IFLA Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 3

At the heart of IFLA’s values is the idea that everyone should enjoy freedom of access to information, and so to high quality library and information services.

This, we argue, is because information – access to it and the ability to use, share, and create it – is crucial to educational, social, political and other forms of development.

If we want everyone to have a meaningful opportunity to fulfil their potential – as is their right – information and libraries are part of it; in short, a right to libraries.

Standing in the way of this are laws, policies and practices that under-fund libraries in general or restrict access, as well as those that censor books or other forms of content (or encourage self-censorship).

There are also practices that shape information search behaviour, such as fear of supervision or surveillance. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence, while opening up exciting possibilities to use knowledge in new ways, also raises concerns about how behaviour can be channelled and choices restricted.

We need, too, to ensure that we can manage the tensions that are inherent in the overall human rights framework, ensuring that one right does not come at the expense of another.  These questions are not simple, and it is rare that something as blunt as a law can find a solution – rather, we need strong professional judgement based on ethics.

Libraries – and IFLA – are therefore active in encouraging reflection and engagement around these questions.

As a profession with a strong basis in human rights, we have important perspectives to contribute, both as concerns the importance of maintaining access to information in general, but also of respecting ethical principles in the way that we provide this.

These perspectives matter, not only in our own practice, but also in wider debates about how information – and in particular the internet – is governed.

This edition of the IFLA newsletter explores this work in more depth. We hear from the Chair of IFLA’s Advisory Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression, Ellen Tise, about the issues that matter for her and her committee.

We also look ahead to Human Rights Day 2021, and discussions at the Internet Governance Forum, as well as looking back on COP26; certainly a failure to act on climate change will pose a huge threat to the realisation of rights of all sorts.

Finally, we share more about what you can find on IFLA’s Library Map of the World around the rights and responsibilities of libraries in law.

Beyond this, read further in order to hear more about our Congress next year, as well as upcoming events and new members.

So sign up to read the full issue and stay connected with the global library field all year round!

We are IFLA!

Gerald Leitner
IFLA Secretary General