Tag Archives: United Nations

Advocacy look ahead: August-December 2022

With over half of 2022 already passed, and the northern hemisphere at least about to go on, or already enjoying holidays, it’s a good moment to look ahead to some of the major advocacy opportunities that will happen in the second half of the year.

Many of these are international days and weeks, many of which include possibilities to hold events and celebrations in order to gain attention at the global and national levels on the back of wider awareness. Others are events and conferences where libraries may have messages to send and goals to achieve.

You can use the below to think about where you may want to concentrate your own advocacy efforts in order to make use of the ‘hooks’ that these occasions provide. Keep an eye on the IFLA website as well for more information about how we plan to mark them.

9 August: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

This year’s celebrations revolve around the theme ‘The role of indigenous women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge’, offering interesting opportunities for libraries to highlight their work to support women in indigenous communities in their role, as well as good practices in doing so.

8 September: International Literacy Day

This is a major opportunity for advocacy about the work of libraries to support universal literacy which, amongst other things, features as a target under the Sustainable Development Goals. Last year, we released an evaluation of library references in the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning’s LitBase collection of good practices in literacy promotion.

15 September: International Day of Democracy

This is the day given over to looking at the state of democracy in the world, and the forces which are strengthening or weakening it. For libraries, it can be a time to join the discussion and stress how libraries promote citizen participation in decision-making, as well as enabling democratic institutions such as parliaments to do their job.

19 September: Transforming Education Summit

This is one of the first events to take place contributing to the United Nations Summit on the Future next year, likely to represent a major milestone towards the definition of a post-2030 agenda. This builds on the Futures of Education report, which set an agenda which provides a lot of opportunities for libraries, given its focus on links with community learning, and the development of knowledge. IFLA plans to engage closely in this work, and attended the pre-summit late last month – watch this space for more!

28 September: International Day for the Universal Access to Information

IFLA is already engaging with UNESCO in the run-up to this occasion, which follows on from the Right to Know days promoted by civil society in many parts of the world. There is a strong emphasis in programming on access to government information, but the UNESCO Director General has made clear that the sort of wider access – to whatever type of information is relevant – is also covered here. We look forward to sharing more about our plans!

28-30 September: MONDIACULT 2022

UNESCO is bringing together culture ministers and decision-makers from around the world to set a new agenda for cultural policy, and to place this centrally in the sustainable development agenda. IFLA is closely involved, both in its own right – we have already organised a contributing event – and will be both present and organising a further side-event in Mexico. We are also working with the Culture 2030 Goal campaign in order to encourage ministers to affirm their support for an explicit culture goal in the post-2030 Agenda.

1-31 October: International School Library Month (ISLM)

This is promoted by the International Association of School Librarianship (https://iasl-online.org/ISLM), an annual celebration of school libraries worldwide and an effective way of advocating for the importance of school libraries, library professionals, and the students that make them great!

The 2022 theme for ISLM is “Reading for Global Peace and Harmony.” It is based on the 2022 IASL Conference theme “School Librarianship and the Evolving Global Information Landscape”. We know that there are many countries around the world that are facing grave situations. One thing we can all agree on is the need for peace and harmony across the globe. Our theme will encourage all who participate in ISLM this year to reflect on how reading can help us understand and support one another. Truly experiencing the journeys of others through storytelling leads us on our own journey to greater understanding and compassion.

This year participants are invited to think about and celebrate the link between books, reading, school libraries, and how together they can promote peace and harmony, a theme that is accessible to all our participants (aged 3 to 20 years) who can be engaged in projects and activities to explore, interpret and express this year’s theme in many ways. Whichever way we choose, it underlies the important role of school libraries in the lives of young children.

4 October: World Habitat Day

This event opens ‘Urban October’, and provides a reminder of the importance of ensuring that everyone has housing and a community setting that allows them to fulfil their potential. The specific theme of 2022 has yet to be announced, but it is – like Cities Day at the end of the month – a chance to talk about the role of libraries in building communities.

20 October: World Statistics Day

This day brings together the elements of the UN system working on gathering and publishing data as a support for policy making. Libraries are not just important as managers of data, on behalf of institutions and wider society, but of course are the subject of data gathering, not least through the Library Map of the World. We will be promoting the Map, as well as our statement on Open Library Data.

24-31 October: Global Media and Information Literacy Week

This is another major opportunity for libraries to place themselves at the centre of discussions, given how big a contribution we can arguably make. This year’s theme is Nurturing trust: A Media and Information Literacy Imperative, which offers interesting possibilities for libraries given the levels of trust that they tend to enjoy from citizens. The main conference will be held in Nigeria, and IFLA is involved in the planning of this, although there will also likely be an invitation to stakeholders around the world – including libraries – to plan and share their own events.

27 October: World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, and the 30th Anniversary of the Memory of the World Programme

This will be a big chance to underline and celebrate the role of libraries in safeguarding heritage for the future. The theme will be ‘Enlisting documentary heritage to promote inclusive, just and peaceful societies’, with a strong focus on how this enables peace, justice and strong institutions. IFLA is closely involved in preparations for the day, and will share more about opportunities to engage in due course. Find out more on the UNESCO website.

28 October: World Development Information Day

While perhaps not one of the most high-profile international celebrations on the calendar, this day coincides with UN Day itself, recognising the importance of gathering, processing and giving access to information as a way of enabling decision-making about development. This is, of course, also what libraries do, both by enabling research in academic settings, and in providing information in a format that works for decision-makers.

31 October: World Cities Day

Like World Habitat Day above, this day focuses on the importance of making the right choices around how we design and run our cities, in favour of sustainable urbanisation. It is a time to show how libraries, as key civic institutions, can make cities more inclusive, more cohesive and more liveable. See our analysis of how, in the urban studies literature, libraries are seen as driving regeneration for more.

3 November: Digital Preservation Day

While not an official UN observance, this day has built up momentum thanks to the work of the Digital Preservation Coalition. There will likely be events and blogs to mark the day, offering opportunities for libraries to share, and promote the importance of, the work they are doing to ensure both digitisation and to preserve born-digital heritage. IFLA has of course already led in the updating of the PERSIST Content Selection Guidelines, a valuable tool in this area.

6-18 November: COP27

The 27th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (i.e. Member States) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change follows up from the landmark meeting in Glasgow last year, and focuses on the theme: Unite the world to tackle climate change. There is plenty of work to be done, both to strengthen commitments to reducing emissions, and better mobilise citizens and culture for climate action. We are working with contacts in the host country, Egypt, in order to ensure presence, and will set out more about our work here on our website.

20 November: World Children’s Day

Marking the anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, this day looks at what these rights are, and how they can be upheld. Children do have a right to information, including to appropriate materials to support their development, something that libraries of course have a key role in enabling – see our blog on the topic for more! The day offers an inspirational entry-point to advocate, promote and celebrate children’s rights, translating into dialogues and actions that will build a better world for children.

28 November – 2 December: Internet Governance Forum

This year, the biggest multi-stakeholder meeting on how the internet is run is taking place in Addis Ababa, under the theme Resilient internet for a shared, sustainable and common future. Governments, UN agencies, experts, business and civil society organisations will all be there, talking about the full range of issues that shape the digital world. IFLA will look to organise side-events, as well as engage in other sessions in order to build partnerships and encourage others to reach out to and support libraries.

10 December: Human Rights Day

This is a major observance, marking the day when the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was signed in 1948. It of course includes the right of access to information (Article 19), alongside rights to education, science and culture. It is a day therefore to remind all about the fundamental role of libraries in delivering on these rights, and the importance of addressing issues that unreasonably stand in their way.

10 Things in Our Common Agenda

 Our Common Agenda is the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s response to the Declaration made by Member States on the UN’s 75th Anniversary in 2020. It marks an important step from defining priorities to defining concrete actions that can strengthen both the UN, and broader efforts to achieve its objectives.

It complements key existing texts, not least the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, both by highlighting areas where there is a particular need for action, and proposing ways of ensuring that countries, together, can promote development more effectively.

The Agenda both has implications for libraries, and creates opportunities to underline how our institutions and profession contribute to global policy goals. As decisions are taken, and more detailed plans are put in place, there should be chances to contribute experience and perspectives, and seek recognition for our work.

IFLA has produced a briefing on Our Common Agenda that sets out in more detail the ideas and issues it covers. In this blog, we highlight ten key points that are relevant to libraries. You can draw on these points in your own engagement with local UN offices, or even in your advocacy, given how much support the Agenda offers for many library priorities:

 1) Renewing the social contract: Our Common Agenda emphasises the idea of a new social contract – a set of shared rules and values that provide a basis for government, and for relations between members of society. This, the report argues, needs to be founded on respect for rights (and access to justice), and on solidarity between the more and less fortunate. Crucially, such a social contract should offer a basis for quality public services.

Arguably, libraries (public and national libraries in particular) are part of such a social contract, provided by governments in order to provide opportunities for all to realise their rights, and their potential.

2) Combatting the infodemic: The report makes addressing the infodemic – the spread of misinformation – into a major priority, not just as concerns health, but across the board. It calls for steps both to ensure stronger scientific inputs into policy making, but also a code of conduct on the integrity of public information. There is blunt language about politicians and others who spread false information, with the Secretary General calling for it to be clear that it is wrong to lie.

For libraries, a greater focus on quality information and use of evidence vindicates the role of our profession, and will hopefully create new opportunities to ensure that this is recognised by decision-makers.

3) Universal connectivity: the Secretary General has also made universal internet connectivity a key part of Our Common Agenda, recognising how vital this is both for access to public services, and to wider economic, social and cultural opportunities. Connecting schools represents a particular priority, with more effective digital taxation seen as a way of paying for it.

Libraries have a long-standing, recognised role in supporting public access to the internet, as a stepping stone towards private access, or as a complement to it. It will be important to work to ensure that libraries are included in initiatives taking place under this heading.

4) Protecting rights, online and off: the report reiterates how central respect for human rights should be to all that governments do, echoing the 2030 Agenda. In particular, it calls for a Global Digital Compact, in order to find solutions to the challenges created by the behaviour of private and public actors alike. In particular, it warns about the impact of internet shutdowns, as well as more targeted blocking or filtering of content.

The need for the internet to work in support of human rights is a long-standing priority for libraries, and we bring important insights and perspectives. Libraries can also be key players in more community-based initiatives around information and connectivity, such as community networks or local archives.  

5) Thinking to the future: a large segment of the report is dedicated to making the future more present in policy discussions taking place today. One way of doing this is through intensifying work to draw on evidence and expert viewpoints in order to identify what the years to come could look like. In addition to doing this more at the UN itself, Our Common Agenda also advocates for boosting listening exercises, as well as those focused on envisioning the future.

Libraries are not only crucial players in ensuring that decision-makers have the information needed to think about the future, but can be important venues for involving communities in collective reflection. In many cases, public libraries already fulfil this function, giving an opportunity to share good practices and spread them further.

 6) Literacy matters: a further step in order better to integrate the future into present planning is by focusing on children, and giving everyone a better start in life. A key element of this is universal basic literacy, with it clear that many schools still don’t have the resources needed to provide this, even if children are able to attend. The answer will need to be a new drive to deliver skills, including through better focusing of aid budgets.

Globally, libraries have a key role in promoting literacy, both within schools and wider communities, that is often recognised in national literacy and reading strategies. It will be important now both to ensure that this is reflected at the global level, and to see how we can increase the impact of libraries’ work in this area.

7) A universal entitlement to lifelong learning: Our Common Agenda’s emphasis on education is not limited to children, but also recognises the situation and needs of adults faced with a world and employment market for which their previous education and experience may not have prepared them. Yet lifelong learning is too often under-supported compared with other policy areas – this needs to be corrected if everyone is to be able to play their part in sustainable development.

Libraries are both providers of, and portals to lifelong learning opportunities. We have a strong interest then both in promoting the idea of a universal entitlement as a goal, and contributing to efforts to define how it is delivered.  

 8) A more networked multilateralism: Our Common Agenda underlines that for success in delivering the goals of the United Nations, not least the Sustainable Development Goals, a full range of actors needs to be involved, including business, academics and civil society. Crucially, development cannot just be a top-down thing, but needs to mobilise different strengths and capabilities.

Beyond the work of library associations in engaging with discussions around implementation of the SDGs, this priority may support efforts to promote models of SDG delivery that mobilise libraries more effectively, drawing on their strengths in terms of collections, spaces and staff.

 9) Dedicated focal points for civil society: As part of the drive to ensure stronger participation of different stakeholders in delivering on policy goals, Our Common Agenda includes proposed steps to make it easier for civil society organisations to engage with UN agencies. A key one is the suggestion to name dedicated focal points who can organise opportunities to input, and make it easier to find out how to get involved.

For library associations, as civil society organisations, this development would be a helpful one, especially in more specialised or regional UN agencies. Once these are identified, it will be possible to focus advocacy more effectively, through understanding better what is possible.

10) The role of parliaments and local and regional governments: as part of its emphasis on the need to work with a wider range of stakeholders, the report highlights in particular the need to work more with Parliaments and regional governments, both of which have key roles, respectively, in designing and scrutinising policy, and in taking many of the actions needed to achieve development.

Libraries and research services have a particularly essential role in helping parliaments to do their jobs, while local and regional governments often have libraries under their direct responsibility, making them more aware of what our institutions can achieve. The focus on parliaments and local and regional governments offers new possibilities to demonstrate, and advocate for, the importance of libraries.

Working with the SDGs, Working with Politicians: Interview with the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia

Engaging with the UN Sustainable Development Goals opens up possibilities for libraries to create connections with United Nations agencies, while focusing initiatives on the individual topics they cover can help build support for the work of our institutions across governments, among politicians.

We talked with Maia Simonishvili, from the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia, to find out about her institution’s experience.


1. How are libraries viewed by politicians in Georgia in general?

Actually, we can describe relations between libraries and politicians as normal for today. They express interest in supporting the development of libraries. For example, the undergoing reconstruction process of the buildings of the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia is funded by government bodies. These buildings are part of the cultural heritage of the city. The same might be said about the technical equipment, software, and new printed collections.  We don’t have private libraries in Georgia, and regional libraries are funded by their municipality. Their services are free of charge, our services are also free of charge for all readers and event organizers. We are proud we serve all citizens equally and we perceive ourselves as real democratic organizations. On the other side, financial circumstances are not always the best, and more support would be better, of course.

2. How did you get the idea to open an SDG library? 

We are glad to collaborate with different cultural and educational institutions as well as government agencies.  We are very thankful to Dr. Sabine Machl, UN Resident Coordinator in Georgia for her support.

Some months ago, Mrs. Mariam Gamezardashvili,  a representative of the Education and International Development Academy offered us to work towards the opening of a new book corner funded by the UN Georgia. In doing this, we have focused on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and we have had all these goals in mind while creating a new collection.

3. What did you do around the opening of this?

We choose international manuals and bestsellers in different fields to create a multifaceted collection. The UN Georgia gifted us not only books but needed equipment for the section.  Given the pandemic situation, we had very few public events this year, and the opening event of the SDG library was very joyful for us and our readers. Members of the  Youth Parliament of the Students in Georgia attended the opening and we had an interesting conversation with Dr. Sabine Machl. What is more joyful, we will have further collaboration to develop new programs, and are already seeing donations of materials to the library, for example from the Association of Georgian Alumni of Swiss Universities, via the Swiss Embassy to Georgia.

4. What future plans do you have for it?

I suppose the word “sustainable” was never so meaningful as today. We see how the pandemic is testing the sustainability of our world and all countries at this time. Even our human nature is examined by these events, not only our urban and civic institutions.

On the other side, it is a really good example of why governments and citizens have to take more actions to establish stronger civil societies and structures.

To this end, we are planning to have seminars and programs for our readers. For example, seminars to raise awareness of basic human rights are already planned. Rights to health, women’s rights, and inclusivity will also be covered in our meetings. Lectures for professional development skills, among them skills for startups and project writing will be free for our readers.

Now we are preparing the course in basic programming skills as an online programme. We aim to have different programs that include different goals of sustainable development.

You know, people perceive the term SDG as something too official sometimes – we will try to make it more lively and understandable in the everyday life of citizens.

In fact, the SDG’s areas of focus are familiar to the public. For example, Zero Hunger (SDG1) is  certainly familiar. It is worth mentioning that The Equilibrium, a movement of the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia, works not only for the renewal of libraries but according to its means, delivers food and clothing to underprivileged citizens.

During the first wave lockdown of the Pandemic, Mr. Giorgi Kekelidze, General Director of the Library was working to help older people who didn’t have any possibility to go out and buy products. Of course, we have to mention that we need improvement of social programs in general in the future.

Another SDG is Quality Education (SDG4). The Movement is helping some students to obtain funding for their equipment or their study.  We have to look at SDG goals as ideas for new development programs.

5. What other opportunities have you had to engage with politicians in the work of libraries?

We are working hard to revive regional libraries. You know, we might bring new books and equipment, but salaries and annual budgets are paid by different regional municipalities and it has to be foreseen in their budget too. We have city municipal libraries and new modern media libraries in the city; we have three of them now. We are working with them when they need some support from us, for example, training, information about new standards, IFLA standards, and recommendations, etc.

6. What works well in getting politicians to become more interested and supportive of libraries?

You know, libraries play a crucial role in supporting democracy and ensuring equitable access to information. Libraries are the most democratic places in every country because they are open to all citizens and guests, serve multicultural societies, and ensure their access to information. They have to defend and store banned literature for generations in spite of today’s political views,  they have to improve the lives of underprivileged members, so democracy is an inbuilt characteristic of the library.

We are open to all political parties and institutions, who want to host events or attend them. The National Parliamentary Library of Georgia welcomes any guests, who play an important part in developing and supporting the independence of Georgian Statehood. We are one of the oldest and newest countries at the same time, which explains some turbulent events in the country. Our library has hosted many political events, discussions, presentations with the participation of all political sides.

7. What impact has this engagement had so far?

The pandemic made it clear that we need stronger digital services to reach our full audience. For example,  The National Parliamentary Library of Georgia has to defend its collections for further generations by the law. This time, our library received some financial support from the Parliament to implement needed software to add bar codes to printed materials and to make the lives of our readers easier.

On the other side, it is the space where members of different “bubbles” create the whole society.  Actually, all political representatives have been readers of our library. We also have had fruitful engagements with different embassies; their audiences are our readers as well. We welcome events with the participation of emigrants, parties, guests, who share their creativity and knowledge with each other. It is the place, where some members of our society meet each other for the first time.

We are always happy to see such events, which make their lives more versatile and joyful.  In the last few years, our audience has grown faster with different events for all kinds of readers.  We hope very much that the end of the pandemic will be celebrated with the whole library audience.

The 10-Minute International Librarian: #29: Think how you can work with local representatives of international organisations

A key focus of our 10-Minute International Librarian series is the idea that you do not need to leave home to be active internationally.

This is true for work with IFLA, but can also be for cooperation with other international organisations, including intergovernmental ones.

This can be a really exciting way to strengthen the work of your national library field through accessing new resources and expertise, as well as increasing the status of libraries.

International organisations can also benefit a lot from working with our institutions.

Alongside the positive reputation of libraries, we can offer great opportunities to display information to the public, as well as reach into communities.

There’s a lot to gain from cooperation!

So for our 29th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think about how you can work with local representatives of international organisations.

Use the list prepared in last week’s post as a starting point. Do you have projects or activities around heritage where you could work with local UNESCO commission?

Could you invite the local UN Information Centre or representation to a meeting to talk about the SDGs?

Are there local projects of UN HABITAT or others which could benefit from engaging with libraries?

Have a think about what you could do, and then use this list when setting out your future plans.

Share your ideas in the chat below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 1.2 Build a strong presence in international organizations and meetings as a valued partner.

You can view all of our ideas using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box.

The 10-Minute International Librarian #28: Find Out Which International Organisations are Present in Your Country

The work of international organisations can sometimes seem very distant.

But it doesn’t need to be!

Rather than the big meetings and conferences, the main work of these organisations is often rather what happens on the ground, through support to governments, projects, and outreach.

All of the biggest organisations tend to have regional structures, in order better to manage this work. They are often present on the ground through regional and even national offices.

These can be useful potential contacts. IFLA has done a lot of work to support libraries to engage around the Sustainable Development Goals. Regional and national offices of UN institutions will likely be interested in forming partnerships around this.

But there can be many other areas where there can be interest in working with libraries.

So for our 28th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, find out which international organisations are present in your country.

Many countries have a United Nations office (see the list of UN country teams), which can also host other organisations, such as UNESCO or the United Nations Development Programme.

Most countries also have UNESCO National Commissions, which provide a liaison between UNESCO as a whole and the national context.  And there are 59 UN Information Centres around the world.

Collect this information, together with information you can gather about the priorities of each of these offices. It can be a great contact list for your work, as we will discuss in next week’s post.

Share your stories of successful collaborations with national or regional offices of international organisations in the chat below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 1.2 Build a strong presence in international organizations and meetings as a valued partner.

You can view all of our ideas using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box.

Libraries as Resilience-Builders: Advocating for Libraries in Disaster Risk Reduction

The theme for International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction 2020 is straight-forward: it’s all about governance.

Risk, in this context, is defined by the combination of hazard, exposure and vulnerability. These risks can range from fires and armed conflict to natural hazards like flooding, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Of course, the urgency to prepare for these hazards is ever-increasing in the face of climate change.

Governance in terms of disaster risk reduction refers to methods by which public authorities, civil servants, media, private sector, and civil society work together at different levels – community, national and regional –  with the goal of managing and reducing disaster risks.

The UN’s call to action for International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction 2020 is in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015). When UN Member States adopted this framework, they agreed on the importance of developing national and local strategies to reduce risk, both addressing multi-hazard, systemic risk, and recognizing the importance of the human and cultural aspects of disasters and disaster response.

As the UN states, “You can measure good disaster risk governance in lives saved, reduced numbers of disaster-affected people and reduced economic losses.” For at least the first two of these values, a human-centered approach to disaster risk reduction is required.

In turn, understanding people’s needs in advance, providing avenues to connect critical information to communities, and the long-term building of knowledge on health and hazards can all have an impact on building community resilience and reducing disaster risk.

As institutions focused on human development through providing access to information, libraries are therefore not just potential victims of disasters, but also important potential partners in any strategy for disaster risk reduction. The question then is what libraries can do to reduce risk, and how can this fit into a larger, multi-sectoral strategy? How can they help deliver on the emphasis in the Sendai Framework on both the protection of cultural heritage and the strengthening of cultural resilience?

The potential is there. As welcoming, all-inclusive, free-to-access public spaces and champions of information for all, libraries can to provide anchors for their communities, building preparedness before an emergency and equipping recovery. Beyond this, collection-holding libraries play a key role in the preservation of cultural heritage, safeguarding it for the future and contributing to a shared cultural identity.

In the spirit of this year’s theme of governance, let’s therefore discuss in more depth some of the ways library professionals can advocate for the value that libraries have within an inclusive, people-focussed disaster risk reduction and recovery strategy.

Be an Advocate! Key Messages on Libraries in Disaster Risk Reduction

We’ve identified several key messages you can use in your advocacy for the role of libraries in Disaster Risk Reduction Policy.

Key message 1: Library resources can enhance health knowledge and disaster preparedness in local communities.

Example: The role of libraries in educating their communities and providing critical information for public health and safety has been seen recently in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can see many examples on IFLA’s Libraries and the COVID-19 Pandemic page.

Health libraries are leaders in making reliable information on public health readily available to researchers, government officials, and educators. For example, Public Health England (PHE) Knowledge and Library Services has produced the resource Finding the Evidence: Coronavirus to help professionals working on the pandemic identify and access emerging evidence as it is published. The PHE Library and Knowledge Services have also produced materials for libraries to share with their communities, including information created for children and young people, older people, and people with special needs.

Further demonstrating the role libraries can have in providing essential information for first-responders and humanitarian workers in times of crisis is the guide: Finding the Evidence for Global and Disaster Health, created by Public Health England for the IFLA Evidence for Global and Disaster Health Special Interest Group. 

Key Message 2: Memory institutions like libraries promote the ‘cultural resilience’ of people, communities, and countries – a priority underlined in the Sendai Framework

Example: Following the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam when it struck Vanuatu in 2015, UNESCO led the assessment of damage to cultural sites, including the National Library and Archive. These institutions are repositories for special collections relating to Vanuatu, including anthropological and archaeological materials, art and arts references, historic and culture records, many works on the languages of Vanuatu, information on oral traditions, and more, encompassing the traditional knowledge of the country.

The assessment highlights the role of this traditional knowledge as an element of resilience. One example is knowledge of traditional building techniques. Assessors found that structures built using local materials and traditional building skills were less affected than those using other materials and techniques. This stresses the value of the knowledge preserved in memory institutions, community facilities, and historical records – they are part of living heritage and culture.

Key Message 3: Libraries have a mission and unique expertise when it comes to preserving their community’s cultural heritage and make it accessible to the public, in order to inform and inspire future generations.

This role should be taken into serious consideration in national and regional risk reduction strategies.

Example:  In the recent report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights on cultural rights and climate change, Special Rapporteur Ms. Karima Bennoune visited the island of Tuvalu in the South Pacific. The country’s only library sits 20 metres from the shore and is threatened by sea level rise.

The collection contains irreplaceable historical documents as well as meteorological and tide records that are critical tools for climate research. The librarian is determined to save this collection, as its loss would impact Tuvaluans as well as the collective knowledge of mankind.

According to the report, a Tuvaluan official asked: “If we are not here anymore, what will happen to our culture?”

The Special Rapporteur’s report highlights this critical intersection between climate change related risk, cultural heritage protected within memory institutions, and community identity. 

Key Message 4: Libraries have an important role as places of refuge and secondary emergency service providers.

Example: The Librarian’s Disaster Planning and Community Resiliency Guidebook, published by New Jersey State Library (2017) described libraries as an “untapped community resource” in the immediate aftermath of disasters. After Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New Jersey in 2012, local libraries provided gathering spaces, essential services, and community support.

The day after the storm passed New Jersey libraries rallied, and were the places residents flocked to as they began to put their lives back together. Libraries, even those without power, were pressed into service as ad hoc community recovery centers, providing a respite from the storm for shattered communities.

Libraries played a similar role as community gathering places and regional assistance centers during California’s devastating 2018 wildfire season.

What Can You Do?

IFLA’s briefing on Libraries and the Sendai Framework recommends several steps for library advocates to get more involved in disaster risk reduction on the national and local level. These include:

  • Find out if your country has a disaster risk reduction strategy. If it does, does the strategy include cultural heritage, or the role of libraries in sharing health information or supporting communities?
  • If the strategy does not mention the work of libraries, use advocacy tools like this article and IFLA’s brief on the Sendai Framework, along with your own experience, to argue for them to be included.
  • If there is no strategy, are there plans to create one, in line with the Sendai Framework? Can you ensure that libraries and their work is included?
  • Get involved in your national Blue Shield Committee or contact your local UNESCO office to find out what they are doing.

Enhancing Disaster Risk Reduction in Libraries

One thing that libraries at all levels can do to enhance their role in Disaster Risk Reduction is to develop workable, realistic plans for their own disaster preparedness, risk reduction, and recovery.

The following tools are a good place to begin:

  1. IFLA Principles of Engagement in library-related activities in times of conflict, crisis or disaster

The principles of engagement advise IFLA and its members on how to monitor areas at risk, advocate for and raise awareness about disaster prevention. When disaster strikes, the Principles guide recovery activities, and advise members if and how to engage.

  1. Disaster Preparedness and Planning: A Brief Manual

This manual takes the user through each step of the disaster planning process: risk assessment, prevention and protection, preparedness to cope with possible disasters, response when disaster strikes, and recovery.


In the words of the UN: “It’s time to raise our game if we want to leave a more resilient planet to future generations”. Libraries and librarians have a key role to play in effective, inclusive, and human-centred governance for disaster risk reduction.

Do you have an example of a library assisting its community before, during, or after a disaster? Let us know! We’d love to hear your stories.


Information Multilateralism

 Today is the second ever International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace. Created as a result of a Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, it aims to provide an opportunity to highlight the values – and the merits – of multilateral approaches to addressing challenges.

The creation of the day itself is timely. With populist leaders coming to power in a number of places, and placing the (proclaimed) immediate interest of their countries first, there is a need to find opportunities to set out why we work together.

But why is this specifically relevant to libraries, and how does the library and information world contribute? This blog explores the answers.


Why Does Multilateralism Matter for Libraries?

While the word ‘multilateralism’ belongs more to political science than to library and information science, the approach it describes is a familiar one for the library field.

Indeed, the existence of organisations like IFLA is evidence of the understanding that cooperation across borders matter.

If libraries are to be able to work together, they need to follow the same standards, for example for cataloguing. This enables the sharing of materials, and increasingly, the creation of shared resources and databases.

Similarly, so much of the life IFLA is built on the understanding that everyone has something to learn from others elsewhere in the world. The good practices and guidelines we develop are the result of intense sharing of ideas and examples, in order to raise standards everywhere.

These two cases reflect two of the key characteristics of good multilateral cooperation – readiness to develop and follow shared rules, and acceptance of the need to engage as equals.

We’ve seen a similar approach develop with the internet, arguably developing a form of (imperfect) information multilateralism, where, at least in theory, everyone has the possibility both to access and contribute information, and where there is no single dominant power.


Why do Libraries (and Information) Matter for Multilateralism?

In turn, this multilateral approach applied to libraries and information can support successful international cooperation, not least the delivery of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.

As set out above, we arguably already have a form of information multilateralism, thanks originally to the global network of libraries, and now complemented powerfully by the development of the internet.

This is what allows for the international research that provides an evidence base for political efforts, for example, to tackle climate change, or to produce documents such as the Global Sustainable Development Report published by the United Nations last September.

Now, faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are rapid steps towards building up banks of resources across borders and to make them openly available, with the goal of accelerating progress towards finding effective treatments and cures.

This sort of work is only possible when researchers everywhere can share and combine knowledge in order to work towards shared conclusions.

As hinted when referring to the internet as being an imperfect form of multilateralism, there is more to be done to ensure that we really are in a situation where we have an information environment where everyone is able to contribute and benefit, and so help build solutions.

Amongst the issues needing to be addressed are the fact that almost half of the world’s population are not online, and of those who are, many still lack the connection speed, skills and confidence to make the most of the internet. Others who would normally have access are seeing it restricted through internet shutdowns.

Restrictions on content – from the barriers caused by the fragmentation of copyright laws and censorship, to a lack of information in local languages – also play a role in limiting the resources we can draw on.

Libraries of course – both through their day-to-day work with the communities they serve, and their cooperation across borders – can make a major contribution to overcoming this situation, but require governments to play their part also, providing the right laws and support for success.

Doing so will help achieve the goals of multilateralism globally.