As part of the IFLA’s Asia-Oceania Regional Division Committee’s (IFLA AO RDC) Action Plan on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), the Indian Library Association (ILA) and IFLA AO RDC (South Asia Working Group) organised a webinar on The South Asian Libraries and UN SDGs. The Working Group was led by Dr Debal Kar (India) alongside members including Dr Dilara Begum (Bangladesh), Md Al Mamun (Bangladesh) and Dr Premila Gamage (Sri Lanka). Dr Mohan R Kherde, ILA President and Dr O N Choubey, ILA General Secretary coordinated the activities representing the association. The webinar focused on the best practices by South Asian libraries and librarians in support of the UN SDGs. Through this event, the IFLA  AO RDC and ILA aim to inspire and encourage colleagues within the region to advance their efforts to bring the UN SDGs to fruition.

Speakers at the IFLA-ILA South Asian Libraries and UN Sustainable Development Webinar

Dr Debal Kar, Librarian, Galgotias University, Noida, India and Vice-Chair, IFLA AO RDC coordinated and moderated the webinar, entitled South Asian Libraries and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Opening remarks were delivered by:

  • Dr Mohan R Kherde, President, ILA and Director, Knowledge Resource Centre, Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University;
  • Ms Helen Mandl, Acting Secretary General, IFLA; and
  • Mr Winston Roberts, Chair, IFLA AO RDC and Vice-Chair of IFLA’s Regional Council.

The speakers for the webinar were:

  • Dr D V Singh, Former University Librarian & Head, Delhi University Library System, India;
  • Md Jamal Uddin, Chief Bibliographer/Deputy Director, Department of Archives and Library, National Library of Bangladesh, Bangladesh;
  • Dr Premila Gamage, IFLA AO RDC member, Sri Lanka;
  • Reshma Dangol, Librarian, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Secretariat and General Secretary, Nepal Library Association, Nepal; and
  • Dr Sonam Yangden, Department of Culture, National Library and Archives, Bhutan.

Dr O. N. Choubey, General Secretary, ILA gave a Vote of Thanks.

Welcome by Debal Kar, Librarian, Galgotias University, Noida, India and Vice-Chair, IFLA AO RDC

A warm welcome was given by Dr Debal Kar to all speakers, guests, and webinar participants. Dr Kherde, in his opening remarks, illustrated how the United Nations formed the SDGs. By explaining how these goals are being achieved in various sectors, he appealed to the library sector to adopt them as well. In his speech, he stressed the importance of lifelong learning.

Opening Remarks by Helen Mandl, the Acting Secretary General, IFLA

Ms Helen Mandl, Acting Secretary General, IFLA then introduced the SDGs, their framework for development, and their commitments. In addition, her presentation reviewed the SDGs’ format and appraisal. She highlighted that every year, IFLA heads to New York to present the work that IFLA and libraries are doing and underscore how libraries affect communities around the globe to the United Nations.

Opening Remarks by Winston Roberts, Chair of IFLA AO RDC

Mr Winston Roberts talked about the process by which IFLA forms its groups and the number of countries represented within the groups from different regions. Other than thanking Ms Helen, he expressed gratitude for all the hard work by the IFLA Headquarters and the IFLA Regional Office based in Singapore for the policies and logistical support. According to him, this webinar was useful since it deals with substantial issues that are of great concern to libraries, and it is useful to establish contacts with South Asian colleagues. He also emphasised that all national authorities should understand the need of achieving the SDGs and see how libraries can bring change through these goals.

Presentation by D V Singh, Former University Librarian & Head, Delhi University Library System, India

In the second segment, Dr D.V. Singh shared his thoughts on Indian Libraries where he mentioned that India had huge libraries (like Nalanda fifth century CE to 1200 CE) in the past but that has become history now. He also gave statistics about how many institutions, universities, and schools are existing in India. He talked about a survey which was held in 2011 and concluded that Indian libraries should be working on reading habits. He suggested the revival of the Regional Federation of South Asian Library Association (REFSALA) and requested for IFLA to take the lead. He talked about the situation of public libraries in various states. He emphasised the need for proper communication and the exchange of documents from one country to another country.

Presentation by Md Jamal Uddin, Chief Bibliographer/Deputy Director, Department of Archives and Library, National Library of Bangladesh

The other speaker Md Jamal Uddin presented the report on Bangladesh libraries. He explained how we could make a positive difference to the world by achieving SDGs and mentioned that Bangladesh libraries are working on information support and librarians can give users access to relevant documents to support as well. In addition, Jamal discussed the role libraries play in implementing the SDGs.

Presentation by Premila Gamage, IFLA AO RDC member, Sri Lanka

Dr Premila Gamages presented the report on Sri Lanka libraries where she discussed the ways forward, Sri Lanka Library Association’s (SLLA) engagements, and challenges.A memorandum of understanding was signed between SLLA and the Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka. There are 13 Sustainable Development Goals covered in this report. In addition to conducting surveys, SLLA is working on implementing SDGs education programmes, which other universities will be encouraged to adopt. A few online initiatives supported by SDGs were showcased, as well as IFLA-SLLA engagements. There is a number of challenges, including an unhealthy socio-political economic situation, changes within organisations, and lack of funds for continuous programming. SLLA looks forward to partnering with national authorities in future.

Presentation by Reshma Dangol, Librarian, SAARC Secretariat, Country Representative, ASIS (South Asia), General Secretary, Nepal Library Association

Ms Reshma Dongol outlined a few points on the declarations for advocacy and promotion of public and community libraries in a report from Nepal libraries. She mentioned that the policy indicates that they are committed to organising conferences, international book day, national library day, improving the institutional library, library act, capacity, creating the network, coordinating between libraries, building up a children’s section, surveys, etc. She also talked about the challenges such as the lack of skills, ICT, professional librarians, development of the libraries. She expressed her support for the proposal of reviving REFSALA.

Presentation by Sonam Yangden, Department of Culture, National Library and Archives, Bhutan

In her report on the libraries of Bhutan, Ms Sonam Yangden commented that the National Library and Archives of Bhutan works hard to preserve and expand its property, serving as a library, as public reference and promotion of libraries in Bhutan. In addition, she has conducted campaigns to promote and publicise libraries and their services. Officially, they are not affiliated or associated with any activities or programmes that support the UN SDGs.

Opening Remarks and wrap-up made by Mohan R. Kherde, President, Indian Library Association

Dr Kherde wrapped up the webinar after the Q&A segment. He summarised the discussion and reiterated the need to revive REFSALA since the association had successfully communicated problems and successes among the South Asian region libraries previously.

The webinar ended with a Vote of Thanks given by Dr O. N. Choubey, ILA General Secretary with more than 90 participants present.

Contributed by Debal Kar, Librarian, Galgotias University, Noida, India and Vice-Chair, IFLA Regional Division Committee for Asia and Oceania