Tag Archives: sustainable development goals

Libraries Delivering SDG Successes, Even Under COVID-19

The Sustainable Development Goals, and the wider 2030 Agenda that contains them, already represent an ambitious – but necessary – roadmap for a richer, fairer, more sustainable world.

2020 was already supposed to mark the beginning of the Decade of Action – a renewed, reinforced focus on the sorts of concerted efforts needed to succeed.

Of course, 2020 also turned out to be the year of COVID-19, obliging people and governments alike to focus efforts on limiting the spread of the disease, and dealing with its consequences.

As the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Gutteres pointed out back in July, COVID has both made achieving the Global Goals harder, and underlined why success is nonetheless so necessary.

With governments facing a steeper hill to climb than before when it comes to delivering on the SDGs, the need to draw on what libraries can contribute is as strong as ever. Fortunately, libraries have shown themselves up to the task.

Drawing on the examples collected by IFLA from libraries across the world, throughout the pandemic, this blog offers an overview of how our institutions are showing their value on each of the 17 SDGs.

SDG 1 – No Poverty: the pandemic risks seeing major jumps in the numbers of people facing extreme poverty, with loss of access to housing or basic services. Libraries have looked to counter this, with, for example, libraries in Kansas making laptops and WiFi hotspots available to the local homeless shelter, while those in Toledo, Ohio donating vehicles, and those in Edmonton, Canada, other equipment, in order to ensure that poverty does not mean exclusion.

SDG 2 – Zero Hunger: increased poverty all too often means food insecurity, even in wealthier countries. In response, public libraries in Toronto, Canada, have started to host food banks, while those in Yarra and Monash, Australia are supporting food deliveries. READ centres in Nepal are also engaged in providing food rations.

SDG 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing: while the pandemic has primarily been a physical health crisis, it has clearly also brought significant negative consequences for mental health and wellbeing. Libraires have addressed both, for example helping to share information about COVID-19 (including in local languages, in the case of Kibera and Nakuru public libraries in Kenya, and through the National Library Authority of Ghana), and supporting wider research and decision-making, for example at the national level in Brazil, and at the WHO itself.

To improve mental health, the library in Kota, India, has promoted bibliotherapy, libraries in China have engaged closely with users, while the National Library of Medicine in the US has promoted collections on wellbeing and dealing with stress. Libraries have also been involved in direct pandemic response, for example helping with contact tracing in Ireland and San Francisco, and with wider health work by promoting continued vaccination programmes in Nepal.

SDG 4 – Quality Education: UNESCO has underlined the risk of the pandemic becoming an education crisis. With libraries a key part of the infrastructure in almost every country for both formal, and informal and non-formal learning, much of the library response to COVID-19 has therefore been about how to allow education to continue. We have seen school libraries in Portugal, Uruguay, Brazil and Bhutan develop platforms and tools, while National Libraries in France, Spain and Trinidad and Tobago have also created packages and materials to support home learning, while the National Library of Jamaica has worked to help students pass their final exams. Library teaching – for example around information literacy and research skills, has been brought online, for example in Bangladesh. Further examples are available in our blog for World Teachers Day.

SDG 5 – Gender Equality: as highlighted in the Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers Report, the pandemic risks representing a setback in efforts to promote gender equality. With libraries often acting as a force for equality by providing services without barriers, much of what they do helps counter this risk. In particular, we have seen work by libraries in Brazil to gather and present information that supports women’s health during the pandemic.

SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation: while libraries are primarily about providing access to information, their role as community centres and neutral spaces mean that they can also become essential point for delivering other basic services, such as sanitation during COVID-19, even when buildings are closed. For example, South Pasadena library in Colorado set up a portable toilet and handwashing station in its carpark, while Richland Library, South Carolina, has shared its hand sanitised stations with the local homeless shelter.

SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy: similarly to sanitation, while providing access to energy may not be a primary goal of libraries, the fact of libraries being community spaces means that they can be very well placed to offer this. During the pandemic, recognising the challenges that some students may have with electricity bills and access, libraries at Arizona State University have therefore prioritised access to device-charging facilities as part of its re-opening plans.

SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth: In addition to the education crisis highlighted under SDG4, the pandemic risks also becoming an employment crisis, with businesses suffering and jobs being lost. Even with the doors closed, libraries have therefore been helping people apply for unemployment benefits, for example in Miami-Dade and Hilsborough County in the US, while libraries in Greece have widened access to job-search support, and those in Ferguson, CT in the US are helping people develop new business ideas.

SDG 9 – Industry, Infrastructure and Innovation: the pandemic has underlined clearly both the importance of innovation (in finding treatments and cures, and new ways of doing things under changed circumstances), and of digital infrastructure. Again, libraries have been active, for example prioritising computer and internet access for those without this at home in the UK and Sweden, and many examples of leaving library WiFi on in the US. Meanwhile, libraries have continued to deliver on their core mission to support innovation through providing access to existing knowledge, for example in Iraq and many other places.

SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities: as highlighted above, the pandemic has hit some harder than others, with growing concerns that the deepening of divides in society may be lasting. Libraries, given their mission to promote equality through ensuring that everyone has access to education, research and culture, play a core role in the response. Among groups at risk of marginalisation, children who are speakers of minority languages have benefitted from storytimes in the US and Australia, while older people have been able to develop the skills needed for digital inclusion in South Africa thanks to a video competition run by Johannesburg libraries. As libraries start to reopen, many have paid particular attention to the needs of vulnerable groups by prioritising them in service provision, as in the UK.

SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities: even libraries have been obliged to limit access to spaces which had become important meeting places pre-pandemic, new ways of engaging and supporting communities have emerged. Those who rely particularly on libraries for human contact and interaction have benefitted from active outreach by libraries to their users, for example in New Zealand and Canada.

SDG11 also covers the importance of safeguarding heritage. Faced with difficulties in  carrying out in-person conservation work, libraries in Australia and France have prepared guides on how best to proceed. Meanwhile, they are also busy safeguarding the heritage of tomorrow by collecting materials that witness to experiences today, as set out in our blog from May, with examples from the US, Spain, Cameroon and many others.

SDG 12 – Sustainable Consumption and Production: for many, the pandemic has underlined the value and importance of living more sustainably, avoiding behaviours which tend to accelerate the development and spread of diseases. It also represents an opportunity to stop, think, and change ways of doing things. Libraries have kept up with these wider trends during the pandemic, not least with IFLA’s own Special Interest Group on Environment, Sustainability and Libraries graduating to become a full Section, and a renewed focus in the New York Library Association on how to promote sustainability in library operations.

SDG 13 – Climate Action: while we can hope to find ways to treat and prevent COVID-19 in the coming months, climate change will require a much longer term response. In a year’s time, COP26 will offer an opportunity for governments to set out their own commitments. Libraries, are, of course, already committed to this, with the American Library Association, in the middle of the pandemic, launching programming grants to help libraries address the climate crisis.

SDG 14 – Life Below Water: As with climate change, ensuring the health of our oceans and the sustainability of the life that exists there is an ongoing priority – it is vital not to slow efforts around conservation and research. For example, libraries at the University of Washington in the US serving the oceanography department have made special efforts to maintain services in order to ensure that students and researchers can continue their vital work.

SDG 15 – Life on Land: just as in the case of SDG 14, libraries have an ongoing role in supporting research that in turn helps improve knowledge about how to farm and manage the land sustainably. Libraries, however, are also helping people to connect better to nature during the pandemic – for example in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where libraries have produced a booklet with suggestions of activities for readers.

SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: the pandemic has underlined the importance of governments that work effectively and transparently in order to respond, as well as of legislatures than can oversee their work. IFLA has published the results of a survey on how parliamentary libraries are helping to make this happen, while libraries in Nepal have helped raise up information about the situation on the ground to help wider government decision-making. Libraries in Indonesia, meanwhile, have sought to help improve the effectiveness of governance issues by summarising relevant laws and regulations for the benefit of citizens.

SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals: This SDG covers a wide range of issues, including access to knowledge across borders and digital skills, both of which have proved their importance during the pandemic. A key contribution here has been the work of the American National Library of Medicine in creating an open database for use by scientists around the world. Meanwhile, libraries globally have been sharing their skills in information literacy, for example in Mexico and Bangladesh, while in Kuwait, libraries have been leading research to understand how information spreads and is used by people at the time of pandemic. Libraries in Spain and the UK have been finding ways to offer training in using digital skills online, helping to promote inclusion for all.

The 6 Ps of Libraries and the SDGs

Presentations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) often highlight their focus on five ‘P’s – people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships.

These help underline the different dimensions of the 2030 Agenda, running from the individual to the global, the balance between the different pillars of sustainable development, and the vital role of collaboration in achieving success.

As such, they are a helpful reference point in making sense of a set of goals which are, admittedly wide and complex. While the SDGs are organised around different policy areas, the five ‘P’s arguably work at a more human level, touching on issues that, hopefully, make sense for everyone.

The same device can help in thinking about how libraries themselves contribute to SDG delivery. In this blog, we look not at five, but six ‘P’s of libraries and development. These break down into two sets of three, reflecting both traditional and emerging roles of libraries.


The Traditional Roles: Protectors, Providers, emPowerers

When looking for the first time at the SDGs, the targets that often stand out most for libraries are 11.4 (safeguarding heritage), 16.10 (access to information), and 4.6 (universal literacy). They can serve as a powerful entry point to engagement with the SDGs, underlining the alignment between libraries’ core missions, and the goals set out by world leaders back in 2015.

These goals, in effect, highlight our first three ‘P’s of libraries and the SDGs:

Protectors: libraries, and in particular national and research libraries have a key role in safeguarding our heritage for the future (SDG 11.4). Through this work, they give future generations the opportunity both to enjoy and learn from the past.

While this is an explicit goal in SDG 11.4, it is also implicit elsewhere, not least SDG 16.6 – effective, accountable and transparent institutions. Without the work of libraries and archives to preserve and store documents, it becomes far too easy to hide, and so escape responsibility for, past actions.

Providers: libraries of course have a core function in ensuring equitable access to information, regardless of revenue, through the works in their collections.

SDG 16.10 highlights this in particular, but other goals also stress the importance of access, including 2.3 (access to knowledge in agriculture), 3.7 (access to health information), 9.5 (supporting scientific research) and 13.3 (access to information about climate change).

EmPowerers: Libraries have long understood that meaningful access to information is not just about the availability of information, but the skills to use it. This is why we have librarians! Looking beyond fundamental literacy – the objective of target 4.6 – the SDGs also recognise that wider skills are necessary if we are to achieve development.

For example, target 4.4 focuses on wider skills for life, and 5B underlines the need for women to have the competences necessary to use enabling technologies such as ICTs. Target 17.8 also highlights the need for all to become digitally literate, in order to make full use of the internet.


The Emerging Roles: Portals, Partners, Platforms

Nonetheless, the work of libraries goes further still. What makes this possible is when libraries are able to collaborate, uniting their own unique strengths with those of others, from government, civil society or business.

The other three ‘P’s refer to these collaborations, where libraries increase the impact of the work done by a wide range of different actors in order to achieve the SDGs. In turn, these demonstrate the ability of libraries to contribute to success across the board.

Portals: rather than just providing services themselves, libraries often act as an entry point to services offered by others. From noticeboards and internet access to more active signposting, the library can be a great way for people to access more specialist help or support.

Crucially, visiting the library may not be associated with the same stigma as visiting a job centre or other official building, while the presence of staff can give users the possibility to find their way through the huge volume of information available otherwise.

In turn, libraries help increase the impact of other services by increasing take-up rates among the communities that need them, as well as providing free promotion in general.

Partners: going beyond providing access to services elsewhere, libraries can increase the range of services on offer within the library through forming partnerships. For example, supporting digital skills, running discussion series, or running courses cannot always rest on the shoulders of librarians.

Instead, the library can bring together its own staff, space and nature as a community meeting point with the skills of others – coding clubs, local associations, continuing education centres – in order to provide an offer that drives progress across the SDGs.

Platforms: finally, and faced with the need for efficiency in public spending and effectiveness in wider service delivery, we are seeing increasing examples of libraries acting as platforms for others.

From community healthcare to census sign-up, or from meeting rooms for business to acting as nodes in local WiFi networks, libraries can also provide a unique solution for the delivery of services, even with relatively little day-to-day input from librarians.

In the case of public services, they can mean there is less need for separate offices, and also help residents by providing them with a ‘one-stop-shop’ where they can access both library and other services. In the case of support to the private sector, while there clearly is a need to avoid unfair competition with others, libraries can be a lifeline for smaller emerging businesses that can drive local jobs and prosperity.


The six roles presented here, hopefully, provide a useful tool for thinking through how libraries help deliver not only on the SDGs, but also on any other policy goals. In particular in the case of the last three, it is clear that the contribution of libraries is not restricted to a subset of the SDGs, but can stretch across the 2030 Agenda, and beyond.


See also our infographic highlighting the 20 SDG targets which refer, implicitly or explicitly to the SDGs.

SDG Success in the Balance: Lessons from the 2020 Goalkeepers Report

As world leaders prepare to participate in the United Nations General Assembly, the Gates Foundation has released its 2020 Goalkeepers Report.

Focusing on a subset of indicators and themes featured in the UN’s 2030 Agenda, it looks to trace progress on key issues linked to the work of the Foundation, in particular health, poverty, education and equality.

These are, of course, also areas which can be determining for overall development – illness, low-education, and the exclusion of whole parts of any population represent a serious drag on progress in any society.

The Report has received widespread attention in the media, especially that focused on development, with its warnings around the risks that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to progress towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For libraries, as institutions committed to promoting progress in the communities they serve, the report is worth reading in order to understand the state of the world now. A number of conclusions in particular stand out – this blog explores just five:

The COVID-19 Pandemic stands to send us backwards in delivering on the 2030 Agenda: the first five years of the SDGs had, at least until the arrival of the pandemic, seen useful progress in fighting poverty and disease around the world. However, as the Report underlines, this progress has stopped in many areas. Indeed, we risk seeing 25 years of progress disappear in the space of 25 weeks when it comes to vaccinations. This needs to serve as a wake-up call for all those working to deliver stronger, fairer, more sustainable societies – we need to be careful to ensure that this set-back is not permanent.

We are facing a set of ‘mutually exacerbating catastrophes’: the Report underlines that the crisis is a complex one. While the immediate challenge is of course to restrict the spread of the virus until a vaccine can be found and deployed, there are already economic, social and educational catastrophes. Indeed, the loss of livelihoods, closure of schools and other steps may in turn create new health challenges outside of COVID-19, not least as concerns other vaccination and public health programmes.

The risks are highest for those already facing marginalisation: the Goalkeepers initiative, from its creation, has focused strongly on the situation of those most at risk of marginalisation. The 2020 edition underlines emerging signs that the pandemic will make inequality worse. For example, reduced demand and rules on distancing have made impossible many of the jobs – often informal – on which people facing poverty, and in particular women, depend. There are also concerns that when children start to return to school, girls will be held back, and of course children living in households without broadband access have been unable to benefit from distance learning in the same way as better connected peers.

In tough times, we cannot necessarily count on more money: the Report makes the stark warning that it is often the countries that need help most that are least able to provide it. Whereas already rich countries can borrow money for stimulus programmes, poorer ones face much higher interest rates, reducing their options. Yet even in richer countries, debts incurred today will need to be paid back tomorrow. Part of the response will, as the Report suggests, need to be a new mobilisation at the international level to get help to where it is needed. But implicit in this also is the need to make best use of the resources and infrastructures that we already have.

Libraries are in a position to help: in many of the areas highlighted by the report, the potential for libraries to contribute to the response is clear. Indeed, the support offered by the Gates Foundation over many years to libraries has made it possible to show what can be done. As pre-existing, familiar institutions around the world (there are 430 000 public and community libraries, one for every 15 000 people in countries for which we have data), working through libraries represents low-hanging fruit.

Graph from Goalkeepers Report showing risk of regression in literacy levels among childrenThe most obvious area where libraries can support progress is on education, where different projections all anticipate a drop in the share of children at the end of primary education able to read and understand a simple text. Clearly schools are at the heart of the response, but libraries can complement this by helping children engage with language from a young age, drawing on well-established expertise, as underlined by UNESCO.

Another potential area is reproductive health. Again, this is an area where health professionals themselves will take the lead, but where information – and access to this – is a key part of the response, as set out in IFLA’s response to a consultation by the UN’s Human Rights Council.

A third area is around financial services to the poor. Clearly, libraries themselves are not in a position to offer loans or protect savings, but can help provide the connectivity necessary for any digital banking services to reach people. The role of libraries in providing public access to the internet is well-recognised, and was even, in 2015, identified as the single most cost-effective way of bringing the next billion online.


There is much more in the Report, as well as great tools for exploring the data and understanding where your country stands on the indicators selected. There is also strong potential to draw on the key messages highlighted above, both to focus reflection within the library field, and underline how libraries can be part of the solution, if they are properly included in policy planning.

Restitution with a Catch? The Copyright Perspective on the Sarr-Savoy Report

The Sarr-Savoy report on the restitution of African cultural heritage, published in November 2018, proposes to recontextualise the presence of African artefacts in French heritage collections.

The objective of this report is to develop, in view of the role of the French state in colonisation, recommendations to update relevant laws around restitutions, as well as to encourage bilateral agreements with countries following requests for restitution.

Among its recommendations, the report suggests that collections which are returned should be subject to digitisation beforehand, with the digitised files then made available for use under free and open access to everyone.

This recommendation is easy to miss in the report, as the paragraphs which concern it are discreet. Nonetheless, it raises questions on two essential questions:

Who owns the physical and digital collections and who has the right to choose the policy of digitisation and openness of these artefacts?

This blog looks at the report’s approach, and presents some of the concerns expressed by this, in particular through a letter drafted by Mathilde Parvis and Andrea Wallace.

First of all, the suggestion to digitise and make collections accessible may seem an interesting initiative in the context of outreach by heritage institutions. For a number of years now, it has been clear that giving access to digital collections is a key mission for cultural institutions, as the report mentions briefly.

However, there are questions about whether this should be subject to the decision of the French state, or be a pre-condition for restitution. The term ‘restitution’, as defined in the report, is strongly connected to the question of legitimate ownership of the object. This cannot be brushed aside when it comes to digital collections.

Arguably, the legitimate ownership by African governments of returned items should give them the right to take decisions regarding the appropriate policy to be put in place on digital collections. Can it be appropriate for the government of a former colonial power to set out such demands in a restitution agreement when talking about heritage that arguably should never have been in its possession in the first place?

Indeed, as Mathilde Parvis and Andrea Wallace’s response perfectly underlines: it should rather be up to the communities to make decisions concerning the artefacts of their heritage. Indeed, suggesting or imposing in bilateral agreements a policy of digitisation and open access to collections appears to be at odds with the principle of recognition of spoliation.

Moreover, the report’s proposals concerning free and open access to and use of images does not seem to match the policy around images in French collections. Indeed, French policy on openGLAM is not based on a centralized ministerial incentive but on the will of cities and organisations independently of each other (whereas German GLAM institutions are far more organised and supported).

The request made to African governments regarding the opening of access to digital collections of collections seems, therefore, to be antithetical with the policy it applies to the digital collections of France’s own institutions.

Clearly, openness is to be welcomed in general as the best way of giving the biggest number of people possible the opportunity to engage with heritage, where other concerns (privacy or indigenous rights for example) do not stand in the way. Nonetheless, in these conditions, it risks being seen as an imposition, not a virtue.

Therefore, Parvis and Wallace’s reply defines several ways to reframe the recommendations of the Sarr-Savoy report, such as:

– Clearly define the scope of Open Access – commercial, non-commercial, public domain, possibility of reuse.
– Clearly define who owns the digital image reproductions.
– Carry out research on the conformity of these recommendations concerning the laws of African countries.
– Do not separate digital reproductions from returned objects because the reproductions are also subject to cultural appropriation.

With plans now underway to reform France’s Heritage Code, we will follow closely how this debate is reflected in any proposed amendments.

What’s on the Agenda for Libraries and the SDGs in the Rest of 2020?

2020 has been a big year for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A third of the way into the time Member States gave themselves for their implementation, there is only a decade left to deliver.

Clearly, this is not the only way in which 2020 has not been a normal year.

Following the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development in February, all other regional meetings on the SDGs were held virtually or simply postponed. Similarly, the 2020 High Level Political Forum took place online.

However, work has continued, and indeed is as important as ever as the world looks to make progress while also dealing with the consequences of the pandemic.

This emphasis on the need to accelerate efforts to make a reality of sustainable development will therefore mark the last four months of the year, and bring with it opportunities for libraries to highlight the role they can play.

Here are just a few of those opportunities:

18 September – SDG Moment: in the context of the United Nations General Assembly, there will be a morning where heads of state and government will underline their commitment to the SDGs. For those countries participating (the list is not yet available), this could be an opportunity to underline your work around the SDGs on social media. Find out more here.

18-25 September – Global Goals Week: also taking place at the time of the UN General Assembly, Global Goals Week offers a programme of events and activities, online, that run from the 18 September SDG moment to the anniversary of the agreement of the UN 2030 Agenda on 25 September. In particular, look out for the global day of factivism on 25 September, where people will share facts that set out how the world is doing towards achieving the SDGs – a perfect opportunity for the library field to show what it can do! Find out more here.

28 September – International Day for the Universal Access to Information: September is a busy month! Following four years as a UNESCO international day, last year, the UN General Assembly upgraded the International Day for the Universal Access to Information to a UN-level observance. With a strong focus on the power of information to improve lives, it’s a great opportunity to share how libraries make a difference, through social media, op-eds, or letters to newspapers, radio or TV shows. Find out more here.

October – Urban October: the month of October opens with World Habitat Day on 5 October, and ends with World Cities Day on 31 October. With libraries playing a major and acknowledged role in promoting inclusion and social cohesion, it’s a great time to be highlighting how libraries build communities. IFLA will be planning communications around the celebrations and will share information in due course, but you also can register events on the Urban October website. Find out more here.

19-21 October – World Data Forum: while it will not be possible to meet in person, the virtual World Data Forum provides a great learning opportunity for anyone interested in how statistics are being – or can be – used to strengthen efforts to deliver the SDGs. IFLA will be highlighting its own statistical outputs – and what you can do with them – with a special focus on World Statistics Day on 20 October. Find out more here.

24 October – UN Day/World Development Information Day: another opportunity to highlight how libraries and information contribute to sustainable development is World Development Information Day. This can be an opportunity to show how libraries are supporting research addressing major development challenges, and so accelerating progress towards the SDGs! Find out more here.


There are also ongoing projects where you can play a role:

Gather stories and data to power your advocacy! You can help both yourself and colleagues elsewhere in the world by contributing stories, data and country profiles to the Library Map of the World. Find out more on the website.

Establish or refresh your contacts with SDG leads in your country: do the people responsible for delivering on the SDGs in your country know about what libraries can provide? Try to find out who is in charge in government and parliament, as well as among civil society organisations. There are great examples from Brazil and Costa Rica of the benefits of forming these links.

Get involved in preparing your country’s Voluntary National Review: for the countries which will undertake Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of progress towards the SDGs in 2021, it is useful to try and understand early what the process will be. A provisional list is already available, and will be finalised soon. If your country is on there, find out how the process will be run, and consult our guide on engaging in VNRs.


Good luck, and please do share your plans, either in the comments below or by e-mailing us at da2i@ifla.org!

“What is in the public domain should stay in the public domain!” – Article 14 of the EU-DSM Directive

by Timotej Kotnik Jesih, Intellectual Property Institute, www.ipi.si and Dr. Maja Bogataj Jančič, Intellectual Property Institute (IPI), www.ipi.si

The new Digital Single Market Directive (hereinafter the DSM Directive)[1] addresses works of visual art in the public domain in its Article 14, which reads “Member States shall provide that, when the term of protection of a work of visual art has expired, any material resulting from an act of reproduction of that work is not subject to copyright or related rights, unless the material resulting from that act of reproduction is original in the sense that it is the author’s own intellectual creation.”

This article was introduced by the European Parliament as an amendment during the legislative process with the intention of enhancing cultural heritage preservation by relying on the legal concept of public domain. Its aim is to ensure that works of visual art that are in the public domain in analogue form remain in the public domain also in digital form, by not granting copyright protection to faithful reproductions of such works. Reproduction of visual works in the public domain can, pursuant to Article 14 DSM Directive, be granted copyright protection only when they fulfil the originality threshold themselves. The rationale for this provision is explained in the DSM Directive’s Recital 53, as “[t]he expiry of the term of protection of work entails the entry of that work into the public domain” and “the circulation of faithful reproductions of works in the public domain contributes to the access to and promotion of culture, and the access to cultural heritage“, whereas in the digital environment, “the protection of such reproductions through copyright or related rights is inconsistent with the expiry of the copyright protection of works“.

Article 14 DSM Directive increases the level of legal security for libraries and other cultural heritage institutions (CHIs) when they use public domain works of visual art in cultural heritage preservation activities, as faithful reproductions of such works sometimes otherwise enjoy protection by related rights, even if they do not meet the copyright-required originality threshold. Article 14 enables libraries to be able to make visual works from their collections (that are in the public domain) available online and in a digital format, without the fear of such works having to be taken down. With the good implementation in national legal systems, Article 14 will hopefully provide the tool for libraries to expand and facilitate the access to works in the public domain and improve cultural heritage preservation across the whole of EU.

Despite Article 14 being one of the most unambiguous provisions in the DSM Directive, there is still some leeway for libraries and CHIs to try and ensure the best possible implementation of this provision.[2] While Article 14 explicitly applies only to works of visual arts, there is nothing preventing the member states from implementing a broader provision, covering any type of works. Such implementation would further improve cultural heritage preservation, as the issue of appropriation of public domain works and protecting non-original reproductions is certainly not limited only to visual works.

In Slovenia, the DSM Directive implementation process started in March 2020 when the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology (hereinafter the Ministry) invited interested stakeholders to convene and conduct a public debate. After the COVID-19 pandemic prevented any in-person consultations, the Ministry called upon interested stakeholders to provide written submissions on how to best implement the DSM Directive in Slovenian legal order by April 30, 2020, which were then published online and all stakeholders were invited to submit a second round of comments by 30 June 2020. We are now waiting for the publication of second-round comments and publication of the first draft of the legislative proposal.

Many public interest institutions in Slovenia participated in this process: research institutions, educational institutions, NGOs and CHIs. Several libraries and CHIs across Slovenia submitted their comments addressing also the Article 14.[3] In their submissions, they emphasised Art 14’s importance as a public domain safeguard and called for implementation that encompasses all types of works, not only those of visual art, and that would ensure that copyright protection is not granted to faithful reproductions notwithstanding whether they were made before or after the original work was already in public domain.

Stakeholders have not disputed such position on Article 14 implementation so far, which may showcases that in Slovenia there is a high level of awareness of importance of public domain works for cultural heritage preservation and that broad implementation of Article 14 is desirable and necessary in order for libraries and other CHIs to perform their cultural heritage preservation functions adequately. While it remains to be seen which route the Slovenian legislator, which usually provides for an expansive and strong protection of stakeholders, will take when implementing Article 14 CDSM Directive, the early signs are encouraging for libraries and other CHIs, and they can reasonably expect to be able to rely on works in public domain in a broadest possible way.

[1] Directive (EU) 2019/790 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market and amending Directives 96/9/EC and 2001/29/EC, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2019/790/oj; last visite July 2020;

[2] see also Communia Guidelines: https://www.notion.so/Article-14-Works-of-visual-art-in-the-public-domain-eb1d5900a10e4bf4b99d7e91b4649c86 and Transposing the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market: A Guide for Libraries and Library Associations (LIBER): https://zenodo.org/record/3552203#.Xx_hjy2B3OR, last visited July 2020

[3] Positions of stakeholders are available here (in Slovenian)https://www.gov.si/novice/2020-06-05-prenos-direktiv-s-podrocja-avtorskega-prava/, last visited in July 2020;

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.