The IFLA Metropolitan Libraries Section has adopted its focus for 2023-2025:  Libraries will be agents for sustainable urban development (SDG 11) and catalysts for civic engagement. This focus was already becoming clear in planning for a Satellite meeting at WLIC 2023 “Realising the Opportunity—Libraries in Sustainable Urban Development,” held jointly with the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. The event became a part of the Urban Thinkers Campus, a project of the World Urban Campaign.

Urban sustainability will also be the focus of MetLib’s Conference in Buenos Aires October 2-4, 2023, when librarians from metropolitan areas gather to hear presentations on strategies for community participation and engagement, support for human rights and equality, and the future of library services as they are adapted to meet the changing needs and demographics of cities, making libraries sustainable while also contributing to the sustainability of the cities and communities they serve. The MetLib Conference is the first to be held in South America since 1982 and will be fully bilingual, with the support of ABGRA (Associacion de Bibliotecarios Graduados de la Republica Argentina) and the IFLA Regional Division for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Metropolitan libraries serve as a destination and a gathering place, bringing people together in the urban centre and in local neighbourhoods, often serving as a third space that is both welcoming and a refuge. Libraries provide flexible programming that identifies and addresses local needs in areas such as literacy, digital skills, employment support and cultural affirmation. Libraries also serve as partner agencies, providing history, documentation, and digital services in support of other agencies’ programs.

It will be essential that metropolitan libraries work in effective partnerships to help cities cope with some of the greatest change they have faced in decades. COVID has brought about significant disruptions in work patterns that have resulted in empty or underutilized office buildings, with a ripple effect on public transit, small businesses and restaurants that depended on those workers. Many cities experienced an out-migration during the COVID pandemic as people sought refuge in villages and rural areas to avoid the rapid spread of disease in densely populated city centres. Meanwhile, a swelling number of refugees and immigrants seeking new temporary or permanent homes have flocked to major urban areas. Other developments in technology, finance, and politics challenge the sustainability of cities. Metropolitan libraries can be significant players in helping cities cope with these challenges and thrive, while meeting the needs of urban residents and working population.

Carolyn Anthony, Chair, IFLA Metropolitan Libraries Section