Tag Archives: SDG16

Library Stat of the Week #45: Where There are More Public and Community Libraries and Library Workers, There is More Trust in Government

Trust in government matters.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the level of confidence people have in the ability of those that rule to be taking the right decisions, in the interests of the country, has arguably had a significant impact on the likelihood of following health advice.

Yet this is also important in more ‘ordinary’ times, with the effectiveness of policies often depending, at least in part, on whether people have trust in those making and implementing them.

This is one of the reasons why the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include SDG16, focused on questions of good governance and strong institutions.

What drives this trust?

A number of factors can come into play, starting of course with the behaviour of politicians and officials. However, information can play a role, with more informed citizens feeing more involved in decision-making. Similarly, a feeling of having access to public services can also help.

Libraries can, arguably, play a role in both of these, helping people to inform themselves more readily, as well as being a visible example of public service in the community.

So what does the data say? To find out, we crossed data from the IFLA Library Map of the World with data from the Gallup World Poll on trust in government (measured simply by asking a representative sample of adults whether they trusted national government), reported through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Government at a Glance publication.

Graph 1a: Public and Community Libraries per 100K People and Trust in Government

Graph 1a starts by looking at the relationship between numbers of public and community libraries per 100 000 people and the share of the population declaring that they feel trust in government (data from 2019). Each dot represents one country.

Overall, this indicates a small but negative relationship here, although one with a very loose correlation.

To explore further, and following the finding in a previous blog focused on social capital that the correlation between numbers of libraries and affective outcomes (such as trust in other people) can tail off after a certain point, we therefore also looked at the correlation only for countries with up to 20 public libraries per 100 000 people. To note, the average number of public and community libraries per 100 000 people in Western Europe is 14.6, in North America, 5.7, and in the world as a whole, 6.4.

Graph 1b: Public and Community Libraries per 100K People and Trust in Government

Graph 1b does this, immediately showing not only a positive relationship, but also a stronger degree of correlation. In effect, this supports the idea that, at least up to an above-average number of public libraries per 100 000 people, more libraries tends to mean stronger levels of trust in government.

Graph 2a: Public and Community Library Workers per 100K People and Trust in Government

Graph 2a repeats the analysis, but this time looking at numbers of public and community library workers per 100 000 people. Considering all countries for which data is available, there is a positive, but weak correlation between numbers of library workers and trust in national government.

Graph 2b: Public and Community Library Workers per 100K People and Trust in Government

Graph 2b then focuses in only on countries with up to 50 public and community library workers per 100 000 people. For reference, this compares to an average of 28.7 for Western Europe, 29 for North America, and 11.8 for the world.

Once again, this indicates a stronger positive connection, indicating that where there are more public and community library workers, there is stronger trust in government.


As ever, correlation does not mean causality – governments that invest in libraries may well also invest in other services that lead to higher levels of confidence and trust among citizens.

Nonetheless, the data presented here indicate that, at least among countries which do not already have a high number of libraries and library workers already, a stronger library field tends to be associated with greater confidence in government.


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.

What Makes Libraries Unique in Achieving… SDG 16

DA2I means engaged citizens, informed societies, and better governance The fifth Sustainable Development Goal under review at the 2019 High Level Political Forum is SDG 16 – peace, justice and strong institutions.

It is certainly one of the broader goals, covering promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Crucially, it’s also the SDG that refers to the importance of access to information. IFLA has of course placed a major emphasis on this goal, promoting access as necessary for progress in so many other areas.

But how to promote the libraries to people – and in particular decision-makers – who care about peaceful, fair and well-governed societies? Here are three arguments for why libraries are unique in achieving SDG16:

  • Because democracy depends on informed societies: SDG 16 focuses strongly on the importance of giving citizens the possibility to participate in decision-making. To do this, and so build a successful and sustainable democracy, people need to have a strong knowledge of current issues and the choices that any society faces. Libraries are ideal places for people to engage in civic life, and to learn about and discuss key subjects.
  • Because open government is about more than just a website: there is growing acceptance of the value of transparency as a means of fighting corruption and ensuring accountability. Yet simply creating websites or apps, or passing laws will not make a difference if no-one is using them. There is a real need to give people the encouragement and the skills to make the most of these. Libraries have both an expertise in helping people make the most of information, and increasingly are supporting open government initiatives explicitly.
  • Because the best decisions are based on the best information: people who are taking decisions, both in government and parliaments rely on the best possible evidence and support in order to get things right. This matters, as the choices they make may well affect millions of citizens. Government and parliamentary libraries play an essential role in ensuring that those in power can access the latest research and ideas, and to do the best by their citizens.

For more information, please see the chapter on SDG16 in the 2019 Development and Access to Information (DA2I) Report by Dorothy Gordon, Chair of the Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO’s Information for All Programme.

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: Libraries and SDG 16

Justice, Transparency, Participation, Access - Libraries Deliver Across SDG16

Starting today and continuing to Wednesday, governments, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations involved in delivering SDG16 are meeting in Rome.

In advance of the focus on this Goal in New York at the High Level Political Forum, this is an opportunity to take stock, to explore where progress is needed, and to see what solutions exist. The results will inform discussions among ministers.

IFLA is here, with the recently released Development and Access to Information report, underlining the need to focus on access to information, and the help that libraries provide in achieving this goal.


The Good Governance Goal

SDG16 itself is as complex as it is fundamental. It is a foundational goal which enables efforts – and success – in all others. It includes everything from reducing violence – by states and individuals – to promoting democracy and fundamental freedoms, including access to information.

It is also controversial, with it unsure until late in the process whether it would be included at all. Many states, it is true, did not want the way they managed themselves and their policies to be in the spotlight.

Four particular targets under SDG16 are relevant to libraries. This blog sets out why, and what libraries are doing to achieve them:


Access to Justice

SDG 16.3: Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all 

Too often, laws that are meant to protect people and their rights do not work because it is only some members of society who can enforce them. Bureaucratic and cultural barriers, as well as cost are major issues.

A further key concern is information about justice. Laws are often long and complicated, and even the best educated are unlikely to have read or understood them. Those who are most at risk of discrimination or disadvantage are particularly vulnerable.

As such, access to legal information is a key means of ensuring that more people can enjoy the rights they have. Libraries – especially through partnerships between law libraries and public libraries – can make a major contribution to ensuring that ordinary people can learn about their rights.

A great example comes from New South Wales, Australia, where for over 25 years, public libraries have been working with the Legal Information Access Centre at the State Library. Through direct consultation, and easy-read materials, this has made access to justice a reality for many who would otherwise have been left out.


Accountability and Transparency

SDG 16.6: Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels

Governments have a duty to their citizens to make best use of their potential to improve lives. Yet too often, there are failures or worse, with public money mis-spent, or powers misused.

These problems can be reduced (or alternative governments chosen) when there is transparency about how governments and institutions are working. Without this, citizens have nowhere to start in terms of holding those in power to account.

There is a move towards publishing ‘open government’ information, around decision-making, budgeting and spending. New platforms are being designed and put online, and citizens given the possibility to use them to come to their own conclusions.

However, simply creating the possibility is not enough. Those without internet access or technology are immediately excluded, as are those who do not know about the possibilities, and those who lack the skills and confidence to use them.

Libraries can play a key role in overcoming this situation, letting people know about what is possible, and helping them to make use of the new rights. An example from Kenya, where many people still cannot get online through a laptop of desktop, underlines what can be done.


Better Decision-Making

SDG 16.7: Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels

As highlighted above, governments have an important responsibility to their people to take the right decisions, not least concerning public money.

These decisions are significant, often affecting millions of people, and millions of dollars. It is broadly accepted that the best decisions are based upon wide consultation and use of evidence.

Yet as policies become more interconnected and complicated, it is not necessarily easy to achieve this, either for the governments drafting laws, or the parliaments debating them.

Libraries have a key role to play here, providing access to information for decision-makers. They bring a unique ability to collect and make available information in a form and at a time that really supports the work of governments and parliaments.

The work of IFLA’s sections on Government Libraries and Parliamentary Libraries offer many examples of what libraries can achieve in supporting responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making.


Access to Information

SDG 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements

SDG 16.10 has been at the heart of IFLA’s work around the Sustainable Development Goals. Complementing the targets highlighted above that focus on access to information about government, it stresses the need for access to information in general.

Just as this goal has long been at the heart of IFLA’s SDG engagement, the mission it refers to is central to the mission of libraries in general.

Through providing information in whatever form or from whatever source is relevant, libraries help people to seize opportunities and take better decisions. This access is therefore a key part of a development framework focused on empowering individuals to make their own choices.

Despite predictions of the demise of libraries in a digital age, their role has arguably been strengthened, as the importance of skills, physical spaces, and a welcoming environment have become clearer.

The Development and Access to Information Report, of which the second edition was launched last week, offers many examples, across the SDGs, of how this access makes a difference.