Tag Archives: information literacy

A positive approach to promoting information integrity

A particularly welcome trend in the past year at the United Nations has been evidence of growing recognition of the importance of knowledge and information in the achievement of wider policy goals.

We have seen the emergence of a scientific advisory council for the UN Secretary-General, reference to the possibilities created by advances in knowledge near the beginning of the Pact for the Future, and an upward trend in references to libraries in Voluntary National Reviews.

Perhaps the clearest recognition comes in the UN Secretary-General’s Policy Brief, which contains the seeds of the upcoming Code of Conduct on Information Integrity. This provides, as a definition, ‘the accuracy, consistency and reliability of information’, and sets out that ‘threats to information integrity are having an impact on progress on global, national and local issues’.

The Code of Conduct is not the only document in this space. The UNESCO Guidelines on the Governance of Digital Platforms were already released last year after an extensive consultation period. This too underlines how essential access to information (via the internet) is for development, but at the same time, that this is at risk.

However, and in addition to the ongoing need to distinguish clearly between the UNESCO and UN initiatives (a point likely to be made more complicated still once the Global Digital Compact is released), they nonetheless can risk missing key opportunities.

Despite the overall emphasis on access to information and information integrity, both are built around the role (and regulation of) platforms – an area which is likely to attract most media attention – and areas where the organisations involved have existing programmes and capacity.

For libraries, this risks not being particularly inspiring, and certainly does not reflect the full range of ways in which our institutions and profession contributes to advancing information integrity, in accordance with the definition set out earlier.

This blog therefore offers some ideas for principles for an approach to Information Integrity at the UN and elsewhere that would fully make use of the potential of libraries.

Be positive: a common feature in much work around information regulation is a focus on trying to avoid or defeat dangers. Clearly, there are indeed plenty of risks in the online world, but the challenge is that by focusing only on the negatives, we risk discouraging people from using the internet. A better approach to information integrity should explicitly be as much about how do we help people to be confident, but savvy, in using the internet.

Be people- and community-centred: in the end, the impact of information and knowledge come in their application in resolving development problems, from the individual to the global levels. We therefore should take the experience and needs of all people as a starting point for thinking through how we can both build people’s own skills and attitudes, as well as create an environment where it is possible to be a smart user of information.

Be broad-based: a crucial point is the need to avoid looking at just one actor or tool. For example, while the workings of digital platforms clearly have a major impact, they are only one part of the picture. Moreover, given the scale at which they work, actions via platforms by their nature are likely to be very much top-down. Similarly, when it comes to how to ensure a supply of quality information, we need to look beyond just the press, and consider all potential sources, including for example open access publishing.

Be convincing: the texts mentioned above take as an assumption that people recognise information integrity as something that is both good and necessary, but this does not necessarily take into account the attitudes and approaches of individual people. A comprehensive approach to information integrity would also include work to build appreciation of this in the population as a whole.

Be rights-respecting: a risk in any discussion around Information Integrity is that we end up supporting the actors and voices who would prefer that we return to the age of one-way broadcasting, and would be happy to set themselves up as gatekeepers. We cannot let information integrity become an excuse to shut down diverse voices.

Be globally-aware: a further challenge when discussing information regulation is differing perspectives about the relative risk posed by governments and business. In some places, there can be relatively strong faith that regulation will be fairly designed and implemented, but this is not the case everywhere. We need an approach that is realistic about how far we can trust in regulation to deliver information integrity, just as we need to be realistic about how much companies will deliver this on their own.

Be about libraries: clearly, we cannot and should not claim that libraires on their own can build a world characterised by information integrity, but at the same time, there are few other actors who can play such a broad role, both in terms of the communities we can reach, and the ways in which we can contribute. From provision of access to delivering skills to shaping wider policy, libraries should be in the picture!

Watch this space for a series of upcoming webinars exploring the different aspects of information integrity for libraires today

The 10-Minute International Librarian #83: think about different learning styles

Effective teaching requires two or more people – the information giver and the information receiver.

For information to be understood, and skills to be learned, the two (or more) people need to be attuned – in other words, the way that the teacher teaches, and the learner learns, need to fit together.

This can place particular responsibilities on the person giving the information – either in person, in writing, or in other ways – to flex their style in order to be most effective.

Why does this matter in libraries?

Many library and information professionals do carry out teaching activities, for example around (information) literacy, to develop digital skills, or the content of library collections.

But event beyond specific training or education sessions, so much of what libraries do is about giving information – about how to get the best out of the library, its services, and its collections!

So for our 83rd 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think about different learning styles.

In your experience, what has proven most effective in helping users to understand the opportunities that are open to them?

How can you structure the information you are providing best? Do users respond better to shorter bursts of learning? Do they prefer learning by doing, or a more theoretical approach?

Let us know about your experiences in the comments box below!

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 2.3: Develop standards, guidelines, and other materials that foster best professional practice

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 #69: Be able to explain why information literacy matters

 To make the most of information, people need to have the skills to be confident, competent users.

Libraries have long known this, supporting students and researchers in navigating through available resources, in particular in order to improve research.

As information has become more and more abundant, the need to make choices about what to trust, and how to do this, has become an issue in almost all aspects of society.

The most high-profile examples are of course around deliberate misinformation (or ‘fake news’), in particular on social media.

But in many elements of life, the availability of reliable information does not necessarily mean that the people who need it are able to use it.

However, with policy often made by people who are already confident users of information – digital and otherwise – the importance of helping people develop information literacy is often overlooked.

Global Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Week, which falls this week, is an opportunity to correct this, and secure the support needed to provide meaningful information literacy skills to all.

So for our 69th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, be able to explain why information literacy matters.

Take a look of course in particular at what is taking place this week, in the context of Global MIL Week in particular.

But also think about examples of how information literacy has helped people achieve their goals through your library.

Alternatively, think about what the costs of a lack of information literacy are – what opportunities do people miss out on?

And then, think about how you can present this argument to a busy decision-maker, ensuring that they also understand the importance of information literacy for all!

Share your arguments and examples in the comments box below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 1.1 Show the power of libraries as drivers of sustainable 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 comments box.

Alice Kibombo, wikimedian in residence at the African Library & Information Associations and Institutions

In 2020, AfLIA welcomed Alice Kibombo of the Wikimedia Community User Group – Uganda as a Wikimedian in residence. IFLA is delighted to see this initiative coming to life and therefore invited Ms Kibombo to share project’ insights with the international library community.

Could you tell us about your background and how you came to Wikimedia projects?

I am a practising librarian as well as an active volunteer/editor based in Uganda. I regularly contribute to both English and Luganda Wikipedia, Wikidata and WikiSource.

Coming into Wikimedia projects? Let’s see… as much as I would like the narration to be a bit more romantic, I am what would be classified as an accidental Wikipedian. I was contributing individually until my boss sent someone to the library because she just did not know what to make of what they wanted. It turns out, he was active with the Wikimedia Community User Group Uganda and they were looking for a library to partner with and host them for a number of activities. Gradually, a number of Wiki-related projects such as WikiLovesWomen in 2017 came in and provided me with the opportunity to get involved with the administrative side of things and the rest is current affairs (see what I am responding to now…)

Since then I have contributed a number of articles and been the beneficiary of various regional training, learning days and scholarships which to a large degree prepared me for my current assignment.

Which Wikimedia projects will be considered and why are they relevant to libraries?

Our primary project of focus is Wikipedia – the encyclopaedia project of Wikimedia. As often stated, libraries and Wikipedia have an overlapping mission which is to provide reliable information through verifiable references and doing proper research to bring quality, accurate information to the world. Wikipedia is as good as its sources and when it comes to libraries, not only do we have the best sources but the experts on these sources. Let’s just say that we should consider Wikipedia as an extension of the work we do albeit in the free knowledge movement.

In addition, library resources, in a number of forms, are relatively invisible on the web and while Wikipedia emphasises quality resources, some of what’s accessed are relatively sub-par because of the sources.

To be addressed in the course will be Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata and WikiSource will be addressed in the near future as Wikidata deals with linked data which is the “thing” right now.

As a Wikimedian in residence at AfLIA, what are your goals and next steps to get started?

This I believe is a turning point for all parties – mind you, it has not been attempted before on the continent, well not on such a scale and it is a testament to the benefits of a partnership. There are both personal and institutional goals but both AfLIA and the Wikimedia Foundation (and loudly, I, in the background) agree on some aspects :

We have talked a lot about being able to represent our facts and tell our stories thus the focus on local languages and CCC (Cultural Context Content). The course (which is an adaptation of the will be conducted in English, French and Portuguese but the skills and content therein are very much translatable to a local context. Call it decolonising our realities.

In terms of training/ skills/ empowerment which is really the bulk of the work, this is already underway –  we recently had the honour of “wrapping up” with the pilot cohort who as a group gave us very valuable insights which we were able to incorporate into the material for the main cohort. We are hosting the first main cohort between February 1 st and April 24th and if the number of responses is the only indicator of success, then I can say it has been received positively or our networks served us well or both.

Through a pre-course survey, 54% of respondents reported that they were not aware of any Wikimedia community in their locale. Keep in mind that a number of African wiki communities also reported limitations in their ability to initiate GLAM-related initiatives since they had no access to the network that is the librarian community in Africa. This, therefore, provides the project with the opportunity to nurture relationships between these two communities and hope that the results will be worthwhile.

At this point I need to mention that I do not work alone, I see myself merely as a liaison between this particular outreach of the Wikimedia Foundation and AfLIA’s step in fulfilling its core objectives. We do have all these interesting projects lined up and which you will be hearing about in the near future.

How could the library community support these projects?

The experience with the pilot cohort brought to the fore a number of issues – we knew they existed, we just did not know the depth to which they ran. First, there was a huge disconnect between the librarians’ community in Africa and Wikipedia! 54% of a group of information professionals not knowing about their potential partners in the Free Knowledge movement begs a lot of questions!

With that in mind, we are training librarians from over 30 countries in Africa so we constantly encourage institutional buy-in for them to realise the benefits of such training for their staff. From personal experience, you would be surprised outright negativity we have to deal with and I do commend the librarians who have made an individual effort to be part of this project

With the situation presented by COVID-19, the library community has not been spared the reality of being increasingly distributed and virtual and now more than ever, driven by heterogeneous interests in both training and content. I would therefore encourage information institutions to engage with the librarians we are training on thematic contribution where possible. Depending on the nature or mission of the institution, some may focus on image release, others on community engagement, others on content generation.

The project would benefit greatly from the shared expertise of librarians who have also experienced Wikipedians. A good number work in isolation so if and when they read this, perhaps they should contact us.

Lastly, this presents an opportunity for the community to engage in alternative pathways to individual development mainly by supporting the human resource they have. Institutions and individuals that may not for example offer space could offer publicity or actively encourage their staff to participate in programs such as these, offer access to hard-to-access resources eg those behind paywalls or historical collections to support thematic engagement

Would you like to add anything?

Lots and lots and some more – it’s hard to choose without writing a whole dissertation. Since I have and cannot fully exhaust whatever it is on this here forum, a lot is happening

You can also keep yourself updated by visiting the project page and following us on social media.

To us, the Free Knowledge movement is not the last frontier as much as it is a new frontier.  I like to think with this project that and this project is mutually beneficial.


Was 2020 the Year we Fell out of Love with Information (and Why We Should Make Up in 2021)

2020 was a year of casualties.

Most obviously, there were the million plus people who were lost to COVID-19, and others whose lives were – or risk being – shortened by the consequences of the COVID response on other forms of healthcare.

Screening and vaccination programmes, mental health, and prevention have all suffered.

There have been the pupils and students who have lost weeks or months of formal education, with the highest costs often amongst those who rely most on education as a driver of social and economic mobility.

There has been the economic cost, playing out in businesses closed, jobs lost, and futures upended.

Beyond COVID, the death of George Floyd led to protests that met, often, with a violent response from police. Meanwhile, conflicts continued around the world, and progress towards the SDGs remained insufficient if we are to meet the Global Goals by 2030.

This blog argues that alongside the other casualties, there is a risk that our relationship with access to information may end up being damaged by the events of 2020. However, as it concludes, it is not too late to make it up.


Information as Virus

The first blow came, early on in the pandemic, when the word ‘infodemic’ started to circulate, promoted by the World Health Organization. Others, such as UNESCO, used terms such as ‘disinfodemic’.

Of course in some ways, it is positive to see the power of information recognised in a world where this is arguably all too often taken for granted.

However, the focus in the WHO definition on the idea of an ‘over-abundance’ of information is noteworthy. So too is the implication that information itself (rather than deliberate disinformation, in the case of the UNESCO definition) is a virus.

It seems unlikely that the WHO, given its own positive approach to issues such as open access and science, intended this. However, given libraries’ focus on increasing the amount of information available to people in order to be able to respond to their needs, this is potentially a cause for concern.

From here, it is only a short step to the idea that certain actors should have a monopoly on information provision, with everything else declared invalid or even illegal. This would take us back to the days of only allowing officially sanctioned printing presses – not a desirable move.

If the idea of limiting the amount of information available to people spreads – rather than a focus on providing the guidance and skills necessary to navigate the information available – there is a risk of losing momentum in the drive to bring the benefits of access to information to all.


Information as Potentially Dangerous Good

Closely linked to the concept of an ‘infodemic’ has been the growing pressure on internet platforms to intervene in the sharing of information – and their own readiness to act in response.

Twitter for example updated its policies in 2020, and proved readier to block or label tweets from President Trump. Facebook and others upped their efforts to block misleading content about COVID.

For many though, this has been nowhere near enough, and calls have grown for review of the ‘safe harbour’ provisions that have allowed internet platforms a way to escape liability for content posted by users.

The European Union itself has started the process of updating its own rules, while in the United States, calls to repeal or reform Section 230 are growing louder.

These discussions of course have two angles to them, as the European Union’s own approach recognises. One relates to how to address harmful or illegal content online. The other is a result of the desire to address concerns about unfair competition and impacts on other companies.

However, in the popular discourse, the two issues are rolled together, with changing liability rules for internet platforms seen as a way to solve competition issues. Faced with this, the platforms themselves, as suggested above, have been ready to move to show they are listening and hopefully avoid much more costly competition interventions, such as break-ups or divestments.

Why is this a concern for access to information?

Because a simple shift to increase the liability on the platforms and services that have arguably facilitated much of the explosion in access to information risks leading to the privatisation of the policing of free speech.

In effect, through their terms of use – and their application through pre-emptive filters – platforms would decide what speech is acceptable or not. Without an incentive to promote free expression, the risk of over-blocking is high. Similar rules could end up applying to upstream providers such as ISPs, or even hosting services. As private companies, there would also be fewer requirements for transparency, or opportunities to appeal.

This is indeed an issue already warned about by the former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in 2017. But after 2020, there seems to be a serious risk of it accelerating.


Information as Uncertainty

The final threat to our relationship with information has been the lesson that the pandemic has provided in how knowledge is created and furthered.

We have seen claims made and refuted by scientists, advice issued, changed and updated by governments, and have been faced ourselves with uncertainty in carrying out activities which we previously did unthinkingly.

The pandemic has exposed how incomplete and inconclusive information can be. While this is nothing new for those involved in science, for many, it has not been an easy or comfortable experience.

Rather, it has led to frustration, cynicism, and likely a greater tendency to grab onto the easy answers that conspiracy theories provide.

Clearly, such theories are nothing new, but the pandemic has arguably provided a fertile ground for their spread. These of course can do harm to individuals and groups, as well as to the effectiveness of efforts to tackle the pandemic.

In the longer term, there is a risk that more people are pushed into abandoning curiosity and seeking out easier and more comfortable information. In doing so, they risk falling into the trap explained by Elfreda Chapman in her work on information poverty, rejecting information from outside the group.



The events of 2020 have certainly had am impact on our relationship with information. The idea that there can be too much information, that it is something to be vetted before it is shared, that it is too complicated, all risk making people fall out of love with it.

Faced with this, libraries’ focus on enhancing the amount of information available to people, and focusing on building information skills, can of course risk looking naïve.

There is of course unacceptable information out there – harmful hate speech, abuse, deliberate lies and more. It is not possible to declare that all information is good, and of course, there is no such thing as perfect information literacy or skill.

The question is rather about our starting point in addressing these questions. Do we begin with the position that more information is a positive, unless identified as otherwise, or do we assume that information is bad, unless proven to be acceptable?

Do we put faith in people to be able to navigate their way around information, or do we spoon-feed them?

Do we encourage curiosity, even if it comes with complexity, or rather simply look to make things easy?

For libraries, traditionally, we advocate for the first positions.

While limitations on access and expression may be necessary, these need to be the exception, and applied only when necessary and proportionate, and in a transparent manner. While leaving people room to make up their own minds can lead to mistakes, it is ultimately more desirable than channelling them narrowly. While ready reckoners and simplicity may be attractive, they can set limits on curiosity and innovation.

However, the events of 2020 have seen increasing risks of lawmakers and societies adopting approaches less friendly to access to information. This risks dragging us back to a situation of censorship, slowing efforts to bring people online, chilling expression, and self-imposed information poverty.

As we head into 2021, we need to be able to highlight the costs of over-blocking, censorship and conspiracy theories. But just as importantly, if we want people to come to value and appreciate information, we need to be able to tell the positive stories of how the widest possible access changes lives for the better.

Get ready to start 2021 with #1Lib1Ref!

While 2020 is winding down, libraries and librarians around the world are already busy preparing for the 2021 edition of the Wikimedia Foundation’s #1Lib1Ref campaign.

Divided into two sessions, the #1Lib1Ref Campaign will take place from  15 January to 5 February 2021 and from 15 May to 5 June 2021.

The Wikimedia Foundation aims to gather and share knowledge in a simple, reliable way. In many ways, its missions can be considered as complementary to those of libraries: to provide access to information to all, foster freedom of speech, support communities, and reduce digital literacy gaps.

The #1Lib1Ref Campaign (one librarian, one reference) involves libraries and the librarian community, and focuses on ensuring that there are sources for all information included in Wikipedia. In this way, it creates an opportunity for all libraries and citizens to ensure the availability of reliable information online.

Why #1Lib1Ref continues to be a key area of engagement?

At a time that fact-checking and identifying reliable sources of information are a challenge for many, #1Lib1Ref is an opportunity for libraries to address these issues with their communities. This will contribute to providing better and more reliable information to all.

Libraries have an incredible amount of resources gathered in their collections, offering unique possibilities to provide insights on a huge variety of subjects. These resources can be key elements in structuring information on Wikipedia, yet they are not always fully used.

This matters because Wikipedia articles are sometimes the first point of entry to an unknown subject. Profiling resources on a specific topic ensures that this entry point offers a higher quality experience for readers who are looking for more information.

While some sources can be found online, many specialist articles and publications require access to broad resources, such as printed copies or e-resources, that are only available inside the libraries’ walls. This will be particularly true in the case of national and specialist libraries which hold unique collections – especially of cultural heritage – which are not available to access online.

Involving citizens and library users can also build capacities in information literacy. And, of course, given that the amount of information provided without reliable sources is so extensive, we can only hope to tackle it meaningfully with the involvement of all library users and citizens.

Where to start with #1Lib1Ref?

First of all, it is easy to participate in #1Lib1Ref, either online or in your library. Among the different possibilities, here are just a couple:

Option 1: Engage your colleagues and other libraries

First of all, you can engage librarians in your library themselves to contribute one source per day through the duration of the event. It is easy for libraries to get involved and encourage staff to edit Wikipedia (or even Wikidata, for the braver ones).

Simple instructions can be found on the #1Lib1Ref website.

Option 2: Engage with your library community

If you want to go further, you can create an event within your library! This event can be integrated into a specific theme in your cultural programming, based on your field, or a general topic.

in this case, you can communicate with your communities to invite them to join via social media, through your newsletter, or via information boards in your library or online.

Take a look at the resources on the website to find out more, and think about how you can engage your community, provide support or invite colleagues that might lead your event!

Let us know about our plans in the comments below!

European Commission releases key proposals: Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act

On the 15th of December 2020, the European Commission launched its long-awaited reform on the regulation of major online platforms, the Digital Services Act (DSA). This comes alongside a proposal named the Digital Markets Act (DMA) which aims to address concerns about competition (or a lack thereof) in the technology sector and its impacts.

At the beginning of its mandate, the European Commission made a commitment to reform several aspects of the European market with regards to illegal online content and issues of competitiveness of major platforms online.

As part of this process, in June and September 2020, IFLA submitted suggestions and recommendations on the Digital Services Act to underline the interests of libraries as users of online services and to address their needs and expectations regarding the continuity of their core missions: provide an effective access to information and foster freedom of expression.

Initially combined within a single reform, the European Commission has finally decided to tackle these subjects independently. After several months of waiting, the European Commission launches its reform with two documents: the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act.

The Digital Services Act: regulation of illegal content

The Digital Services Act reform aims to improve the single market within the European Union by developing a more coordinated response to illegal contents online. In doing so, it sets out the goals of maintaining the balance between tackling such content with protection of the fundamental rights of users, and facilitating the development of a competitive single market online.

20 years after the e-Commerce directive which established, among other things, the concept of exemption from liability of intermediary service providers, the new regulation proposes to maintain this key concept.

Online service providers will, if the proposal remains as it is, remain exempt from accountability in order to maintain and support citizens’ ability to express themselves and access information online.

This appears welcome.

To do so, they will need to make efforts to address illegal content, including efforts to prevent its reappearance. This includes violent and/or discriminatory contents relating to race, gender, age, religion.

For example, the DSA establishes due diligence obligations for flagging illegal content for all intermediary services with regards to the size and type of platforms.

The DSA also mentions that contents will not be controlled prior to publication, thus respecting the right of users to express themselves online. However, this leaves open many questions about the technical aspects that the implementation of this reform will take.

Regarding the process of takedown notices, the support of the Commission for a balanced judicial process is welcome. IFLA has strongly underlined the importance of respecting fundamental rights in the process of moderation of content, to let citizens benefit from their rights equally online and offline. Linked to this topic, the call for transparent and independent processes is also welcome.

The proposals evoke the possibility of national action in addition to European. While some issues will be developed at EU level, Member States are invited to develop national regulatory authorities for the digital space, with the power to order intermediaries to take content offline, and impose financial penalties.

Overall, the European Commission’s proposals seem welcome, given that they recall the importance of the protection of fundamental rights (e.g freedom of expression and freedom of access to information), the concept of online anonymity, and the importance of “transparency, information obligations and accountability of online service providers”.

The Digital Markets Act: competition regulation of “core platform services”

The Digital Markets Act mainly concerns major online platforms, also called “systemic stakeholders” that act as an intermediary between businesses and users, with the aim of limiting anti-competitive practices.

These include online intermediation services such as:
search engines
social networking
video sharing platforms services
number-independent interpersonal electronic communication services
operating systems
cloud services
and advertising services.

The objective is simple: to foster the emergence of new companies by addressing the harmful effects of monopolistic behaviour by major players online through measures that promote competition.

These proposed measures differentiate between two aspects of major platforms’ positions: the first one as a provider of a service to another business (for example one selling its products through an online marketplace) and the second as the provider of a service potentially in in competition with the same business , potentially enjoying an unfair advantage thanks to the data it gathers through its role as a service provider.

The views of the European Commission regarding proportionality, promoting “innovation, high quality of digital products and services, fair and competitive prices, and free choice for users in the digital sector” are welcome. A greater variety of platforms and offers of information and other services is likely to facilitate the work of libraries.

The concept of interoperability is also recognised as important and small and medium sized enterprises must be able to migrate to competing services. Nevertheless, little is said about individual users.

Good perspectives but a long way to go before a definitive document

IFLA continues to study these documents and remains aware that a deeper analysis is necessary in order to provide helpful solutions to next steps.

With the retention of the concept of exemption from the liability principle of global platforms and targeted recommendations to address a balanced EU response between user rights, respect for fundamental rights, and concepts of competitiveness, this is a welcome proposal.

We encourage the European Commission to consider in depth interoperability issues which impact on individual citizens. Libraries deeply support fundamental rights, including the ability of citizens to choose freely themselves, including online.

However, the devil always lies in the details and reflection on the technical aspects of such suggestions to achieve these objectives does not mean effective practical realisation.

Read more about it:  here, here and here, here, here