Tag Archives: innovation

10-Minute International Librarian #99: Think how you can build your resilience

COVID-19 has underlined how impossible it is to be certain about the future.

Of course, COVID is far from the only source of unpredictability, with climate change leading to more extreme weather events, as well as the risk of conflict or other major disruption.

This has underlined the importance of resilience – the ability to face difficulty, and have the skills, confidence and resources to get through it.

Being resilience is often linked to having strong connections with others, and so not being alone, as well as inventiveness and responsiveness in the face of change.

So for our 99th 10-Minute International Librarian, think how you can build your resilience.

You could think about how you can plan for contingencies, and make sure that you have the space and resources to react to changing circumstances.

You could look at how you yourself perceive the future, and your ability to respond to whatever happens. Remind yourself that predictions often do turn out to be wrong, and be ready to do something different.

You can also reflect on where you and those around you could build new skills that leave you better placed to seize new opportunities, not least around digital.

Share your ideas about what building resilience means for you in the comments box below!

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 3.2: Empower the field at the national and regional levels.

You can view our other posts in this series 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 #94: Explain how you support research and innovation

An over-used phrase about the nature of innovation is that we can see so far today because we are standing on the shoulders of giants.

These giants are the thinkers and innovators of the past, who have written down their ideas and insights in books, articles and other documents.

It follows that libraries, with their role in bringing together these ideas and insights, are key to enabling further research and innovation.

Of course, the ways that libraries support these are far more diverse now than simply safeguarding existing texts. Libraries are innovating themselves in how they enable innovation!

But too often, people’s stereotypes of libraries means that we are seen as being far from high-technology. We need to combat this, in order to ensure that we can continue to benefit from support.

This is a valuable area of focus – research and innovation represent a major and ongoing policy priority.

So for our 94th 10-Minute International Librarian #94: Explain how you support research and innovation.

There are lots of arguments, but it’s important to be able to think about how to condense these down into just a couple of sentences.

Think too about how you can present these arguments in a way that will convince a researcher, or someone responsible for research policy.

How can you convince them that they will be far less able to achieve their goals if they don’t bring libraries with them?

Share your ideas in the comments below!

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 1.1: Show the power of libraries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

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 #77: Think how to develop a growth mindset

It’s normal, whenever you do something, to want it to go well.

As a result, it can be disappointing when this isn’t the case. Sometimes, the fear of failing can even prevent us from trying new things.

This is a problem though! Because when we don’t innovate – either by doing something completely new, or testing out an idea from elsewhere – we improve or update our practice.

And with the world changing around us, change is necessary if libraries are to continue to be able to fulfil their core missions. Even if it doesn’t work, there is also an opportunity to learn too!

A first step towards this is to be aware of when we hesitate to do new things because of these concerns, and to be ready to overcome this.

So for our 77th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think how to develop a growth mindset.

Think about where a hesitation to try something new may be holding you back.

Work to convince yourself that failures as an opportunity to learn, without losing the confidence to keep going and try again.

Of course, it’s not a question of acting without thinking, but rather of being ready to take on reasonable risks, knowing that you will either succeed, or learn something useful.

Let us know about your experiences of adopting a growth mindset and taking a risk in the comments box below!

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 2.1: Produce, communicate and distribute key resources and materials that inspire the profession

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

The 10-Minute International Librarian #54: Think of a way in which your work supports creativity

This week, the Conference of the Parties of the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions takes place. IFLA will be observing, as well as taking an active role in today’s Civil Society Forum.

But delivering on the goal of the Convention – to encourage and support creativity by all, everywhere – is not just a question for international-level discussions.

Rather, it is something that requires mobilisation and engagement in every community.

Libraries have an important role to play here – arguably one that has often been underestimated.

Because while it can be easy to think of access to information being simply about making use of the works of other people, it is also a vital precondition for people to be able to create themselves.

Added to this are the possibilities libraries offer, through spaces, programming, and support, to encourage people to use their imaginations.

Around the world, we benefit from a stronger understanding of how libraries are key players in supporting creativity and innovation.

So for our 54th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think of a way in which your work supports creativity.

Once you have an idea, think about how you can explain it clearly, for example to a library user, an artist, or a decision-maker.

Are there other things you could do to support creativity among the community you serve?

Let us know your ideas in the comments below!

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 1.1: Show the power of libraries in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals.

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.

Libraries at the Heart of Educational, Social, Cultural, Innovation and Democratic Infrastructure

When we talk about infrastructure, it’s easiest to think of things like roads, railways, bridges.

Things that connect us together, allowing economies and societies to work. Things that serve many people, and many purposes, providing a basic service that you may take for granted when you have, but that you miss when you don’t.

They combine with other activities – production of goods, provision of services, engagement between people – in order to support growth and social cohesion.

While traditionally, as mentioned, we tend to see infrastructure as being about transport, it is also clearly applicable to other types of connection, such as energy or connectivity.

Again, these are clearly essential for allowing all sorts of different activities – economic and otherwise. They make it possible for more focused interventions – such as business support, training programmes or other initiatives – to create healthy and equitable economies and societies. We have already blogged about the role of libraries in connectivity infrastructure.

This idea of infrastructure as a basic service supporting the delivery of wider success can also apply to other policy areas. They also rely both on there being structures in place, as well as ongoing services or other activities.

This blog explores this idea for a number of policies, and underlines how libraries are, arguably, a core part of these other infrastructures.


Educational infrastructure: ensuring that everyone has the chance to learn and develop throughout life should be a clear priority for any economy or society. Core to achieving this are of course great teachers, helping children and others.

But they in turn rely on having access to adequate schools, with the facilities and resources to make their job easier. Within schools, libraries represent a crucial resource, not only helping teachers with materials, but also helping develop key skills, and providing a space for students to extend their learning.

Looking beyond people of school age, there is a key role for further education colleges, but also for community institutions such as libraries which provide both a portal and a platform for learning.

By putting potential learners in touch with opportunities, providing a space for education initiatives, and enabling self-led learning, a strong library network can provide a crucial infrastructure for education providers for people of all ages.


Social Infrastructure: social policy is most often associated with a combination of targeted benefits or supports, and interventions and programmes focused on individuals, in order to promote inclusion, equality and cohesion.

But achieving this goal in a lasting fashion requires more. Eric Klinenberg has of course already popularised the idea of libraries representing a form of social infrastructure – a key basic service on which successful societies can be built.

They do this by providing a space, and a reference point, for communities. They also enable the achievement of the goals of other programmes through providing a space where everyone can feel welcome, and supporting the education and development that is often at the heart of reintegration.

Once again, this support can come simply through the presence of welcoming libraries, through their own programming, or through their role in providing a portal to, or platform for, services provided by others.


Cultural Infrastructure: culture can be both a goal in itself, and instrumental in supporting wider policy objectives such as cohesion, innovation, and wellbeing. It should also, clearly, be egalitarian, giving everyone the possibility both to benefit from the ideas of others, and to come up with their own.

While plenty of creativity happens everyone, including of course in people’s homes, there is nonetheless a need for infrastructure. Especially for the performing arts, the existence of theatres and other venues is clear in order to allow creative individuals and groups to connect with audiences.

Yet literature too has its venues, in the form of libraries, bookshops and other places that allow people to discover and enjoy writing. Indeed, these are often the most local cultural centre that many people have!

Indeed, especially for those who many not benefit from having their own quiet space at home, the possibility to visit a library in order to read, and discover new ideas, is clear. Libraries can also provide a gateway to other forms of culture, encouraging users to express their creativity in other ways through hosting events or providing access.


Innovation Infrastructure: research and innovation too benefit from being able to count on a core infrastructure. Governments can invest in things like super-computers (to provide the computing power for advanced analysis), venues for carrying out tests and experiments, or open science infrastructures. These allow researchers and innovators to go further, and faster, than would otherwise be possible.

Libraries, too, are arguably essential parts of the innovation infrastructure of any country, providing access to existing knowledge, and supporting the production and dissemination of new ideas. They have also, clearly, been at the heart of advocacy for open access and open science.

It is worth noting the importance of special collections and specialised knowledge which may only exist in one or a few places within a country, or even globally. Even relatively small libraries can be irreplaceable parts of the innovation infrastructure.


Democratic Infrastructure: democracy, first and foremost, is about people using their rights to decide who should be in power, or indeed what those who are in power should do. This happens through voting, in person, by post or proxy, or even online.

Yet for the choice people make on election or referendum days to be meaningful, more is needed than polling stations and vote-counting offices. Democracy also relies on informed individuals, and a sense of shared belonging.

Achieving this also relies on infrastructures – spaces and programmes to build an understanding of issues and debates, as well as simply where people can see and feel that they are part of the same community as their neighbours and others.

Libraries contribute to this, through acting as a social infrastructure (see above), through giving space for discussion and debate, through hosting and supporting engagement with open government data and beyond. They can also simply help by being a symbol of public service within the community, reminding people of what governments do, and why this matters.



The blog has looked at just five areas where, arguably, policy success benefits from – or even depend on – the existence of an infrastructure enabling more focused activities to take place.

Of course, the problem is that when the benefits created by such infrastructures are widely spread, it can be difficult to convince any single individual or business is likely to want – or be able – to pay for such infrastructure on their own. Why should they pay when others benefit?

This is why governments often have such an important role in supporting infrastructure, ensuring that it is part of any wider plan, either policy area by policy area, or in wider sustainable development strategies.

In each of the areas set out here – and beyond – there is a therefore a case to be made to governments that libraries need to be seen, and supported, as vital infrastructures, and accordingly integrated into plans and strategies for success. Indeed, given the unique cross-cutting role of libraries, our institutions arguably need to be integrated into plans at the highest level, to ensure that their potential to facilitate progress is fully realised.

Library Stat of the Week #50 (Part 1): Where there are stronger, and better used public and community libraries, there tends to be greater participation in artistic and creative activities

In part one of the last of our mini-series on libraries and cultural data – and indeed the last of our regular Library Stat of the Week posts for now – we’re looking at data about libraries and the wider cultural field.

This follows two posts exploring the relationship between libraries and the book sector, measured in terms of the share of household spending on culture going on books across countries for which culture is available.

In this post, we make use of Eurostat data about frequency of participation in artistic activities (in general), and regularity of attendance at cultural events (cinema, live performances, and cultural or heritage institutions such as museums).

Once again, we also draw on data from IFLA’s Library Map of the World, combined with World Bank population data.

Given that Eurostat data only covers Europe, and that Library Map of the World data is not complete for every country, we have limited analysis to those countries for which data is available.

The goal is to explore what relationships exist between the existence and use of libraries and broader cultural participation. The thesis is that libraries can act as a gateway to culture, providing opportunities that are both local, and free, for people to discover creativity, both in others and in themselves.

The first part of this post looks at data around participation in artistic activities, compared to different metrics of availability of libraries (measured by the number of public and community libraries per 100 000 people), and their use (measured by numbers of visits and loans per capita).

Participation in such artistic activities can be used as a proxy for levels of creativity, as well as a broader indicator of the strength of culture.

Graph 1a: Public/Community Libraries per 100 000 People and Frequency of Participation in Artistic Activities

Graph 1a therefore compares the shares of the population reporting that they participate in artistic activities at least once a week, at least once a month, and not at all in the last year, with the number of public and community libraries per 100 000 people.

In this (as in all the graphs in this post), each dot represents one country. The higher up a dot is, the higher the share of people reporting that they practice an artistic activity at a given frequency. The further to the right it is, the more public or community libraries there are per 100 000 people in the country.

This finds little relationship between the presence of public and community libraries and levels of participation in artistic activities.

However, as in previous posts, it is worth looking at just those countries with up to 20 public or community libraries per 100 000 people (above the European and global averages) – this allows us to exclude more extreme cases.

Graph 1b: Public/Community Libraries per 100 000 People and Frequency of Participation in Artistic Activities (up to 20 Libraries per 100K)

Graph 1b does this, showing a much stronger link between the presence of libraries and participation in artistic activities. More public and community libraries tends to be associated with greater shares engaging regularly in artistic activities (and smaller shares not engaging at all).

For example, every extra public or community library per 100 000 people tends to be associated with a fall of almost 2 percentage points in the share of the population not engaging in artistic activities at all.

Graph 2: Public/Community Library Visits per Person and Frequency of Participation in Artistic Activities

Graph 2 continues the analysis, but looking rather at a key indicator of intensity of use of libraries – the average number of visits per person per year. This finds a similar trend as in Graph 1b, with more regular visits to libraries associated with higher engagement in artistic activities.

Here, every one additional visit to a public or community library per person per year is associated with an almost three point rise in the share of the population engaging in artistic activities at least once a month.

Graph 3: Total Loans per Person and Frequency of Participation in Artistic Activities

Graph 3 does the same but with the average number of loans per person per year, and again shows that more regular borrowing of books tends to be associated with more regular participation in artistic activities. Each additional loan per person per year tends to be linked with a fall of over two points in the share of the population not engaged in any artistic activity in the past year.

Overall, these graphs underline the connection between the presence and use of libraries, and wider involvement in artistic activities. Clearly, we cannot say for sure say that there is causality in one direction or the other. Indeed, both library use and other artistic activity could be the result of a single cause, such as a strong focus on culture in education or a wider appreciation of being cultured.

Nonetheless, it does support the argument that societies which are more involved in artistic activities – and so which arguably encourage creativity – are characterised by a greater number of public libraries (at least up to around 20 public libraries per 100 000 people), and more intense use of these.


The second part of this post looks at data around frequency of participation in specific cultural activities – namely visits to the cinema, going to live performances (theatre, concerts), and visits to cultural or heritage institutions (including monuments and museums).

This data, as far as it appears, does not include data on library visits. However, it provides an insight into the strength of the wider cultural sector. In particular, larger numbers of people going regularly to the cinema or a live performance, or visiting a cultural or heritage institution, bring advantages in terms of revenues for each of the sectors concerned.

The following analyses look at how the share of the population carrying out these different activities regularly (at least four times a year) compares with numbers of visits to libraries per person per year, as an indicator of how well used libraries are.

Graph 4a: Public/Community Library Visits and Share of 16+ Population Participating in Cultural Activities 4 or More Times Per Year

Graph 4a therefore looks at the share of the population aged 16 or more going to each of the three types of cultural event four or more times per year. It indicates a positive correlation – in countries where there are higher average numbers of library visits per year, there are also more people going regularly to the cinema, to live events, or to cultural or heritage institutions.

The most positive correlation here is between visits to libraries and visits to cultural or heritage institutions, with live performances and cinema following closely behind. For every additional library visit per person per year, there tends to be a rise of 1.4 points in the share of the population visiting cultural or heritage institutions regularly.

Graph 4b: Public/Community Library Visits and Share of 16+ Population with Low Education Participating in Cultural Activities 4 or More Times Per Year

Graph 4b looks specifically at the case of people with lower education (defined as less than primary and lower secondary education), given that people in this situation can be at risk of exclusion. A break-down of this data is not available for libraries, and so data for the whole population is used.

The graph indicates that levels of regular participation in different events or activities are lower than for the population as a whole. However, we see the same positive connections with even stronger correlations between average use of libraries (for the population as a whole), and participation in different activities (for people with lower education).

In other words, there is an indication that there may be links between use of libraries and participation in other events, even for those who may otherwise be at risk of exclusion.

Graph 5a: Public/Community Library Visits and Share of 16+ Population (by Education Level) Visiting Culture and Heritage Institutions Regularly

Graph 5a looks specifically at cultural and heritage institutions, given that these are, in other circumstances, often considered as part of a group with libraries (GLAMs). They can also have similar functions as community spaces, where visitors have more freedom to discover for themselves.

In addition to the positive link between library visits per capita and shares of the population as a whole, it helps underline similar positive links for people with both high and low levels of formal education. Interestingly, the strength of the correlation is highest for those only primary and lower secondary education.

Graph 5b: Public/Community Library Visits and Share of 16-29 Population (by Education Level) Visiting Culture and Heritage Institutions Regularly

Graph 5b repeats the analysis for younger people (aged 16-29) and comes to a similar conclusion – where there are more visits to libraries per person (again, for the whole population), there tend to be higher numbers of people regularly visiting cultural and heritage institutions.

Graph 6: Public/Community Library Visits and Share of Population (by Age) Visiting Culture and Heritage Institutions Regularly

Finally, Graph 6 looks rather at trends for different age groups. This finds very little difference in the relations between library visits (for the whole population) and for the share of younger (16-29 year olds), older (65-74 year olds) and the population as a whole (anyone over 16). In each case, the connection is positive.


This post has looked at different indicators of levels of participation in culture. Maximising this participation can be seen as a goal in itself, a driver of wellbeing for individuals, a support for the cultural sector, and as a foundation for strong economies and societies in general.

While, as always, correlation cannot be read as causality, there certainly are positive links between levels of presence and use of public and community libraries and engagement in artistic activities. The same goes for visits to public and community libraries and regularly going to the cinema, live performances and other cultural and heritage institutions, including across age groups and levels of education.

The data presented here therefore supports the argument that a well-supported and well-used public and community library field tends to be associated with wider participation in artistic and cultural activities, either as a gateway or as a complement. It can help support arguments for libraries to be considered as a key part of cultural policy, as a support for the wider creative economy, and indeed as actors in boosting creativity in general.

Part two of this post will look, finally, at data around the strength and use of public and community libraries and reading habits.


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.

Lessons from the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Global Innovation Index 2020

Last week the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) released the 13th edition of its Global Innovation Index (GII). This looks to bring together different indicators that can help governments and others understand how different countries are doing in promoting innovation, which is taken to be a key source of growth and progress towards wider development goals.

The index takes a wide perspective on innovation – not just specific activities such as patenting, but also evaluations of the innovation environment (institutions governing innovation, human capital, infrastructures, sources of finance and opportunities to sell innovative products, and businesses’ own behaviour), and a wider range of measures of outputs and their dissemination and use, including online.

The report as a whole – and the measures that underpin it – are worth exploring for anyone interested in how something as broad as innovation can be defined and measured. This is particularly true for the library field, given the role of our institutions in supporting and promoting basic research in particular, through their work with faculty in universities and other research centres.

It is also, clearly, a crucial moment to think about the way that innovation is encouraged and managed, given the impacts of COVID-19 on economies. The report includes various perspectives on funding, as well as insightful commentary on what the pandemic may mean more broadly.

This blog, as a starter, identifies five key points made in the GII 2020, which may be of particular relevance.


Spending on research and development is likely to fall – we will need to ensure what money is there is spent effectively: the most prominent graph in the report highlights that the first three months of 2019 have already seen a drop in spending on research and innovation, likely as companies became aware of the potential costs of the pandemic. Governments too are likely to look to reduce spending also in the coming months – and indeed, the latest proposal for the European Union’s Multi-year Financial Framework already (mistakenly, in the view of libraries) plans to do this.

Clearly, any decision to cut spending on innovation cannot be taken lightly. But where this is the case, it will be necessary to think hard about how to maximise efficiency. A clear way of doing this is through promoting openness in science, which has the potential to make research both faster and fairer. A wider analysis of the way research is shared can also help identify where money is being removed from the system unnecessarily, reducing that actually spent on creating and applying new ideas.


There is a positive trend towards international cooperation between researchers which should be encouraged: the report notes that despite the many stories of countries failing to coordinate around border controls or purchases of vaccines, the scientific community has proven itself readier to work across borders in order to share ideas, data and results. It underlines how much of a positive this is, echoing existing findings by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that cross-border collaborations tend to lead to higher impact research.

Support for research cooperation is a key focus for many academic libraries. Clearly encouraging openness (not only of publications, but also of science in general) will help with this by reducing (or removing) copyright-related barriers to collaboration. So too will progress towards an international legal instrument on copyright limitations and exceptions at the World Intellectual Property Organization. Yet libraries are also, through work around linked data and developing and updating standards, facilitating the sharing and use of information across borders to advance innovation.


Steps to remove red-tape have been welcome and can continue to contribute to supporting innovation: another positive underlined by the report is the effort made by many governments to simplify processes around innovation. These have focused in particular on financing, as well as on some rules around testing. Clearly it will be important in the longer term to assess which of these changes should be made permanent – rules are usually there for a reason – but this will allow for a re-evaluation.

Once again, the value of simplifying rules and processes around innovation will be positive for libraries. For example, in discussions around the copyright rules that should apply to text and data mining, it is clear that research is facilitated when there is no need to seek additional permissions, or buy additional licences in order to carry out mining – the right to read should be the right to mine. Similarly, the complexity that libraries face in giving access to digital resources, each subject to their own set of contract terms, could be easily removed by simply underlining that such terms should not be enforceable when they override copyright limitations and exceptions.


Countries with more flexible copyright regimes tend to top the tables for their regions: Once again, it is countries with flexible rules around copyright – namely fair use or fair dealing – which top the tables in five out of the seven regions highlighted by WIPO. The United States in North America, India in Southern and Central Asia, Singapore in South-East and Eastern Asia and Oceania, Israel in North Africa and Western Asia, and South Africa in Sub-Saharan Africa all have such rules.

The only exceptions are in Europe (Switzerland) and Latin America and the Caribbean (Chile). Nonetheless, both have recently updated their copyright laws to favour access to information in support of innovation. This provides a helpful argument in favour of greater flexibility as a means of supporting more innovation.


Innovation will be essential for the recovery from COVID-19: an overall point – and one that could be expected from a report with this title – is that innovation is likely to be essential for any future recovery from COVID-19. This was already the case before of course, with limits on the world’s resources meaning that ‘doing better’ has to replace ‘doing more’ as a driver of growth. Faced with COVID-19, we need to innovate both in order to find ways of carrying on with lives and services, and to create new opportunities for work and earning.

As a key part of the innovation infrastructure of any country – in particular the basic research that makes major breakthroughs possible – libraries will certainly be able to agree with the importance of a focus on encouraging the development and spread of new ideas. It is only to be hoped that governments, when taking decisions about the future, will do the same.