Tag Archives: evaluation

The 10-Minute International Librarian #93: Raise your ambitions

The way we think about our actions is often determined by the way we see the world.

This makes sense – it is important to think about the environment in which we are working when planning how we are going to operate.

However, this can also limit us. We can make assumptions about how things are going to be, and what is going to be possible or not, that may not always be right.

Critically, a pessimistic view of the world can risk us to lower our hopes, and not try things that could actually be beneficial.

So for our 93rd 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, raise your ambitions.

Think about your own plans for the coming year and what you think you can achieve, and challenge yourself.

Can you think of an assumption you are making, or a target that you have, and think about whether you can’t stretch yourself?

Obviously don’t go crazy! But it can be a healthy way of breaking out of the same old way of doing things.

Let us know about times when you have raised your ambitions in the comments below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 2.2: Deliver high quality campaigns, information and other communications products on a regular basis to engage and energise libraries 

As we publish more ideas, you will be able to view these using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box below!


The 10-Minute International Librarian #78: Share Feedback

Librarianship is a learning profession.

This is why we have associations and other groups, nationally and internationally, which provide opportunities to share and listen to others.

IFLA itself is all about helping library and information workers to discover insights and ways of doing things that they can then incorporate into their own practice.

But learning can of course also take place every day, through reflecting on what has worked and what hasn’t. A number of posts in this series have already addressed this!

However, people shouldn’t need only to rely on what they remember and perceive. It can be really helpful to receive reactions and views from colleagues.

Of course, for this to happen, you need colleagues who are ready to make the effort to do this!

So for our 78th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, share feedback.

Can you see something in a colleague or someone else’s work which is particularly good, and that they can continue to do?

Or is there something that could be done better?

Clearly, in giving feedback, it is important to be sensitive. Don’t make assumptions, and be sure to keep things constructive.

Think also if there are other factors which could mean that your feedback is likely to be more or less effective. In the end, the goal is to help someone perform better in their job.

Let us know about the most useful feedback you ever received in the comments box below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 3.4: Provide targeted learning and professional development

As we publish more ideas, you will be able to view these using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the com

What advocacy activities are libraries undertaking? Analysing the Results of the IFLA Regional Advocacy Priorities Study (Part 2)

IFLA’s Regional Advocacy Priorities Study collected responses from library associations, institutions, and individuals in June and July of 2021 in order to build up an understanding of the status of library advocacy in the world today.

Its goal is to get library and information professionals around the world (and in particular in IFLA’s new Regional Council and Division Committees) thinking critically about library advocacy.

As set out in the first part of this blog last week, reflection is important. Our time and energy is far from infinite, and so we need to keep on asking ourselves how to use it most effectively. Priorities change, so too do circumstances.

The same reflection is necessary around the way in which we advocate.

As such, the Study included a question about the degree to which libraries in different countries carry out different types of activity as part of their advocacy efforts. You can read the full answers on p56 onwards of the Report.

The question draws on IFLA’s Advocacy Capacities Grid, which aims to break down the different elements of advocacy. It is a tool, allowing libraries to think about where they are already strong, and where they may be able to do more.

It recognises, in particular, that advocacy involves a range of steps, reaching from what can be seen as lobbying (working with politicians, around specific legal changes) to broader public relations.

A first set of activities relate to engagement with laws and lawmakers – practices which are more at the ‘lobbying’ end of the spectrum of advocacy:

  1. Understanding laws and policies: this refers to the ability of libraries to understand the content of laws and policies, and follow the process by which they are developed and approved. This matters, if libraries are to be able to spot issues and seize opportunities on a timely basis to obtain better laws and policies (or avoid bad ones)
  2. Contacts with government officials: this refers to whether libraries have a strong network of contacts with ministers and civil servants who prepare and take decisions which can shape the situation facing libraries.
  3. Meet regularly with government officials: this refers to the particular importance of being able to talk regularly with policy-makers and shapers. Such meetings are both an opportunity to share views and build common understanding, as well as being important in order to respond to emerging issues.
  4. Contacts with legislators: in addition to work with the executive, it can also be powerful to work with members of parliament. They are important not only when voting on law, but can also help hold governments to account when they are not doing enough for libraries, or even propose laws that could help libraries in their work.

A second set focuses on who carries out advocacy work:

  1. Staff focused on advocacy: this refers to whether there is a named individual or individual who is responsible for carrying out advocacy on behalf of libraries. Allocating responsibility can help with coordination of work, as well as allow for the development of relationships and knolwedge.
  2. Members as advocates: this refers to whether individuals across the library field are mobilised to advocate for libraries. This can help ensure that libraries can engage effectively at the local level, as well as making the voice of libraries stronger.

A third set looks at communications:

  1. Attractive communication tools: this refers to the ability of libraries to create communication tools which are professional and appealing. This is important if libraries are to be able to seize people’s attention.
  2. Impact communication: this refers to the ability to present evidence of the impact of libraries, for example through collecting powerful stories of how libraries contribute to development, or to share data. This can help convince people of the need to support libraries.

A fourth set looks at working with and through others to deliver on advocacy goals:

  1. Contacts with journalists: this refers to whether libraries have relationships with the press and other commentators or influencers. This can allow library messages to be heard by a wider audience, potentially in a way that is more effective than if libraries communicate themselves!
  2. Partnerships: this refers to relationships with other organisations and stakeholders who can support library advocacy, such as non-governmental organisations. They can open up possibilities to build new contacts, and convince new audiences.

Finally, there is evaluation:

  1. Advocacy impact evaluation: this refers to the capacity to assess the impact of advocacy efforts in order to inform future work. It is an important step in order to ensure continuous improvement in the effectiveness and reach of your work.


As set out in the previous blog, the study is limited by the number of respondents. It should therefore not be taken as a definitive snapshot of advocacy around the world, but rather a conversation starter.

To help with this, the study breaks down responses by region, by type of respondent (association, institution, individual), and by size (of association and institution), allowing us to highlight interesting trends in library advocacy practices around the world.

Looking at the answers to the question around advocacy activities, we can therefore identify the following potential findings, as a basis for further discussion.

Libraries focus more understanding laws, than engaging with lawmakers: a consistent finding across regions was a tendency to more active in work to keep track of laws, and understand what they mean, than to engage with decision-makers (and in particular, members of parliament).

Chart 1: Level of activity on different elements of advocacy - results for all respondents (by region)

Chart 1: Level of activity on different elements of advocacy – results for all respondents (by region)

Clearly, understanding laws is important, in order both to be able to follow them, and to understand and set out how they can be improved. Yet relations with decision-makers matter, given that in the end, they are the ones determining whether libraries will get the policies and provisions they need.

It is particularly interesting that legislators receive least attention. It is true that a single member of parliament is likely to have less power than a minister, but they can be powerful advocates, and may be freer in making proposals than those in government already.

Chart 2: Level of activity on different elements of advocacy - association respondents only (by region)

Chart 2: Level of activity on different elements of advocacy – association respondents only (by region)

Looking in particular at associations, it is also notable that the place of this engagement varies by region.

In Europe, North America and the Middle East and North Africa, understanding laws and maintaining contacts with decision-makers stand out as areas of focus. Meanwhile, for associations in Asia-Oceania, these activities stand out less, while in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa, they play a relatively smaller role than other types of activity.

Chart 3: Level of activity on different elements of advocacy – association respondents only (by size of association)

There is also a distinction between larger and smaller associations, with larger players more likely to be involved in engaging with law and lawmakers. This may be explained by the fact that this sort of engagement does require time and resources which may be less readily available for smaller players.

This raises an interesting challenge – what can be done to strengthen the ability of smaller associations to carry out these aspects of advocacy?


A varying focus between dedicated advocacy capacity and mobilising the field: as highlighted above, it is important both to have named individuals who can lead and coordinate advocacy work, and to enable librarians everywhere to speak up in favour of our profession and institutions.

In almost all regions of the world, there is a stronger emphasis on helping individual librarians to act, than on building a central capacity for advocacy, with only North America focusing more on the latter (see chart 1 above).

Nonetheless, the gap is not a wide one in Asia-Oceania, Europe, and North America. It is wider, however, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa, indicating a potential area of focus for capacity-building.

Looking specifically as associations, the picture is different. In Asia-Oceania, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America, there is a slightly stronger focus on dedicated advocacy capacity, while in the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, a lot more effort goes into mobilising members.

Turning in particular to associations of different sizes (see chart 3), the data indicates that larger players may be more focused on dedicated advocacy capacity, while smaller ones emphasise mobilising their memberships more.

In the end, the goal must be to ensure a similar focus on these two elements, and so learning how to develop both types of capacity, in order to support advocacy that is as strong as it is coordinated.


Partnerships complement libraries’ own efforts: as highlighted above, forming partnerships can be a powerful way of supporting library advocacy by recruiting a wider range of voices, able to reach out to a wider audience.

In general, the importance of building such partnerships appears already to be well recognised . Looking across all respondents, by region (see chart 3), in Asia-Oceania and North America, it appears to be the element of advocacy where there is most activity. In every other region, it is in the top three or four elements of advocacy.

The same does not go for contacts with journalists – it is only in the Middle East and North Africa, and in Europe, where there is the same level of activity in working with them as in partnerships in general. In Latin America and the Caribbean, and in North America, there is a significant gap.

Looking only at associations, the picture is similar – there is more activity around forming partnerships than working with journalists, with the exception of the Middle East and North Africa where the scores are equal (see chart 2).

Turning to associations of different sizes, it is notable that while the focus on partnerships is relatively similar, it tends to be bigger associations who work more work with journalists (see chart 3).

Overall, there is a welcome strong focus on partnerships across the board, but evidence that there may be some benefit in helping smaller associations develop their ability to engage with the media.


Communications plays a key role in respondents’ advocacy, but with varying responses for content and design: around the world, the importance of being able to communicate evidence of the value of the work of libraires, in an effective way, seems to be well recognised when looking at all respondents. Indeed, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, both of these are in the top three in terms of level of activity (see chart 1).

Looking only at associations, these two elements stand out less strongly, although the Middle Eastern and North African and Sub-Saharan African associations still focus strongly on these compared to associations from other regions (see chart 2).

As for associations of different sizes, smaller associations tend to focus more strongly on content, while larger ones indicate that they focus more on the presentation of materials – something that may be associated with the fact that they have more resources available for design work (see chart 3).

Looking across these results, it may be possible to conclude that when faced with more limited resources, many may decide to focus on communications which can be sent to a variety of stakeholders, rather than concentrating on individual decision-makers. Certainly, this work can play a useful role in trying to shape broader public opinion, and indeed there may be useful lessons to share about how to do communications on a small budget.


Evaluation underrelated?: a final point to note is the relatively low level of investment of energy in the evaluation of advocacy efforts. Indeed, looking at all respondents, this comes last in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and North Africa, and near-last in Sub-Saharan Africa (see chart 1).

Looking at the data only for associations, impact scores slightly higher among smaller associations than larger ones (potentially because of greater pressure on advocacy resources) (see chart 2). Moreover, associations in Asia-Oceania and Latin America and the Caribbean are also readier to engage, it seems, than those elsewhere.

Overall, it appears that advocacy evaluation may well be an area where there are lessons to share and to learn from.

The 10-Minute International Librarian #71: Reassess a service or activity

While the missions and values of libraries are lasting, the way in we deliver them varies over time.

New technologies and tools can obviously trigger change, from allowing some activities to be automated, freeing up time for other work, to opening new possibilities to achieve impact.

User expectations can evolve, for example to expect services to be faster or online, or on the contrary to value more the opportunity to meet and do things in person.

New challenges can emerge where libraries have a role to play, bringing our institutions into new areas of work and focus.

And the nature of the communities that we serve themselves also changes, with population ageing, and people moving in and out of areas.

All of these mean that the basis on which services and activities in libraries were designed in the past may no longer be optimal today.

So for our 71st 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, reassess a service or activity.

Remind yourself of its goals and intended impacts on communities, and think about whether there is any reason to look again.

Could there be more effective ways of achieving these goals? Are there other types of activity which it would be better to focus on?

It’s of course perfectly possible that you continue with what you are doing now – at least then you will know that you’re doing it for a reason.

But maybe you’ll find an opportunity to save time and resources in order to be able to do other things that will bring benefits.

Let us know about when you have reassessed services or activities, and the results, in the comments box below!

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 2.2 Deliver high quality campaigns, information and other communications products on a regular basis to engage and energise libraries

As we publish more ideas, you will be able to view these using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box.

The 10-Minute Digital Librarian #5: Use social media analytics to understand your reach

Our last post explored some of the first steps you can take in deciding how you want to use social media of different types in order to communicate about your work most effectively.

It mentioned, briefly, the value of playing around with the analytical tools available on different platforms. This post looks a little further at this point, given how useful it can be in helping you work out how you are doing, and get insights into what works or not.

Most social media platforms, if you look, provide an option to look at performance or analytics. This can be obvious from the front page, or be available as an option under your profile.

These will provide data – by post, by time-period, or both – on the following:

  • Number of followers (i.e. the number of people who have indicated their interest in you, and so who are more likely to see your content in their own feeds)
  • Number of people reached (i.e. the number of different people who have seen your post) – this can depend of the timing of your post, as well as on what social media algorithms choose to prioritise.
  • Number of impressions (i.e. the total number of times your post has been seen – this can include people seeing it more than once). Again, timing and social media algorithms can play a role here.
  • Number of engagements (clicks, shares, likes etc). This depends very much on how engaging your content is – does it make people want to look further?

This data can be used to create further indicators, such as the share of views of a post that led to an engagement.

Think about your objectives when you look at how you can use these. If you are simply trying to raise awareness of your collections as part of a wider communications drive, reach and impressions are powerful.

If you want people to come to your site (which of course is good – you don’t social media to be a substitute for your own content!), then clicks matter most, including as a share of views.

And of course, in the long run, a higher number of followers will tend to lead to higher scores on all indicators.

You can also use this data in the short run in order to assess the performance of individual posts. What topics interest people? What do people like to share? Perhaps most importantly, what brings people to your site?

An obvious comparison is between your own posts – do images matter, subjects, style, length? Some platforms do allow you to compare with other accounts – for example library accounts. If you see some which are performing particularly well, take a look at see what you can learn.

Beyond pure social media analytics, you can use other tools to assess the impact of your social media work. Website analytics (which we of course recommend using in a way that respects privacy) can give insights into how many people came to your site from different social media.

And of course, you can also ask participants in events and similar about how they found out about them, and include social media as one of the options.

This is a rich area, and fortunately, there are some great resources already out there. The materials from the webinar organised by WebJunction and TechSoup are very helpful, as is the page put together by ALA, and the recording of this Tech-Talk webinar.

Outside of library-focused resources, there are plenty of others, for example about Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, LinkedIn Analytics, or Instagram Insights.

Let us know the most useful things you have learned from using social media analytics to support your communication!

Good luck!


If you are interested in library marketing more broadly, you should take a look at the work of IFLA’s Management and Marketing Section, which provides a platform to share expertise and experience.

Discover our series of 10-Minute Digital Librarian posts as it grows.

Using Library Map of the World Data as SDG Indicators

Alongside the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, a core focus of the United Nations 2030 Agenda is the importance of tracking progress. The two go together; there is little point in setting objectives without establishing also a means of tracing how well countries are doing in achieving them.

In order to support this at the global level, the United Nations has established a list of 231 unique indicators. Member States are encouraged to collect and present data for these (where methodologies have been agreed), as well as finding other metrics that can help track progress towards the SDGs.

This blog sets out ways in which you can propose datasets collected for IFLA’s Library Map of the World as indicators of progress towards the SDGs.

The Limits and Possibilities of Library Map of the World Data as SDG Metrics

In each case below, it is argued that library data can be used as a proxy for something that matters, such as how much a society is investing in equality or lifelong learning, or how much people are using community spaces.

Clearly, these are just proxies. First of all, in the absence of wide-ranging household surveys, it is difficult to show specific causality between library data and specific outcomes at a national or regional level, a point also made in the EBLIDA report on SDG Indicators in European libraries.

Nonetheless, there are correlations which allow us to make certain points in our advocacy about how strong and well-used library fields tend to be associated with various positive outcomes (see our Library Stat of the Week series for more).

It should be noted, in contrast, that in the context of individual projects, it is possible to gather feedback and results from participants which can indicate what is possible, as illustrated in the SDG Stories on IFLA’s Library Map of the World.

More fundamentally, the fact that the UN is using 231 indicators underlines that measuring progress towards the SDGs relies not on any one single metric or index, but on a wide range of them. As this blog argues, library data certainly can have its place in the mix.

Number of libraries

First of all, the number of public or community libraries in a country can be used as an indicator of how strong the infrastructure is for supporting literacy and lifelong learning (SDGs 4 and 8), as well as providing community space (SDG 11), a basic service for all (SDG 1), and as a place for accessing eGovernment (SDG16). With the role of culture recognised in delivering the SDGs as a whole, you can also use this data as an indicator of levels of access to culture.

You can provide figures for numbers of libraries per person in order to compare the situation in your country with those elsewhere, or calculate the average area served by each library to indicate how far people are, on average from a library.

The number of school libraries, in those countries which have not given school library responsibilities to public libraries, can be a further indicator of quality education (SDG 4). If you can find how many schools there are in your country, you can indicate what share of these do, or do not, benefit from library services. As highlighted in our analysis of Voluntary National Reviews so far, the presence (or absence) of school libraries is often seen as an indicator of the strength of the wider education system.

Numbers of academic and research libraries can serve as an indicator of the quality of the infrastructure for supporting research and innovation (SDG9), as well as for supporting success of all students (SDG4).

Finally, the existence of a national library can provide an indication of the development of institutions in general (SDG16), given the role of these libraries in supporting the wider book sector, and in ensuring the preservation of the historical record for future generations.

Number of library workers

Where available, numbers of library workers can be presented as providing a more accurate idea of the strength of the library field, and so of the infrastructure for supporting education and literacy (SDG4), skills development and job-seeking (SDG8), access to culture and other services (SDG1), community-building (SDG11) and research (SDG9).

In particular, numbers of library workers correlate much more strongly than numbers of libraries with outcomes such greater equality (both between women and men, and on other dimensions such as immigrant background and wealth). As such, numbers of libraries can provide an indicator of investment in pro-equity policies (SDGs 5 and 10).

Once again, you can calculate numbers of library workers per million people or per student in order to develop a comparable idea of the strength of libraries and library services in your country. This approach also allows you to cancel out the impact of a tendency to more but less well-staffed libraries in some countries, and fewer but better-staffed libraries in others.

Libraries with internet access

The digital divide remains a reality, defined not just as the gap between those with and without internet access, but also between those who have the confidence and competence to use the internet effectively, and those who do not.

Libraries have an acknowledged role not only in bringing people online, but also in fostering the skills needed to make safe and effective use of the internet, with a strong focus on groups which might otherwise be excluded.

As such, you can propose data on the number of libraries providing internet access as an indicator of how effectively a country is providing support for everyone to make the most of the internet (SDGs 5, 9 and 17). In particular, you may want to focus on the number of libraries offering internet access per million people (as a way of allowing comparisons with other countries), and the share of libraries which are offering internet access.

Numbers of visits and registered users

Moving from the strength of the library field to the use made of it, data about the number of visits to libraries per year, and the share of the population registered can be proposed as an indicator of the effectiveness of government policies around education, culture, research and community activities.

For example, Finland used data on library visits as a metric of engagement in learning in its 2020 Voluntary National Review (SDG4). Visits to libraries also tend to correlate with wider engagement in culture, which is relevant across the SDGs. Numbers of visits can also be used as an indicator of level of use of public spaces (SDG11).

Numbers of loans

Another indicator of levels of use of libraries, at least in their core role of supporting reading and research, is the number of loans they make. You can calculate this on a per-person basis, at least if you have national-level data.

While, arguably, lending books is only one part of the work of many libraries now, it can still be used as an indicator of engagement in reading and learning (SDG4), and research (SDG9) as well as of wider cultural engagement.


Hopefully, the ideas in this blog give you can idea of how you may be able to propose library data to the authorities responsible for tracking progress towards the SDGs. Depending on what your country is already doing – and the data you have available – you will want to adapt your message of course. In particular if your country is carrying out a Voluntary National Review, there may be interesting opportunities to engage.

Let us know how you get on!


The 10-Minute International Librarian #23: Think of something that hasn’t worked, and learn from it

Celebrating success is an important way to maintain motivation and energy.

But not every initiative works, especially when it is new or innovative!

Everyone will experience failures, or things that didn’t quite turn out as hoped. But beyond the disappointment, these can also be great opportunities to develop.

Indeed, there is often less to learn from a success than from a failure!

If the library field is to continue to learn and develop, taking these opportunities is important.

So for our 23rd 10-Minute International Librarian, think of something you’ve done that hasn’t worked, and learn from it.

Try to find which parts of any initiative could be changed or improved. Sometimes of course, it may be bad luck, but even some elements of chance can be managed.

You can these use what you have learned in your work in future.

You might even write a blog or present a paper about something that hasn’t worked, in order to help others share in your understanding, and avoid making mistakes.

Let us know if you have learned from mistakes, or have seen great examples of how this can be done in the comments below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 3.4 Provide targeted learning and professional development.

You can view all of our ideas using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box.