Tag Archives: SDG4

The 10-Minute International Librarian #90: Explain how educators benefit from libraries

Yesterday was World Education Support Personnel Day, organised by Education International.

This makes the key point that effective schools and learning are about the whole range of people involved in education – teachers, nurses, support staff, and of course, librarians! See our blog on this for more.

Of course, libraries are already strongly focused on education – a large share of the stories on our Library Map of the World are indeed about SDG4 – Quality Education.

Through literacy, providing opportunities for informal and non-formal learning, and putting people in touch with learning opportunities, libraries are a key part of the wider education infrastructure.

And of course, many librarians are formally recognised as educators too!

However, there is maximum impact – both in delivery and in advocacy, when there is partnership with teachers and other educators.

So for our 90th 10-Minute International Librarian, explain how educators benefit from libraries.

Think about what you do that makes teachers’ lives easier, or helps them to achieve their goals more effectively?

Is it through providing materials or skills, offering insights and advice, or simply complementing classrooms with a quiet space for study?

These arguments can be powerful when looking to convince decision-makers that schools and universities cannot do without libraries (within their walls or beyond!), and in winning the support of teaching staff.

Let us know which arguments you think are strongest 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!

Meeting NEETs’ Needs: Libraries and Youth Skills

Today is World Youth Skills Day, focusing on the importance of giving young people the skills they need for economic and social integration.

As the United Nations’ own website underlines, young people (aged 15-24) were, even before the crisis, three times more likely to be unemployed than older workers. With the same group often in more precarious work, this figure is likely to have got worse during the pandemic, as was the case with the recession following the financial crash of 2008.

While many young people are not working because they are studying, for many – around 21%, based on 2015 figures from the World Bank – are not. Some may be in informal work, but this is not necessarily a better situation, given that this can be even more precarious and less likely to lead to a career. They are described as Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET).

This is a serious issue. Periods out of work can have ‘scarring’ effects, leading to unemployment or lower skilled or less fulfilling work later in life, as the OECD has underlined.

As a result, a high share of NEETs can be an indicator of a higher rate of inequality later. This is why it is included as one of the indicators used in the Development and Access to Information report, produced by IFLA in partnership with the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington.

To look further into the details, there is strong regional variation, at least among the countries for which data is available. While only 4.6% of young adults in East Asia are NEET, this rises to 23% in the Middle East and North Africa, and 28% in Southern Asia Oceania. In some countries, the figure is higher than 50% – notably the Maldives and Trinidad and Tobago.

Looking across the countries for which DA2I Country Analyses are available, Trinidad and Tobago indeed stands out for its high share of NEETs, although Bulgaria also has a higher rate than average for developed countries.

Meanwhile, Argentina, Austria, Ecuador, Finland and Slovenia all have lower shares of NEETs than both the global and relevant regional average.

For those countries which do have higher shares of NEETs, libraries can offer a valuable tool.

As set out in our blog for last year’s Youth Skills Day, information skills are becoming increasingly important, and libraries can provide an excellent place for developing these.

Furthermore, as our summary of evidence from World Library and Information Congress papers has underlined, libraries are also realising their potential to act as gateways for people of all ages to new skills, jobs or entrepreneurship opportunities.

Indeed, as the chapter of last year’s Development and Access to Information report focused on SDG 4 – Quality Education – by Dr Katarina Popovic underlined, ‘Access to information is an important precondition for achieving the targets of SDG 4. Without a full recognition of this in the discourse about the 2030 Agenda, accompanied by greater investment in education and lifelong learning, huge groups of people will be left behind by 2030.’ This applies as much to young adults as anyone else.

In those countries which do have high shares of NEETs and well-developed public library field – as is the case in both Bulgaria and Trinidad and Tobago, there is therefore an interesting potential to work through these institutions to offer new possibilities to young adults.

Where library networks are less strong, developing them may help strengthen the infrastructure available for helping NEETs, as well as providing a wide range of other public goods.

Making best use of existing library networks and supporting their further development could be a great way of helping build skills and resilience among youth, even in the most difficult times.

Library Stat of the Week #20: Countries with more public librarians have more adults engaged in non-formal education… but there is more to do!

In last week’s Library Stat of the Week (#19), we looked at the connection between literacy skills among adults and numbers of public and community libraries and librarians, finding a correlation between numbers of librarians per 100 000 people and numbers of adults with low skills. In general, more librarians tend to mean fewer adults with low skills.

The reason for looking at these numbers is the fact that public libraries in particular traditionally have a role in facilitating literacy and learning in their communities.

This often happens in a very informal way, for example simply through independent reading or other use of library resources. However, libraries also have a role as a venue for – or portal to – more formal opportunities.

As underlined in the chapter of the 2019 Development and Access to Information report on SDG4, libraries can indeed be a vital part of countries’ infrastructure for lifelong learning.

So this week, we’ll look at the relationship between numbers of public and community libraries and the numbers of adults (aged 25-64) currently engaged in learning. Once again, we’ll use data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competences (PIAAC). Library data comes from IFLA’s Library Map of the World.

Graph 1: Public and Community Libraries/Librarians and Adults Engaged in Non-Formal Learning

The first graph looks at the relationship between the number of public and community libraries and librarians per 100 000 people and the share of the adult population in non-formal education (source). Each dot represents a country for which data is available for adult learning, and for numbers either of public and community libraries and librarians.

In a similar result to that found in last week’s Library Stat of the Week, there is correlation in the case of public and community librarians, with more librarians tending to mean more people engaged in non-formal learning. The link is less strong in the case of public and community libraries.

As with last week, this could be explained by the fact that it is the presence and support of library and information workers that helps people to make connections with learning opportunities.

The next question is to see whether there is any sign of a connection between numbers of public and community libraries and librarians, and the number of people with lower levels of education (who have not completed secondary education) involved in adult education.

Graph 1: Public and Community Libraries/Librarians and Adults with only Primary EducationEngaged in Learning

Graph 2 does this, using figures for adults involved in all sorts of learning (formal, non-formal and a combination of the two) (source). This provides a less positive picture, with no obvious relationship between access to learning and numbers of librarians, and even a negative one with numbers of public libraries.

This suggests that governments are not yet making full use of libraries in order to help those who have not had the opportunity to reach the end of secondary education to access education. Given the evidence of what libraries can do, this is a chance missed.

Nonetheless, it is also worth bearing in mind that some countries have lower levels of adult education in learning than others in general, which helps put the number of those with only primary education in context. Other drivers of access to lifelong learning can of course be factors such as how this is paid for, or the volume and attractiveness of the offer.

We can get an alternative perspective here by looking at the ‘learning gap’ – the difference between the share of adults with university and only primary education who are currently engaged in non-formal and/or formal education (source).

Graph 1: Public and Community Libraries/Librarians and the Learning Gap among Adult Learners with only Primary, and University Education

This in interesting as an indicator of equality, as a smaller gap means that there is a lower risk of people starting with less education falling further behind. Graph 3 shows what happens when we compare the size of this gap with numbers of public and community libraries and librarians.

Encouragingly, we see a return to the sorts of figures seen in Graph 1 and last week’s Library Stat of the Week, with larger numbers of public and community librarians per 100 000 people correlating with smaller gaps in access to learning.

While, as ever, correlation does not mean causality, one explanation here would be the role that libraries can play in ensuring that adults can have a second chance. While those who have been to university may feel more confident in looking for opportunities for opportunities for further learning, or be in jobs that welcome and support this, this may be less likely for those with only primary education. Libraries can help fill the gap.

With many – especially those in lower-skilled, lower-paid jobs – facing unemployment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments would do well to invest both in skills provision, and the libraries that help those who need it most to find it.


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 4

This is the first of a series of blogs for the 2019 High Level Political Forum, looking at the different SDGs in focus this year.

Sustainable Development Goal 4DA2I means being able to learn, grow and develop, wherever you are, whatever your age is the first of the SDGs to be explored this year. It focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

For many libraries – not least school and university ones – it is the basis for all of their work, from story time to advanced information literacy. Libraries play a vital role, either within institutions, or in complement to them.

But how to explain this role to policy-makers and others?

Here are three ideas for arguments that you can use to show why libraries are unique in achieving SDG4:

1) Because literacy is a gateway to learning: reading a blog like this, it can be difficult to imagine what it’s like not to be literate. Without literacy, so many means of learning, earning, and accessing information are closed. Libraries have a very strong track record in this area, through supporting literacy (even from the youngest age) and encouraging a love of reading which has proven impacts on overall academic performance.

2) Because learning doesn’t stop when you leave school: while basic education is an essential step, everyone needs to keep on learning throughout their lives. Changes in the wider world may force them to find a new job or adapt to new technologies. Changes in their own lives mean that their needs and priorities change. Libraries provide a place where anyone, at any age, can learn for themselves, and often get involved in or access wider training opportunities.

3) Because spaces matter: the internet has opened up great new possibilities for people to access learning, with new content and applications developed all the time. Yet it is undeniable that people also benefit from having dedicated spaces and staff to help them develop new skills. Libraries are ideal spaces for this, given their historic focus on popular education, and their familiarity to communities.

For more see the chapter on SDG4 in the 2019 Development and Access to Information Report (DA2I) by Dr Katarina Popovic, Secretary-General of the International Council on Adult Education (ICAE).