Last week in Stockholm IFLA participated in the European Internet Governance Forum for the first time. The forum, also known as EuroDIG, brought together over 200 representatives from governments, businesses and civil society to discuss the central theme of ‘Who Sets the Rules for the Internet?’ Many more representatives from all over Europe followed the sessions online and participated remotely.

The international library community has previously engaged with the global-level Internet Governance Forum (IGF) since 2008. In 2012, following the formation of an IGF Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries, IFLA, along with Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), has been keen to ensure that library issues are heard at regional and national IGFs. Library groups have this year participated in national IGFs in Finland and Germany .

Libraries were visible in a number of EuroDIG sessions. Stuart Hamilton, IFLA Director on Policy and Advocacy, took part in the first plenary session on intellectual property. The forum was notable for a large youth contingent, as well as a commitment to participant dialogue over presentations, and and the attitudes to copyright and information sharing that came from the floor were refreshing and challenging in equal measure. A clear message came through – that analog copyright frameworks will not work for users in a digital world.

Kęstutis Juškevičius, from the National Library of Lithuania, represented the library viewpoint in a workshop on digital inclusion, arguing that policymakers should take greater notice of libraries as a way to solve their digital inclusion and development problems. The library advocates at the event pushed this viewpoint constantly: that in a time of economic crisis libraries offer an existing infrastructure that can help governments achieve education, development and inclusion goals – and they should take advantage of it.

In the event’s opening ceremony EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes mentioned the way that Romanian libraries have payed a key role in helping citizens get access to agricultural subsidies, thus bringing much needed funds into rural communities. This was a helpful intervention to reference when IFLA participated in a workshop on access to government data, where we made the argument that public libraries should be included in any open government partnership plans due to their ability to make communities aware of the availability of data, as well as how to access it.

As well as speaking from the floor whenever possible, libraries were also represented in a workshop on the use of ICTs by migrant populations to encourage integration in communities. The two days of sessions offered a number of opportunities not only to raise the profile of libraries’ work but also to meet key decision makers from governments and businesses and impress upon them the need to support libraries. IFLA will now continue to engage with the IGF and is arranging a workshop with EIFL and The Internet Society  (ISOC) on libraries and inclusion at the main IGF in Azerbaijan in November.

If you are interested in these issues please consider joining the mailing list for the Dynamic Coalition, or contact Stuart Hamilton for further information.