The IFLA International Advocacy Programme (IAP) Global Convening took place in New York on 28-29 June 2018. Nearly 40 participants, invited by IFLA, met at the Brooklyn Public Library, the United Nations Headquarters, and The New York Public Library to review two years’ work and take library advocacy around the Sustainable Development Goals to the next level.

IFLA IAP Global Convening: Showcase: Libraries as Partners for Development

IFLA launched its new International Advocacy Programme in October 2016 with a series of workshops around the world. These taught library representatives from 70 countries about the UN’s 2030 Agenda, and the opportunities it offered to make the case for libraries. 

It aimed to start a movement – a network of library advocates around the world working to tell the story of libraries and development, and gain our institutions recognition and support. 

Glòria Pérez-Salmerón, IFLA President

After a full phase of meetings, workshops and projects, IFLA organised a meeting of many of the participants from around the world in New York, the home of the UN. The goal: to review what had been achieved, to learn lessons, and to plan for the coming year. 

Looking Back to Move Forward – Getting Ready to Move Up a Gear

Brooklyn Public Library hosted the first day of the Global Convening on 28 June. Following opening words by Gerald Leitner, IFLA Secretary General, to set the tone for the day, Nick Higgins, Director and Chief Librarian of the Brooklyn Public Library addressed the meeting.

Mr. Higgins welcomed IFLA and IAP participants to the library, underlining:

Nick Higgins, Director and Chief Librarian of the Brooklyn Public Library

“The responsibility of anyone here at this library is to give access to information. Libraries are also convening spaces, and so we are very happy to be hosts for this important meeting”. 

Loida Garcia-Febo offered greetings from the American Library Association in her first official presentation after becoming the Association’s president. She highlighted the deep connection between her theme “Libraries = Strong Communities” and the work of the IAP.

IFLA President, Glòria Pérez-Salmerón, gave a keynote speech, stressing:

Glòria Pérez-Salmerón, IFLA President

You who are here today are leaders of a movement. Because this is a movement. A first wave of library advocates around the world, calling for libraries to be recognised and supported as drivers of development. Showing the way. And bringing others with you.”

The Secretary General of IFLA, Gerald Leitner, set out plans for the day, noting:

Gerald Leitner, IFLA Secretary General

This is the first time we’ve brought IAP participants together globally. By connecting people, we also connect answers to questions. Solutions to challenges. And we grow stronger, more effective. This is what a united library field looks like.”

The first day’s sessions, under the guidance of the Secretary General, offered the opportunity for IAP participants to reflect and share on what has worked for them in the past two years and what is limiting them in their advocacy work. 

They also learned about the opportunities coming up in the next year in the context of the UN 2030 Agenda, and how and where to get involved. The participants closed the first day’s workshop with a session focusing on ideas for action to deliver results in their country, and how to work together with IFLA to move to the next level. 

The first day concluded with a visit to the UN Library, and an impressive tour of the United Nations Headquarters for IAP Global Convening participants.

Showcasing Libraries as Partners for Development

The main objective of coming to New York for the IAP Global Convening was successfully achieved in the morning of 29 June. A showcase “Libraries as Partners for Development” took place at The New York Public Library, and was honoured by the presence of Ambassadors, UN and national government officials. 

Mr. Anthony Marx, President and CEO of The New York Public Library (NYPL), impressed the audience with an engaging speech and message of welcome to the library. In line with IFLA’s theme “Smart cities need smart libraries”, he stressed:

Anthony Marx, President and CEO of The New York Public Library

We need to keep libraries as key civic centres, as citizenship centres”. As one of the world’s leading libraries, the NYPL shows that this can be achieved.

Next, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Public Information, Alison Smale, shared her priorities with the audience. She highlighted the role of public information and libraries in empowering societies and stated:

Alison Smale, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Public Information

Libraries have been champions of inclusion for centuries”.

The showcase continued with an address “Motors of Change: Libraries, Access to Information and Development” by the IFLA President, and a presentation “Building a Movement: the IFLA International Advocacy Programme and the SDGs” by IFLA Secretary General. 

These interventions provided an opportunity to explain the cascade process IFLA has been implementing over the past two years to get libraries included in the 2030 Agenda. By giving the library community the tools and a framework to explain how their work is improving lives and societies in a language that policy makers understand, the IAP helps them to gain the visibility and recognition they deserve as partners for development.

IFLA Secretary General, Gerald Leitner, addressed a distinguished audience of Ambassadors, UN and national government officials directly, and stressed:

Gerald Leitner, IFLA Secretary General

We want the work and engagement of libraries to feed into the process at the regional and global level. We want libraries to be contributing to voluntary national reviews, to regional fora on sustainable development, to the UN’s own reflection and evidence-gathering. This is where you come in.” 

The showcase was organised in three panels, each featuring a moderator, two IAP participants as presenters, and a discussant.  

The first panel, “Celebrating successes in raising awareness”, was moderated by Glòria Pérez-Salmerón, and included presentations by Raphaëlle Bats (France) and Elvira Lapuz (Philippines), and a discussion with Thanos Giannakopoulos, Chief UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library.

Gerald Leitner moderated the second panel, “Celebrating successes in engaging in national policy planning”, with presentations by Vicki McDonald (Australia) and Nicholas Graham (Jamaica), and a discussion with Irena Zubcevic from the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs.

Finally, a third panel focused on “Celebrating successes in developing partnerships”, with moderation from Stephen Wyber, and saw presentations by Elizabeth Matheus (Namibia) and Zoubeida Bouallagui (Tunisia), as well as a discussion with Ola Göransson from the UN Partnerships Team.

The many UN and Permanent Mission representatives present were impressed by the work carried out by IFLA and IAP participants around the world to promote the SDGs and the role of libraries. 

They also looked forward to more. As Irena Zubcevic emphasised:

Irena Zubcevic, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

You must engage at all levels. The real work is in the countries. It would be great to bring a librarian as part of a national delegation for a voluntary national review.”

Libraries: Telling the Story – Showing the Impact

The afternoon of the second day was dedicated to a workshop: “SDGs Storytelling for Showing the Impact of Libraries”. This was the first ever workshop on SDG Storytelling applying our recently launched publication: “Libraries and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Storytelling Manual”, facilitated by IFLA Membership Engagement Officer, Kristine Paberza.

The IAP Global Convening participants had a chance to go through the key elements of a good story, and reviewed stories created by them and by others, to improve them drawing on tips offered by IFLA. This was a very engaging session, and a key step to ensure more, and better quality, stories are added to IFLA’s Library Map of the World to support advocacy work at all levels. 

The Global Convening exceeded expectations as IFLA President  Glòria Pérez-Salmerón said:

The energy and insight of the participants not only made an impact on those learning about the project for the first time, but created a strong sense of momentum.”

IFLA International Advocacy Programme Global Convening

IFLA Secretary General stated: 

IFLA is proud of the successes achieved by all members of the global library field who have contributed to the IAP so far. The Global Convening – through the ideas shared, the contacts made, and the momentum created – is a step towards building a movement on libraries, development and advocacy.”

Yet the work has only just begun. The coming year offers key opportunities for advocacy, engagement, and impact. IFLA will share materials from the event with IAP participants and others in due course and encourages librarians everywhere to get in contact and get involved.”

See our Flickr albums with pictures of the two days.

Stay tuned for updates about the International Advocacy Programme, the Library Map of the World SDG Stories and IFLA’s work on Development and the UN 2030 Agenda: