Tag Archives: Libraries

The 10-Minute International Librarian #88: Think of a process where libraries should be included

Libraries have an incredible breadth of expertise and action.

As has been said before in this series, when someone walks through the door of a library (or visits a library website!), it can be for a huge variety of reasons.

In each of these areas, libraries bring important expertise to bear, both in terms of the role of information, and in how to respond to the needs of users.

For example, they can be well placed to explain how users find and interact with information, community programming, and the specific needs of people in a local area.

This can make a major contribution to the goals of different groups and processes. But too often, libraries are forgotten or ignored!

So for our 88th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think of a process where libraries should be included.

For example, groups or committees on public health could gain from libraries’ knowledge of, and role in, providing information about eating better and doing more exercise.

Lifelong learning initiatives miss a opportunity when they don’t involve libraries, as venues for training, access points for online learning, and portals to further courses.

And it is hard to imagine open science strategies fulfilling their potential without library understanding of promoting preservation and discoverability.

A particular example is around the Sustainable Development Goals, where there are often civil society or official groups or networks.

What examples do you have of processes which would gain from engaging libraries better? Share them in the comments below!

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 1.3: Work with library associations and libraries to identify key legal and funding challenges to their work, and advocate for action 

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 #48: Think of a trend that will shape the field

Libraries are closely tied to the communities they serve.

Changes in the way people live, earn, socialise and behave will often have an impact on what they need from libraries, and how they use them.

In the meanwhile technological shifts can affect how libraries, in turn respond.

In this way libraries are affected by the major economic, societal, cultural and technological evolutions.

Being aware of them, and thinking about their impact – both positive and negative – can help you plan, as well as providing a great basis for discussion with colleagues around the world.

For example, IFLA’s Trend Report identified a number of examples back in 2013, with a 2016 update offering further ideas.

So for our 48th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think of a trend that will shape the field!

Think about how it could impact your users, and so your own ability to serve them.

Are there opportunities to do something more or something different to provide more help?

Are there threats which will need to be addressed in order to ensure services into the future?

You can use this as a basis for discussions at meetings or events, or in your work with colleagues around the world.

Share your ideas on key trends affecting libraries in the comments below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 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 comments box below.

April Fool’s! Five things which aren’t true, but should they be?

In many parts of the world, 1 April is a day for playing pranks on others – April Fool’s Day. In some countries, there’s a tradition even of newspapers or other media publishing hoax stories as jokes – to take two examples from the BBC, the story of the spaghetti harvest in 1957, or of flying penguins in 2008.

Of course, with much concern at the moment about the impact of fake news, published with more sinister motivations than just to amuse people, it’s clear that it’s not only on 1 April that it’s necessary to apply critical thinking to what we read, hear or watch.

To mark the day, we’ve gathered a collection of five imaginary headlines which are definitely not true, together with short discussions about why (or why not!) we might wish they were.


World Heritage Convention extended to documentary heritage!

The 1972 World Heritage Convention is a crucial agreement in the history of international cooperation and norm setting around culture and heritage. As well as recognising the importance of heritage itself, it underlined the key connection between human and natural heritage.

On the basis of the Convention, there is an ongoing process of work bringing together governments and civil society, and of course the well known World Heritage Programme and its designated World Heritage Sites.

However, the definition of heritage in the Convention does not cover the sort of documentary heritage held by libraries. Indeed, while there are Conventions for underwater heritage, intangible heritage, and cultural diversity, there is nothing at Convention-level specifically concerning the sorts of works in library collections.

Ensuring that the importance of library collections is properly recognised – and so also of the work that libraries do – is a key area of work for IFLA in its advocacy, as well as in its support of the teams at UNESCO working with documentary heritage.

We cannot realise the full potential of culture and cultural heritage to support wider societal goals if we do not consider all elements of culture properly.


Debates about the role of major digital platforms extend to scholarly communications!

Discussions are intensifying in different parts of the world about whether and what action should be taken in response to concerns about the size and power of major digital platforms.

A key issue has been not just their dominance in particular markets, such as search, but rather what happens when they are active in different markets, and their power in one gives them an unfair advantage in others. For example, Google has faced challenges linked to whether Google Shopping results are prioritised in web search results.

However, it is not only at the level of the traditional internet platforms that there are concerns. Within the scholarly communication field, in addition the dominance of journal publishing by a small number of large companies, there have also been worries about what happens when other research services or infrastructure are bought up by the same companies.

Initiatives such as SCOSS are working to keep them independent, and so resist situations where researchers find themselves locked-in to specific companies’ services.

For the time being, the energy spent on chasing (admittedly much larger, but sometimes less profitable) American internet companies has not yet extended to the scholarly communications field, but a deeper look would certainly be helpful in order to understand the situation – and the risks – better.


New Sustainable Development Goal to be Added for Culture!

IFLA has placed the SDGs at the heart of our advocacy work, not just because they represent a core area of work of the United Nations, but also because they provide so much scope for talking about all the ways in which libraries contribute to progress.

Of course, one of the risks with being important across different policy areas is that no single ministry, agency or team can fully take account of the value libraries bring.

The same goes with culture, including cultural institutions like libraries. As the Culture2030Goal campaign review of culture in SDG implementation underlined, there are plenty of agreements about the cross-cutting importance of culture, but relatively little practical action to realise this in national development plans and reports.

A key reason for this is likely to be the fact that culture was not recognised as a standalone goal (as well as a cross-cutting factor of development). The chances, of course, of amending the 2030 Agenda are very low, and so efforts for now need to focus on ensuring that governments do more to integrate culture into planning.

But looking ahead to what comes after the 2030 Agenda, maybe this headline could be true one day?


Right to a Library Declared by Human Rights Council!

The freedom to seek, impart and receive information – Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – is at the heart of IFLA’s values, and of the work of libraries globally.

Indeed, libraries have a role in delivering on many of the rights set out not just in the Universal Declaration, but also in other Conventions, such as that on the Rights of People with Disabilities or on the Rights of the Child.

In parallel, in countries where there is library legislation, this is often based on an obligation on actors (often at the local or regional level) to provide library services, with these described to a greater or lesser level of detail, in effect setting out that people should have a right to a library (see the EBLIDA study for more).

What chance is there of such a provision making it to the international level? This is unclear, both because the right to a variety of library services is already covered by the texts mentioned above, and because trying to set out any specific level of library service to be provided could end up risk becoming a ceiling rather than a floor.

At the same time, stronger recognition of the role of libraries as part of the infrastructure for delivering on human rights for all is always welcome, and IFLA’s Advisory Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression is active in underlining this role in submissions to the Human Rights Council, building up the bank of examples that can be used in advocacy.


Amazon to Open a Physical Library!

A lot has been made of Amazon beginning to open physical bookshops, alongside supermarkets and other services, given that of course the company has traditionally been seen as harmful to retail. There are 24 dedicated bookstores, and 34 shops selling books and other products across the US already.

The venture into physical stores may likely be down to a recognition that for many things, the physical experience is important, both in terms of making choices, and simply for wellbeing.

Of course, Amazon also has its Prime service, offering subscribers wide access to eBooks for a monthly fee. Could a next logical step be to develop, effectively, a physical subscription library?

There could be arguments in favour, at least for the company. Greater proximity to, and interaction with, readers is valuable, as of course is information about what and how they read. Operating a library could also open up segments of the population which cannot, or can only sometimes, afford to buy books.

Of course the downside, from a library point of view, would be that any such initiative would clearly have a commercial focus, and so lose the emphasis on meeting the needs of readers (rather than maximising profits). There would be little incentive to provide the wide range of other services that libraries offer, and of course there could concerns about how reader data would or could be used.

For all these reasons, libraries should be in a position to hold their ground if they can clearly articulate their value, although as will be underlined in an upcoming interview, concern about the role of Amazon is a reality in other areas.

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.

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.


How HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) supports Libraries in pandemic times

By Sara R. Benson, Copyright Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Check out Sara’s podcast titled Copyright Chat at https://go.illinois.edu/copyrightchat

It’s Fair Use/Fair Dealing week and that means it is once again time to let folks know about exciting developments with the HathiTrust Digital Library. Last year on Fair Use Week I highlighted the ability of researchers to engage with copyright protected materials for text and data mining through the HathiTrust Research Data Capsule. This year, I would like to make readers aware of the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service or ETAS.

What is the ETAS? It is a portal allowing affiliated libraries to permit their patrons to access in copyright works remotely. Why is the ETAS available? COVID 19 has caused many libraries, such as my own (the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Library) to temporarily limit physical access to library materials. Almost half of our collection, however, has been digitized and is available in the HathiTrust corpus. Normally, users can only perform searches for how many times a given term appears in copyright protected works in the HathiTrust corpus. However, due to COVID 19, the ETAS allows users to view (but not download) entire copyright protected works remotely. Libraries participating must have the physical book in their collection and agree not to lend out the physical book. Thus, the book is being lent remotely on a one-to-one ratio to the Library’s physical collection on the basis of fair use. This type of lending is made possible because it is non-commercial, educational in purpose and justified due to the emergency nature of the pandemic virus. As noted by April Hathcock in a public statement created by copyright specialists and available at https://tinyurl.com/tvnty3a, “fair use is made for just these kinds of contingencies.”

So, as you celebrate Fair Use/Fair Dealing week this year, note that the pandemic has brought with it many challenges, but Fair Use has enabled libraries to keep lending their works digitally so that researchers and the public can continue to create, thrive, and produce . . . even during a crisis.

The 10-Minute International Librarian #40: understand your users’ expectations

Librarianship is all about providing service.

Our institutions are there to help people find the information they need to make decisions, and to take part in economic, social, cultural and civic life.

As a result, we have a strong focus on working to identify and respond to user needs, both in terms of building collections and developing services and wider communities. User needs are of course also key when designing libraries in the first place.

But in addition to needs, it’s also worth thinking about what users expect of the library. This matters, because how libraries match up with users’ anticipations will affect overall experience.

So for our 40th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, understand your users’ expectations.

What do they want from the library in terms of type of service, and how it is delivered. What is it that they want to do in the library, and how can you make this simpler?

Don’t forget that these expectations can be affected by experiences of other services, both public and private. What makes these attractive or easy to use? Can you replicate ideas?

Let us know your about your experiences of responding to user expectations in the comments section below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 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 b