Libraries Preserving and Providing Access to Culture and Heritage in 2021
18 January 2021
Memory, traditions, and creative expressions allow people to share their ideas and values with others. They create a rich world, fostering mutual respect, informing innovation, and connecting people to one another, to the past, and to generations to come.
As information professionals, memory institutions, champions of freedom of expression, and community spaces, libraries and their staff have a key role in preserving and providing the widest possible access to heritage and culture. IFLA works to help our Members enhance their capacity to carry out this work and empower their advocacy to ensure recognition of, and support for, its value.
Here are some key areas where we plan to have an impact in 2021.
Focus on: Risk Management
In the face of climate change, natural disasters, armed conflict, and the ongoing challenges relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, finding ways to manage risk through preparedness, and ensure recovery where necessary, is vital. IFLA works with our Members, our networks of experts, and international partners to help provide resources for risk reduction and recovery.
IFLA’s Register for Documentary Heritage at Risk has existed since 2015 but is now being revitalised and reframed as part of a holistic approach to risk management. This year we will continue developing the accompanying tools on the Register and helping our Members engage with it.
When disaster or conflict strikes, information-sharing is extremely critical, but of course can be challenging. Registering a collection on the confidential Risk Register will help IFLA know what collections or institutions could be affected if disaster strikes. It allows us to swiftly share vital information with partners like Blue Shield and UNESCO to aid in recovery.
However, risk management is more than about just registering a collection. The Risk Register aggregates tools created by IFLA’s networks of experts and our partners to assist in recognising risk, creating a disaster plan, and carrying out interventions that can help safeguard your collection.
Find out more online here:IFLA RIsk Register
The illicit theft and trafficking of cultural property is a major concern that often comes in conjunction with natural disaster and conflict. Although international partners like UNESCO and ICOM (The International Council of Museums) are active in this area, there is scope to improve the capacity to prevent theft and trafficking of documentary cultural heritage.
The Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centre hosted at Qatar National Library is moving forward with the Himaya Project to support efforts to counter the trafficking and illegal circulation of documentary heritage in the Middle East and North Africa region.
One goal of this project is to build strong engagement with international agencies and regional organisations to counter trafficking of documentary heritage items.
Simultaneously, IFLA’s Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) Section is continuing to develop their relationship with the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) to coordinate efforts to prevent the theft and trafficking of rare books.
At IFLA Headquarters, our goal is to support these groups in their work and facilitate potential scaling-up of lessons-learned to be applied more broadly across the library and cultural heritage sectors. We have started by developing an introductory guide to help outline the unique challenges of fighting the illicit trafficking and theft of library collections.
The Blue Shield will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2021. As one of the founding organisations, IFLA will mark the occasion by highlighting past successes and helping libraries engage both with Blue Shield international and its national committees. We continue working with our fellow founding organisations and the national committees to improve the protection of all forms of cultural property.
Meanwhile, November 2021 will see the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), to be hosted in Glasgow, UK. IFLA is working with the Climate Heritage Network – made up of government agencies, associations, institutions and experts – to highlight the role of culture in climate action and engage with high-level stakeholders during, and in the months leading up to, this event.
Focus on: Cultural Diversity
The UN has designated 2021 as the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. The goal of this year is to help showcase how creativity and cultural expressions can lead to economic growth and innovation, providing opportunities and empowerment for all people.
UNESCO works towards these goals through the framework of the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
This year is an excellent opportunity to highlight how libraires contribute to protecting and promoting cultural diversity, championing access to culture, and helping create conditions in which a creative economy can thrive.
Throughout 2021, we will focus on helping our members understand international frameworks, highlighting stories from the library field, and helping empower library advocacy on this theme.
Focus on: Building Regional Connections
Although IFLA works on an international scale, an important aspect of our work is to facilitate meaningful connections on the national and regional level. In the field of cultural heritage preservation and conservation, IFLA’s PAC Centres play an important role in building regional connections to share knowledge, carry out trainings, and impact on issues of regional importance. See our blog for a look at what the PAC Centres are planning in 2021.
IFLA works closely with UNESCO in multiple areas of competency relating to education, culture, communication, and information. In 2021, we plan to focus on facilitating connections between library associations and UNESCO national commissions. This will help encourage increased cooperation on the national level and ensure library impact on shared goals is acknowledged and amplified.
This will be an ongoing effort throughout this year, so stay tuned for more.
IFLA could not achieve our goals without the help of our professional units and network of volunteers. The work of groups like the Preservation and Conservation Section is instrumental for exchanging, developing, and sharing knowledge relating to the preservation of cultural heritage to benefit the library field.
In 2021, we look forward to working with the committees and sections who lend their time and expertise to helping IFLA achieve our mission.
To stay up to date on projects, news, and opportunities, follow IFLA on social media and subscribe to our Preservation and Conservation PAC mailing list.