, or simply socialising online without a shared activity as a reference point, the way many people relate with others has changed. Especially for those living alone, this has been hard.

The long-term change in attitudes from this may vary from person to person. Some will want to return to ‘normal’ as quickly as possible, even at the risk of causing new peaks in cases. Others will remember the warnings, even after official restrictions are lifted.

Libraries are likely to have both types of people among their users, which of course does not necessarily make life easier. There does risk being a need to find ways to enforce rules in the case of users who are putting others at risk, which is clearly not an easy thing to do.

But there may also be a case for finding ways to meet the needs of users who remain concerned, for example through smaller group or individual support, or use of digital, in order not to lose contact in the long-term. This can require extra resources, depending on the degree to which some users risk staying away. Assessing how lasting this attitude change will be is best done at the local level.


Greater openness to digital: perhaps uniquely, compared to any previous crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the potential of digital to provide alternatives to physical activities or services. Clearly, for those without internet connections, the potential has remained unrealised – a major priority for action in the future.

Among libraries in particular, we have seen great examples of uses of digital technologies, including innovative applications such as the use of Google Forms to create virtual escape rooms. Yet a lot of the time, the changes have been less about ‘new’ innovation, but rather the application of pre-existing digital tools in the library context.

Effectively, the pandemic appears to have accelerated the adoption of digital, bringing activities such as consultations via WhatsApp, online chats with librarians, or virtual storytimes forward. This may be testimony to a change in attitudes – a greater openness to apply technologies on the ground on the part of libraries, and a greater readiness to use them on the part of users.

The rises noted in numbers of registrations for library cards, and then use of digital resources would back this up. These resources were available before, but people preferred to use physical options. The pandemic has forced them to reconsider. A key question will be whether libraries and users stick with these digital options into the future – in other words, is the attitude change lasting?


Connectivity as a human right?: linked to changing attitudes to digital tools – both on the side of libraries themselves and that of their users – is awareness of the importance of being able to get online in the first place. In particular in the most connected societies, the pandemic has underlined the risks of being on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Students in particular who have not been able to get online have been very clearly left behind, while those already lucky enough to have connections have been able to continue with their learning. People needing to apply for unemployment benefits have found it harder to do so when requests can only be made online.

There is also growing awareness of the importance of decent internet connectivity, with excessively low thresholds meaning that people who cannot make meaningful use of the internet are still counters as connected, and so do not receive support.

While the continued failure to give everyone options for meaningful connectivity has been around for some time, the pandemic has brought this into focus. There is perhaps hope that, in the wake of the crisis, there will be a greater readiness to see connectivity in the same way that we see access to running water, and support efforts to provide it effectively.

Libraries, both as centres for getting online, and nodes in networks, can be part of this.


Greater respect for science: another potential change relates to the readiness of policy-makers not just to draw on evidence, but also to be seen to be drawing on evidence, in order to justify the decisions they take.

This follows a number of years of concern about ‘fake news’, and the seeming rise of a class of politician almost taking pride in ignoring what ‘the experts’ say. Depressingly, for a field built on the idea of the importance of gathering, organising, preserving and applying information, these politicians have seemed to do well in elections.

While this group of politicians have clearly not left the scene, at least in some cases, there is a sense that it is both safer and wiser to draw on expertise in order to define policy. Whether this is sincere is open for discussion, but it is certainly welcome for libraries, at least for as long as it lasts.


The internet needs regulating?: a final potential change in attitudes returns to the digital sphere. We have seen, over a number of years, a growing sense that the internet has both its upsides and downsides for society.

Connected to this, we have seen increasing efforts to try and regulate the internet, and in particular its biggest platforms, as a means of trying to minimise the negatives, albeit in a piecemeal way. Legislation has looked at copyright, terrorist content, fake news, marketplaces and other issues, often taking different approaches to each.

However, when COVID-19 struck, the World Health Organization moved quickly to express concern about an ‘infodemic’ – the spread of misinformation about the virus, undermining public health messaging from governments.

Platforms have worked hard to respond, blocking, blurring, or tagging misleading messages as misleading.  It is perhaps not by accident that Twitter has felt readier to intervene in messages from the President of the United States now, even if these did not deal specifically with COVID-19.

With pressure in the United States to review rules around the liability of platforms, and legislation already under discussion on the same point, there is a chance that a greater readiness to regulate the internet could lead to sweeping new rules.

For libraries, this will be an area to follow closely. Clearly – as libraries know themselves – there can be types of content which are illegal or unacceptable. However, deciding where this is the case takes careful judgement, and legislation can be a blunt tool, which can unduly limit the scope libraries have to offer access to information.


These are just five areas where we may expect a change in attitudes as a result of COVID-19. All affect the way that libraries provide services, requiring innovation, adaptation and potentially advocacy.

None are certain of course. It remains to be seen how far attitudes change permanently, at a societal level. Do share your own views in the comments!

Five Library Values that Should Matter in a Post-Pandemic World

Even as the world continues to fight the COVID-19 Pandemic, there is already talk – in particular at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum – of how we can ‘build back better’.

This term – previously mainly used in the context of recovery from disasters – provides a reminder that shocks of different sorts do provide an opportunity to reassess and revise the way we do things.

Of course, this is not to take attention away from the vital immediate responses to the crisis, and in particular the work done by health and other essential workers to keep societies moving. Librarians have also played their part, working to ensure that communities continue to benefit as far as possible from connectivity, access to resources, and advice.

What it should mean, however, is that when we take decisions about the recovery from COVID-19, we do not feel compelled simply to re-create what happened before. Those who take decisions should feel freer to change things, making for a stronger, fairer and more sustainable society.

In this, the experience of the Pandemic already suggests that five key values of libraries could and should play a bigger role:

Information matters: following years of growing concerns about the spread and influence of misinformation online, and the readiness of politicians to dismiss expert perspectives, the pandemic has seen governments in many countries give a much higher recognition of, and profile to, scientists and researchers.

This is a welcome step – the importance of the access to information that libraries provide is only as great as the importance of the information itself, in the eyes of a decision maker.

Now is a good time to ensure a focus on creating strong and sustainable information infrastructures, not least in the shape of libraries, in order to ensure the preservation, organisation and availability of information into the future.

Connectivity matters: libraries’ mission to provide access to information has meant that they were early adopters, and even innovators, in the development of the internet. Almost 2/3 of public libraries in countries for which we have data offer internet access to users, giving opportunities to get online, use computers, and receive training and support.

The pandemic has made clear the costs of being on the wrong side of the digital divide, with almost half of the world population not able to use digital tools to continue their work, education or social interaction.

Faced, in particular, with many students who will have risked dropping further behind their richer peers, there is a strong case for a serious investment in moving towards universal connectivity. Libraries and other public access solutions (including through libraries as nodes in networks) should be a key part of any action plan.

 Universality matters: the pandemic has had far reaching consequences for almost everyone. This is not to say that the impact has been the same for everyone. Clearly those in precarious jobs, with less favourable housing situations, or who otherwise face marginalisation or discrimination, have too often suffered far more than others.

Nonetheless, we may be at a moment where decision-makers – and citizens – are more favourable to universal services. In other words, having seen that there are phenomena that affect everyone for the worse, it is also appropriate to take actions that affect everyone for the better.

Public libraries are a great example of this, with a clear mission to provide universal service, in line with the IFLA-UNESCO Public Library Manifesto. Clearly libraries themselves always need to be aware of how their work may be more or less accessible or welcoming to different individuals and groups.

Culture matters: culture is all too often seen as being at the periphery of policy-making, a secondary concern compared to issues such as finance, security or foreign affairs. Yet the right to participate in cultural life is a fundamental right, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Pandemic has seen many turn to culture as a source of comfort in difficult times, as well as making clear the role of cultural concerns (the norms, values, and behaviours of individuals and groups) in the effectiveness of the response. Cultural institutions, not least libraries, have also been valuable sources of information and stories to inform responses and put things into context.

If we are now to build policies that are more responsive, better adapted, and so more effective, as well as promoting wellbeing as a goal, culture and cultural institutions need to be part of the picture.

Rights matter: a common theme in the four previous sections has been the idea that people have rights – to information, education, public services and culture. There are others to take into account – private life, free expression, and freedom from discrimination to name a few.

The pandemic has brought home to many the value of these rights, often of course when they are compromised. It has also forced greater awareness and reflection on the tension that can exist between rights – freedom of assembly and the right to health, freedom of speech and the right not to be subject to discrimination. The latter has been particularly clear in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

While this may risk being perhaps the most optimistic of the suggestions in this article, we can hope that when we build back after COVID-19, we can be in a world which recognises the value of careful decision-making about how best to enforce rights for everyone. These are the choices librarians themselves make in the services they provide.