Tag Archives: DA2I

Meeting NEETs’ Needs: Libraries and Youth Skills

Today is World Youth Skills Day, focusing on the importance of giving young people the skills they need for economic and social integration.

As the United Nations’ own website underlines, young people (aged 15-24) were, even before the crisis, three times more likely to be unemployed than older workers. With the same group often in more precarious work, this figure is likely to have got worse during the pandemic, as was the case with the recession following the financial crash of 2008.

While many young people are not working because they are studying, for many – around 21%, based on 2015 figures from the World Bank – are not. Some may be in informal work, but this is not necessarily a better situation, given that this can be even more precarious and less likely to lead to a career. They are described as Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET).

This is a serious issue. Periods out of work can have ‘scarring’ effects, leading to unemployment or lower skilled or less fulfilling work later in life, as the OECD has underlined.

As a result, a high share of NEETs can be an indicator of a higher rate of inequality later. This is why it is included as one of the indicators used in the Development and Access to Information report, produced by IFLA in partnership with the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington.

To look further into the details, there is strong regional variation, at least among the countries for which data is available. While only 4.6% of young adults in East Asia are NEET, this rises to 23% in the Middle East and North Africa, and 28% in Southern Asia Oceania. In some countries, the figure is higher than 50% – notably the Maldives and Trinidad and Tobago.

Looking across the countries for which DA2I Country Analyses are available, Trinidad and Tobago indeed stands out for its high share of NEETs, although Bulgaria also has a higher rate than average for developed countries.

Meanwhile, Argentina, Austria, Ecuador, Finland and Slovenia all have lower shares of NEETs than both the global and relevant regional average.

For those countries which do have higher shares of NEETs, libraries can offer a valuable tool.

As set out in our blog for last year’s Youth Skills Day, information skills are becoming increasingly important, and libraries can provide an excellent place for developing these.

Furthermore, as our summary of evidence from World Library and Information Congress papers has underlined, libraries are also realising their potential to act as gateways for people of all ages to new skills, jobs or entrepreneurship opportunities.

Indeed, as the chapter of last year’s Development and Access to Information report focused on SDG 4 – Quality Education – by Dr Katarina Popovic underlined, ‘Access to information is an important precondition for achieving the targets of SDG 4. Without a full recognition of this in the discourse about the 2030 Agenda, accompanied by greater investment in education and lifelong learning, huge groups of people will be left behind by 2030.’ This applies as much to young adults as anyone else.

In those countries which do have high shares of NEETs and well-developed public library field – as is the case in both Bulgaria and Trinidad and Tobago, there is therefore an interesting potential to work through these institutions to offer new possibilities to young adults.

Where library networks are less strong, developing them may help strengthen the infrastructure available for helping NEETs, as well as providing a wide range of other public goods.

Making best use of existing library networks and supporting their further development could be a great way of helping build skills and resilience among youth, even in the most difficult times.

SDG Success as an Information Problem?

IFLA has engaged strongly around the Sustainable Development Goals, both in their preparation in the run up to 2015, and in their delivery in the years that have followed.

In this, we have worked hard to show how libraries contribute to success, and – more importantly – to help library associations and libraries around the world to do the same, in their own contexts.

We have identified the SDG targets – 20 of them! – which implicitly or explicitly refer to the need for access to, and the ability to use, information. We have collected stories and examples on the Library Map of the World, and have a growing collection of expert insights into how information and libraries contribute to individual SDGs in the Development and Access to Information Report.

This approach may work with policy-makers focused on getting success on the individual goals for which they are responsible. But it can often feel difficult to bring this all together at a more general level, and avoid a situation where access to information questions are only viewed, separately, from many different angles.

This is an issue for libraries, given that if there is a better understanding of the cross-cutting importance of information, this could lead to support for institutions focused on equitable, cross-cutting providers of access to information – libraries.

Without it, information (and so libraries) risks falling between stools as an issue, and ultimately being forgotten or neglected.

How to response? One angle could be to work to help decision-makers to understand better how the challenges they face are, at least to some extent, information issues, or information problems.

The idea of ‘information problems’ is not new of course. It is at the basis of work on information literacy in general. It also shows up in economics (where it is seen as a source of market failure), and in health (where it underpins a lot of work on public health), just to give a few examples.

But how to apply this to policy issues, and to encourage governments, in their work towards the SDGs, to think clearly and holistically about the information issues?

Governments themselves – at least in some situations – are already fortunately beginning to understand the information problems that they face in terms of good governance. As set out in an IFLA paper a couple of years ago, the notion of ‘evidence-based policy-making’ is a recognition of just such an information problem.

What about in implementation? How do we encourage policy makers to focus? One approach could be to encourage them to ask the below questions, across their action to implement the SDGs:

  1. Does success depend on individuals being able to find out about new opportunities?
  2. Does success depend on behaviour-change among individuals?
  3. Does success depend on the possibility to respond to change, from the local to the global levels?
  4. Does success depend on innovation improving on existing knowledge?

These questions, hopefully, are not controversial. Yet each one touches on the importance of access to information as a basis for better decision-making, and so policy success, at all levels.

They are all areas where libraries make a difference, as a place to find out about new openings and programmes, to learn about new ways of doing things, to organise and better use information, and to power research.

And in almost every area of policy work, the answer to at least one of the above questions will be yes. For health policy makers, it will be all of them. For employment policy makers, it will be at least questions 1 and 3. For climate change policy, it will be questions 2 to 4.

The same exercise works for policies to deliver other SDGs, at all levels of government. When asked at the top level of policy-planning, this has the potential to make it clear how important information is as a cross-cutting issue, and so to justify action, including by supporting libraries.


Clearly, information alone cannot solve all problems. Indeed, it would be unfair to place all the responsibility for policy failures on individuals making the wrong decisions.

But at the same time, ignoring the information problems that exist in almost all overall policy challenges is to take a restricted perspective, and one that risks reducing success.

IFLA will continue to work at the global level to underline the transformative potential of comprehensive solutions to information problems in achieving the SDGs. We welcome your ideas here!

Library Stat of the Week #1: The Internet Gender Gap Rose from 11% to 12% between 2015 and 2016

Library Stat of the Week #1: The Internet Gender Gap Rose from 11% to 12% between 2015 and 2016

Libraries have a key mission to put people in touch with information.

The internet is increasingly essential as a means of achieving this. Thanks to digital technologies, more information than ever is being created, while many materials which used to be available on paper are now online only.

This makes the possibility to access the internet more important than ever. Inequalities in access can too easily translate into equalities in other aspects of life.

Worryingly, as the latest Development and Access to Information Report underlines, a crucial inequality – between men and women is not falling but growing.

Globally, not only are women less likely to be able to use the internet than men, but between 2015 and 2016, more men got online for the first time than women.

In short, the Internet Gender Gap Rose from 11% to 12% between 2015 and 2016.

What does this mean for libraries?: libraries have an active role in providing internet access, both in order to help people get online for the first time, and to complement access at home. Their unique characteristics, as public, non-commercial, welcoming spaces make them particularly suitable to contribute to efforts to close the Internet gender gap.  


Find out more in our Development and Access to Information Report.

Launching IFLA’s Library Stat of the Week

Image for Library Stat of the Week. Text: Library Stat of the Week. Images: a graph and a calendar. Logos: DA2I and Library Map of the World

Numbers give us a key means of understanding our world, and the trends and evolutions that are shaping it. They can help us make comparisons, identify successes, and make connections. They are also critical in making an effective case for providing support to libraries.

IFLA as an organisation is working hard to strengthen the availability of data about libraries and about issues related to their work through initiatives such as the Library Map of the World and the Development and Access to Information Report.

There’s already a huge amount of information available. With this series of weekly posts over 2020, we’ll be looking to highlight just a few examples and explanations.

We hope they will help you in your own work, and show you how much potential there is!

See you next week!

Knowledge for Development: Libraries and the Global Sustainable Development Report

Image: hourglass shape with image of the sky and earth. Text: Why knowledge is critical for sustainable developmentThe Global Sustainable Development Report was released last week in time for discussions around progress on the United Nations 2030 Agenda at the UN’s General Assembly. The result of a collaboration between experts from different disciplines, from different parts of the world, is arguably the most complete knowledge contribution to work on the SDGs.

It is an effort to make the most of ideas and insights in order to build an understanding of where we stand in the effort to promote sustainable development. Crucially, and in coherence with the SDGs themselves, it aims to look across the board, and identify cross-cutting actions that are necessary to accelerate success.

As the prologue by Gro Harlem Brundtland underlines, it was by bringing together knowledge that it was possible to develop the concept of sustainability in the first place, and put the world on the way to the SDGs. And, as this blog sets out, the new report stresses that the role of knowledge is as great as ever.


Sustainability Insights

Thanks to the variety of perspectives brought by its authors, the report offers insights into the threats and opportunities which will determine whether we achieve the SDGs. Alongside climate change – the subject of the summit that ends today – loss of biodiversity, and increase in both waster and inequalities are particular concerns.

In response, coordinated policies focusing on human capacities and well-being, sustainable and just economies, food systems and nutrition, energy access and decarbonisation, urban and peri-urban development and the global environmental commons.

In all of these areas, as highlighted by IFLA’s Library Map of the World and Development and Access to Information report, libraries have much to contribute.

The Report stresses that underpinning the success of work in these areas will four levers –governance, economic and financial policies, individual and collective action, and science and technology. If used effectively, these can accelerate progress. The key to effectiveness, the authors argue, is having the knowledge and understanding of how our societies are working at all levels:

‘Decision makers need to act based on current knowledge and understanding of the linked human-social-environmental systems at all levels. That knowledge also needs to be more widely available to all countries and actors, motivating innovative coalitions and partnerships for success’.


Knowledge Matters

This emphasis on the importance of knowledge serves to underline the contributions that libraries can make. The need to gather, organise, give access to and apply information is as great as ever.

This is true, first of all, in the research context, where the report underlines concern that academics in developing countries too often cannot access the same range of materials as those in richer countries. This makes them less able to support local development, risking deepening global inequalities.

It also makes it harder to take the findings of research and apply them to real-world situations. As the report suggests, there is a need to intensify the science-policy interface, but this is made more complicated when paywalls stand in the way.

The authors therefore make a clear call on libraries, alongside governments, universities and research consortia, to take additional steps in order to provide open access not only to research, but also to underlying data (Recommendation A15). This, it argues, is a key way of addressing inequalities.

Linked to this, it also calls for efforts to promote cross-border research collaboration between countries in order to support knowledge flows, and suggests that development agencies should invest more in building science and research capacity in beneficiary countries. Libraries, inevitably, are a key part of this.


Among the many reports and papers released around the SDGs – and in particular the discussions at the General Assembly – the Global Sustainable Development Report is to be welcomed for its clear advocacy for the role of knowledge, and those who produce and give access to it.

What Makes Libraries Unique in Achieving… SDG 4

This is the first of a series of blogs for the 2019 High Level Political Forum, looking at the different SDGs in focus this year.

Sustainable Development Goal 4DA2I means being able to learn, grow and develop, wherever you are, whatever your age is the first of the SDGs to be explored this year. It focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

For many libraries – not least school and university ones – it is the basis for all of their work, from story time to advanced information literacy. Libraries play a vital role, either within institutions, or in complement to them.

But how to explain this role to policy-makers and others?

Here are three ideas for arguments that you can use to show why libraries are unique in achieving SDG4:

1) Because literacy is a gateway to learning: reading a blog like this, it can be difficult to imagine what it’s like not to be literate. Without literacy, so many means of learning, earning, and accessing information are closed. Libraries have a very strong track record in this area, through supporting literacy (even from the youngest age) and encouraging a love of reading which has proven impacts on overall academic performance.

2) Because learning doesn’t stop when you leave school: while basic education is an essential step, everyone needs to keep on learning throughout their lives. Changes in the wider world may force them to find a new job or adapt to new technologies. Changes in their own lives mean that their needs and priorities change. Libraries provide a place where anyone, at any age, can learn for themselves, and often get involved in or access wider training opportunities.

3) Because spaces matter: the internet has opened up great new possibilities for people to access learning, with new content and applications developed all the time. Yet it is undeniable that people also benefit from having dedicated spaces and staff to help them develop new skills. Libraries are ideal spaces for this, given their historic focus on popular education, and their familiarity to communities.

For more see the chapter on SDG4 in the 2019 Development and Access to Information Report (DA2I) by Dr Katarina Popovic, Secretary-General of the International Council on Adult Education (ICAE).

New Opportunities: Libraries and the United Nations in 2019

Libraries and the United Nations in 2019

As those who were able to attend the relevant sessions at the World Library and Information Congress in Kuala Lumpur heard, 2019 will be a big year at the United Nations for libraries. There will be a focus on Sustainable Development Goals that are particularly relevant for our institutions, and key steps will be taken towards a review both of the overall 2030 agenda, and the indicators used to measure progress.

But it’s also an important year for the UN itself, with new structures now in place. These also have implications for the way libraries engage with the SDGs at the national level. This blog sets out some of the key moments and opportunities in the coming year.


A High Level Political Forum Focused on Core Library Business

Each year, the UN selects a number of SDGs as a focus for the High Level Political Forum. These also shape the preparations for the event, and even voluntary national reviews.

This year, the focus is on education (SDG4), employment and growth (SDG8), equality (SDG10), climate change (SDG13) and strong institutions, including access to information (SDG16). These are all areas where it does not take too much effort to build understanding of how libraries make a difference to individual’s lives and societal progress.

These themes will each be the subject of a ‘thematic’ meeting. While education has already taken, place, SDG 8 will be the subject of a meeting on 4-5 April in Geneva, Switzerland, SDG10 of one in Accra, Ghana on 27-28 March, SDG13 will be addressed on 1-3 April in Copenhagen, and SDG16 is provisionally on the agenda on 3-5 April in Rome, Italy.

These will discuss key challenges and progress made, and set out recommendations for how the world can do better and acheive the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda.

There will also be five regional meetings: for Europe and North America (21-22 March, Geneva), Asia-Pacific (27-29 March, Bangkok), Arab Countries (16-18 April, Beirut), Latin America and the Caribbean (22-26 April, Santiago), and Africa (16-18 April, Morocco, tbc).

These give the chance to take a regional perspective, looking at the specific issues in different parts of the world, as well as facilitating peer learning. They are also great opportunities to meet with national officials leading on coordinating SDG implementation.

IFLA will be looking to take the chance to be heard at the High Level Political Forum – and the thematic and regional meetings. We hope that local libraries will also be involved! But all libraries can also contribute by reminding national SDG teams of the contributions they make in these areas.

We’ll be in touch with ideas for how to do this!


A Review of the 2030 Agenda and Indicator Framework

Four years on from the agreement of the SDGs, the original text agreed by member states provided for a review of the agenda as a whole. We are now at that stage, offering an opportunity to think again about how work around the SDGs is organised and implemented.

In parallel, an expert group made up of governments and representatives of various UN agencies will hold a consultation about updates to the set of indicators used to measure progress against the SDGs.

In both of these processes, it will be important both to defend what is good about the SDGs – not least the reference to access to information – but also work to improve things. Civil society organisations – not least IFLA and library associations – could have more voice, and voluntary national reviews could be more inclusive. We also need better indicators of access to information across the board.

A key point will be the SDG Summit, held in September as part of the UN General Assembly, which will set out a political declaration, present a number of voluntary commitments and reaffirm the 2030 Agenda as a whole.

We’ll be in touch at key moments in the year to explain how you can help convince your governments of the need to promote the changes libraries need to make the 2030 Agenda better still.


New Contacts, New Possibilities

The UN is a huge organisation. In addition to its core elements (including the Sustainable Development Division within the Department of Economic and Social Affairs), there are many agencies and other bodies linked to it, not least the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Many of these do work in different countries, operating offices, supporting projects, and raising awareness.

In order to promote greater consistency in this work, the UN agreed to give more power to the ‘resident coordinators’ – the top member of staff in each country, to help them coordinate better. This is part of a broader reform strategy,  covering internal organisation, responsibilities and funding.

The resident coordinators will have a particular role in focusing support efforts linked to the SDGs (taking this over from local UN Development Programme representatives), and will also have more formal powers and funding, making them an even stronger potential contact for library associations.

Especially in countries where there are a number of UN projects in place, the new resident coordinators are potentially very useful contacts for libraries and library associations. They will be happy to know that local institutions are promoting the SDGs, and could help ensure that libraries benefit from projects aimed at implementing them.

You can find details of the coordinator in your country – and other relevant contacts, by clicking on the map at the bottom of the UN country activities page.


2019 will be a year of opportunities to underline the value of libraries. We will only need to make sure we are ready to seize them. IFLA will work with its members to ensure that this is the case.


You can find further information on libraries and the SDGs on the IFLA website. See in particular our briefs about Voluntary National Reviews, and Data and the SDGs,  our timeline, and our webinar from September 2018 (in English, French and Spanish).

In order to get involved yourself, take a look also at our toolkit, our poster ‘This Library Supports the SDGs’, and our infographic setting out all of the SDG targets where access to information is implicitly or explicitly mentioned. You can find some great ideas for advocacy around the SDGs in the slidepack from our session at WLIC 2019, and look out for our ‘10-Minute Library Advocate‘ guide coming very soon!