The below contribution comes from IFLA Regional Division Committee for Asia-Oceania member Togi Tunupopo (National University of Samoa and Library Association of Samoa, Apia).

Perhaps it is fair to say that through the DevNet conference, many of us will be talking about our own Library related journeys and sharing how we have navigated over troubled seas in search of change and improved social and economic development.

The theme title of the library session is The role of libraries and their organizations in supporting community work towards the achievement of the SDGs or Sustainable Development Goals. Our panel of four speakers will each be presenting on their own context of development stages and using local examples of events and projects to highlight their achievements.  The first SDG that our panel will be discussing is SDG1, relating to how libraries help aid development by putting an end to poverty in all its forms everywhere.

We usually take this first goal for granted and believe that libraries are just places for books and journals. However, by the mere fact of having and creating libraries everywhere, this helps alleviate the poverty of information in many smaller countries especially in rural communities. We must continue to advocate and make  known the value of libraries in the provision of information and access to all kinds of material, library trainings and skills, hence giving the opportunities to all to make decisions about their future careers and searching for all kinds of information such as employment, scholarships, health, public services, etc.

The second Goal which our panel will be emphasizing is SDG4 – Access to Quality Education, an area in which libraries are driving for change across all societies and communities.  Libraries, according to IFLA and so many commentaries, are at the heart of schools, universities, and colleges in every country around the world.  Libraries support literacy programmes, provide safe spaces for learning and support researchers to reuse research and data to create new knowledge.

This workshop session is critical and provides IFLA with an update report of the reality and issues in Oceania particularly in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) or developing countries.

Four speakers will participate and present some insights and discussions on their libraries.  They are: Tulia Vakalutukali (Library Services of Fiji), Togi Tunupopo (National University of Samoa), Richard Misilei (Auckland Libraries, NZ), and Alakalaine Kirisome (Nelson Public Library, Apia, Samoa).  The session will be introduced by the Chair of the IFLA Regional Division Committee for Asia-Oceania, Winston Roberts, and moderated by New Zealand library sector expert Dickie Humphries (Auckland).

Each speaker will relate their experiences to the SDGs and explain how their organizations have made attempts to address these global concerns.  Tulia will be presenting on the role of schools and community libraries in sustaining quality education in communities.  She will be using case studies from Fiji to establish the importance of libraries in developing and promoting access to quality education.

Togi will be presenting a discussion paper on the importance of integrated planning in library services and its impact on development.  He will be using examples of library development in Samoa to illustrate the value of library planning in improving access to education and quality information.  He will also show a video of a recent UN celebration of its 60th anniversary in Samoa, celebrated recently as part of UN Day commemorations held at the National University of Samoa.

Richard will be presenting on the value of community libraries and their close collaboration with community agencies in addressing the SDGs.  He will be using examples from his South Auckland library projects to illustrate the importance of collaboration with agencies with similar concerns and which value libraries and information services.

Alakalaine will be presenting on the impact of public and school libraries in Samoan communities. She will highlight some positive outcomes of this relationship and also discuss some major issues in SIDS communities and the way that libraries have been developed (or ignored) by national policymakers.

All in all this DevNet panel session will provide much food for thought on libraries in the south Pacific, in that it will show a diverse range of issues experienced by others from small economies and unstable development.  Let us pray that the speakers will be able to entertain and inform the conference on Development issues in libraries and progress or lack of it in the small Pacific island nations of Oceania.

On a final note, we wish to acknowledge our major sponsors, LIANZA and the National Library of New Zealand for their support in allowing us to have our voice make known.  We also would like to thank the DevNet Conference organizers and of course IFLA for their great support and encouragement.

Have a warm Christmas and refreshing holidays.   Vinaka, kia kaha, tofa soifua ma ia manuia.

Avalogo Togi  A. Tunupopo

National University of Samoa & Library Association of Samoa