Libraries are increasingly places not just for reading, but also for creating and sharing. They are guardians of free access to information and free expression – two values which are inseparable from each other, and have fulfilled this role for centuries.

In the much more recent past, the emergence of the Internet has seen the volume of information available to people grow exponentially. There has been a flourishing of free expression, as the ability to share views with anyone, anywhere, has slipped away from the sole hands of media companies and publishers.

Yet there are both synergies and trade-offs. Speech online is increasingly monitored, while the business models of many of the most successful internet firms are built on tracking user behaviour. Many feel uncomfortable or unsure about hidden costs, such as personal data given away. It is increasingly clear that the open Internet is under threat, thanks both to government policies and the use of technological tools to influence habits and choices. 

Libraries have long sought to help people find the right information for their needs, without any kind of profit motive. They are safe environments, where users should not feel disempowered or constrained. To continue to do this, we need to be able to share, discuss and react to the latest developments and trends. 

Supporting this kind of dialogue, and finding ways to respond, is central to IFLA’s mission of strengthening the profession. The new FAIFE Network provides an opportunity to do this, bringing together those who have an interest and expertise in privacy, freedom of access to information and freedom of expression issues in libraries, supporting the work of the IFLA Advisory Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression.

Find out more here about the Network and how to join.