Final report of the IFLA project under the Section for Public Libraries:


During the 20th century education has become recognised as an individual right; for the individual, education and learning is a road to personal development and a richer life. Furthermore, a higher general level of education is a necessary prerequisite for economic growth and employment.

During the last decades, and especially during the last decade, the necessity of lifelong learning has been on the top of the political agenda.

1996 Jaques Delors in his introduction of the report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, Learning: the treasure within, wrote: "Our century has been as much one of sound and fury as of economic and social progress – progress that in any case has not been equally shared. At the dawn of a new century the prospect of which evokes both anguish and hope, it is essential that all people with a sense of responsibility turn their attention to both the aims and the means of education. It is the view of the Commission that, while education is an ongoing process of improving knowledge and skills, it is also – perhaps primarily – an exceptional means of bringing about personal development and building relationships among individuals, groups and nations." This view was explicitly adopted by the members of the Commission when they accepted their mandate.

And in his introduction, Jaques Delors also says: "As for education, the Commission believes that valid responses to the problems of mismatch between supply and demand on the labour market can come from a more flexible system that allows greater curricular diversity and builds bridges between different types of education, or between working life and further training. Such flexibility would also help to reduce school failure and the tremendous wastage of human potential resulting from it.

Such improvements, desirable and feasible as they are, do not, however, obviate the need for intellectual innovation and the implementation of a model of sustainable development based on the specific characteristics of each country. Given the present and foreseeable advances in science and technology, and the growing importance of knowledge and other intangibles in the production of goods and services, we need to rethink the place of work and its changing status in tomorrow's society. To create tomorrow's society, imagination will have to keep ahead of technological progress in order to avoid further increases in unemployment and social exclusion or inequalities in development.

For all these reasons, it seems to us that the concept of an education pursued throughout life, with all its advantages in terms of flexibility, diversity and availability at different times and in different places, should command wide support. There is a need to rethink and broaden the notion of lifelong education. Not only must it adapt to changes in the nature of work, but it must also constitute a continuous process of forming whole human beings – their knowledge and aptitudes, as well as the critical faculty and the ability to act. It should enable people to develop awareness of themselves and their environment and encourage them to play their social role at work and in the community."

Life long learning contains of various forms of education and training, formal and informal, e.g. the school system from primary to tertiary level, the free adult education, informal search and training, individually, in a group setting or within the framework of social movements.

Within all these forms of education and training, there is a necessity of working methods developing the ability to search for information and develop knowledge actively and independently. The classroom and the traditional textbook must therefore be supplemented by archives, libraries and museums, institutions offering a broad choice of different media and professional guidance in information search.

Public libraries and lifelong learning

In a society of lifelong learning – whether of a formal or informal nature- public libraries will be nodes connecting the local learning setting with the global resources of information and knowledge. Public libraries must therefore be allowed to play a role of fundamental importance in the development of future systems of lifelong learning. The development of the information and communication technology has already laid the basis for the creation of information networks, giving users even of small local public libraries access to the world wide sources of information. The public libraries also offer guidance and training in information search and quality rating of information sources. Thus, public libraries are necessary if not sufficient prerequisites for a democratic knowledge society.

In this new situation public libraries and professional librarians will though have to change and adapt to new demands, professional tasks and working conditions. At the present though, we need more knowledge about how libraries and the professional profiles of librarians should be designed in order to improve their preconditions to meet the new needs and demands directed towards them.

Libraries have developed in concert with their local and national history. Political, economic and social circumstances create, shape and develop libraries. Among libraries we can find diversity and difference. The most modern and well-equipped library is not necessarily the most developed in the art of stimulating popular participation and democracy. In order to develop tomorrow's library and librarian, we will have to build on the experiences gained in radically different settings. A first step in this process – in the process of shaping the libraries and librarians of tomorrow – will be to gather information and good examples from contemporary experiences, whether they come from north, south, east or west.

The aim of the project

The aim of the proposed project is therefore to explore the possibilities for public libraries to play a more strategic role in lifelong learning establish tools for libraries and librarians to become active partners in educational systems.

This will be done by information gathering and analysis of best practice examples with the aim to identify needs of change regarding e.g. library design, collection management and professional profiles as well as models for network building within the library community, between the library community and the educational community and between public libraries and the local society.

The project will focus for example:

  • The use of public libraries in work related education and further education.
  • Public libraries' co-operation and communication with the local society, for example different educational institutions, local trade and industry and health and environmental authorities.
  • The role played by public libraries in the defense and promotion of democratic participation, free access to information and freedom of speech.
  • Pedagogical methods and strategies developed and adapted to adult education and groups with special needs, e.g. persons with disabilities, the gender perspective.
  • The professional profile of the librarian, regarding for example skills in information search, pedagogy, didactics and ICT.
  • The function of public libraries in the preservation and public presentation of cultural heritage, e.g. oral tradition and native language.
  • The creation of electronic networks between public libraries and research libraries, school libraries and special libraries.
  • The development of networks between public libraries and educational institutions and organisations.
  • The use of information- and communication technology (ITC) in the libraries work with lifelong learning.
  • Collection management; e.g. the balance between books, newspapers, electronic media and audio-visual media.
  • The shape and design of readingrooms, work places, etc.
  • The relations between the interior design and inner structure of public libraries' and an environment conducive to learning and education.

Working method

The project will be carried through in six different steps.

  1. The establishment of a project organisation.
  2. An investigation of already existing IFLA and UNESCO, EAEA, projects on lifelong learning as well as policy statements concerning the libraries role in the educational systems.
  3. A research project analysing the role of the public libraries in existing material on lifelong learning, especially in different policy statements and central guidelines.
  4. A collection and analysis of best practise examples.
  5. Seminars devoted to analysis of the material from step 2-4 in order to establish tools for libraries and librarians to become active partners in educational systems.
  6. Recommendations aimed to strengthen the role of public libraries in lifelong learning.

Project organisation

A steering group consisting of five persons from the library communities in Northern Europe, East and Central Europe and Central and South America and two will be responsible for the activities within the project. This working group can and will at different stages be extended with ad hoc experts.

The role of the steering group will be to manage the project, to set up guidelines for the different steps of the project, to appoint people working with the different steps of the project and to diffuse the results of the project.

The steering group will also build a partnership with researchers, policy makers and practicians representing the library field and the educational system on local as well as international level, including other sections and projects within IFLA. The partnership will act as an reference group in the different steps of the project, especially regarding guidelines, analysis and recommendations, and will also be active in diffusing the results of the project.

Project co-ordinator and president of the steering group will be Britt Marie Häggström, Sweden.


The co-operation of already existing projects and policy statements will build on literary studies and a questionnaire to different bodies within IFLA and UNESCO¹.

Responsible for this part of the project will be Kerstin Hassner, Sweden.

Research project

The research project will analyse existing reports etc. on adult education and lifelong learning and identify where the public library could have played a role. The research project will build on literary studies and will be carried through in near co-operation with research institutions in library and information science in Sweden and Canada.

Best practice examples

The guidelines for the selection of the best practice examples will be set up by the steering group. The best practice examples will be taken from Central and Eastern Europe and Central and South America. Also other parts of the world will get an invitation to contribute with best practices. The best practice examples will be analysed together with the projects found during the investigation process. The analysis will be carried through by research institutions within library and information science.

The best practice examples will be presented and discussed by experts at a workshop.

Collectors of best practice in East and Central Europe will be Jarmila Burgetova, Czech Republic, and Britt Marie Häggström, Sweden. Collectors of best practice in Central and South America will be Assumpta Bailac, Spain, Clara Budnik, Chile.


The aims of the seminars are to disseminate the results from the project and to discuss recommendations to strengthen the role of the publiclibraries within the concept of lifelong learning.


The recommendations will build on the analysis in the different steps of the project and the seminars mentioned above and will cover four different areas:

  • Library and educational policy.
  • Co-operation between the library community and the educational community.
  • The need of change in public libraries.
  • The need of change regarding professional profiles.

The recommendations will be disseminated to national governments, library organisations and institutions and educational organisations and institutions. Important occasions in the dissemination process are the IFLA annual meetings, the meetings of AEAE, the CONFINTEA meeting 2007 and the WEF (World Education for All) regional meetings.

Duration and preliminary working schedule

The duration of the project will be 2000-2003

¹IFLA sections and projects working with this matter from other points of view are for example the Section for library building, the Section for school libraries and the ALP project.
²CONFINTEA meeting is an UNESCO meeting on adult education and lifelong learning.


  • Outlining of the project description and working plan.


  • Creating of a partnership.
  • Carrying through the investigation process.
  • Preparation of a paper for an open forum at the 2001 IFLA meeting, including an open invitation to take part in the best practice part of the project
  • Workshops with participants from Central and Eastern Europe and Central and South America.
  • A seminar at the IFLA 2001 meeting in Boston.

Presentation of the project at Crimea. Conference Joint with section for the blind, IFLA

The Antigua presentations at conference, South America.


  • Analyses of projects and best practice examples.
  • Seminars.
  • A first outline of recommendations to be discussed at the IFLA 2002 meeting.


  • Finalising the analyses and recommendations.
  • Preparation and publishing of a final report and draft recommendations to be presented at the IFLA 2003 meeting.
  • Start of the dissemination process.

A draft list of reference literature:

  • Adult education and the museum.
  • Final report on the Socrates Project TMAE- 1-995-DE-1
  • Bibliotekets roll i utbildningssamhället. Rapport från ett projekt i Norrtälje 2000 SAB, DIK, ass and The community of Norrtälje
  • Biblioteket lyfter kunskapen DIK ass 2000 ISBN 91-630-9685-4
  • ALP reports from the Malaysian and the Brazilian conferences. Other reports from IFLA relevant sections.
  • Branching out A new public library service -2000 Ireland.
  • Joining forces Delivering Library and Information Services in the Information age
  • Ireland 2000
  • Confintea 1997 documentation
  • Glossary of adult education in Europe
  • UNESCO institute for education Ed Paolo Federighi
  • Learning. The Treasure Within. Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century.
  • The Loeven communique published by PubliCA an EU project
  • Open distance learning in public libraries. A study of ten months carried out for the European Commission under the library programme to identify the scope for further roles of the libraries. The University of Lancashire. UK
  • Report from the lifelong learning weeks in Slovenia Oct 16 -22 2000 and promoted at the world Fair expo in Hannover Sept. 8
  • UNESCO public library manifesto, available in many languages.
  • UNESCO institute for Education, Documentation centre and library Acquisition lists Confintea 1997 documents from the UNESCO conference on adult learning.
  • Publication from EAEA (European Ass for the education of adults and its world-wide partners.
  • Journals devoted to adult education and other publications from World association of Newspaper and International consultative Forum on Education for all.