The internet has created unprecedented new opportunities to find, use and share information. Libraries around the world have been quick to offer access to it as a key part of their service to users.

Where this has been possible, libraries have found new audiences and ways to help their users, from new access to resources to practical help in making use of e-Government tools.

However, not all libraries have this possibility, due to a lack of connectivity or hardware, insufficient budget to pay for subscriptions, or even laws that make it impossible to offer wide public access. 

This leaves them less able to fulfil their missions, and so less able to contribute to sustainable development in the communities they serve. In particular, the potential they offer to achieve targets under the UN Sustainable Development Goals around connectivity is left unrealised.

A Toolkit for Advocacy

The right policies from government are essential for libraries to be able to offer access. In working to promote the best possible access in libraries, anyone involved in library advocacy should think first about where change is needed.

IFLA’s Public Access Policy Toolkit provides a guide for doing this, alongside information about all of the different factors that contribute to giving libraries what they need.

We encourage you to read it, starting with the diagnostic tool in order to evaluate where advocacy is worthwhile. Please also get in touch if you have questions suggestions, or further sources to suggest.

The Toolkit complements IFLA’s new Guidelines on Public Internet Access, which answer the questions that library managers need to face when deciding how to offer access.

Moving Up a Level

Following up on the Toolkit, IFLA is now working, alongside its partner organisations in the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries (DC-PAL), to understand how libraries feature in national broadband policies.

If we want to see real, systemic change in the way libraries are engaged in achieving development goals, it will be necessary to ensure that their role is recognised – and supported – in broader strategy documents. These in turn open the door to funding and other assistance.

IFLA has therefore launched research into where libraries feature in such policies and welcomes contributions on what this means from members in countries where this is the case.

Once completed, and in line with the IFLA Strategy, this work will provide an excellent basis for supporting advocacy for libraries at the national level, around the world.

Find out more about IFLA’s work on public internet access in libraries in session 211 on Wednesday 28 August at 09:30 in room MC3.