The Pandemic has clearly focused minds on health, and how essential it is that we do not take it for granted. The right to health – and with it, the right to health information – have rapidly moved up the political agenda.

These do not just matter as an end in themselves, but also are a pre-condition for achieving other development goals. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that health is directly or indirectly linked to all of the 17 goals. The UNESCO Strategy on Education outlines several health-related goals and the Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has been documenting the contribution of libraries in: ‘Access and opportunities for all: How libraries contribute to the United Nations 2030 Agenda.’

Worldwide, there are national, institutional, regional, and local initiatives focusing on improving the health and wellbeing of citizens. IFLA is no different, bringing together committed expert library and information professionals to build understanding and develop responses.

Read on to find out about the plans of our Health and Biosciences Section (HBS) and Evidence for Global and Disaster Health Special Interest Group (E4GDH), and in particular about the International Congress of Medical Librarianship, co-organised with the Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa (AHILA), in which both HBS and E4GDH are closely involved.

Health and Biosciences Section

The IFLA Health and Biosciences Section (HBS) action plan includes collaborations with the WHO Infodemic Management team. HBS will work with the WHO to draft a white paper on the changing nature of health literature, including large numbers of publications and increased availability of pre-prints.

HBS is also actively encouraging interested librarians, public health providers, and others working in health programs to consider participating in this incredibly important initiative to help the public navigate the onslaught of information we all face each and every day.

More information can be found on the WHO website, including calls for infodemic manager training. And we are proud to say that two HBS standing committee members, Bethany McGowan and Feili Tu-Keefner, were accepted to and completed the competitive WHO Infodemic Management Training. Tu-Keefner had the following to say about her experience:

I feel so grateful for being a trainee of the third Infodemic manager training program. It’s such a humbling experience, and I asked myself to learn as much as I can from every instructor, presenter, and trainee. Our world needs more infodemic managers. As an educator, I plan to use what I learned to work with colleagues to develop training programs and a research institute on infodemiology.

The HBS Spring webinar series will focus on strategies for combatting misinformation/ disinformation. Researchers interested in presenting can contact HBS Chair Bethany McGowan or Beth Ketterman, Information Coordinator, at Look for announcements on upcoming talks on the HBS website, or you can follow us on Twitter.

Evidence for Global and Disaster Health

Sponsored by HBS, the IFLA Evidence for Global and Disaster Health (E4GDH) Special Interest Group works to promote and strengthen the roles that librarians play in times of disaster and in response to global health challenges.

“Access to health information as a human right”, our provocation during the last IFLA congress, ended with a call for library and information professionals to take action. In 2022 we will continue advocating for the critical roles that librarians can play. A key partner in this work is HIFA (Healthcare Information for All), whose members include health professionals, publishers and policy makers.

Skills building, through the promotion and provision of tools and resources for professional development, is another strand of our work. We will continue collaborating with the Librarian Reserve Corps, a volunteer network set up to meet the need for public health information during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis. This will include promoting their best practice guidelines for searching during public health emergencies when these are launched, having been part of the peer review process. These will complement our own Finding the Evidence guides in promoting evidence-based practice.

Last year our first Spanish language webinar featured the work of the World Health Organization Library, now we are planning for further joint webinars with WHO Library.

A newly elected E4GDH committee will be set up in early 2022. The committee is supported by a wider advisory group; we welcome expressions of interest to join this group – especially from outside Europe and North America. For more, visit E4GDH’s webpages, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, or e-mail

Africa hosting International Congress of Medical Librarianship (ICML) for the first time (15 to 19 March 2022)

A key activity on the HBS Section’s immediate action plan is the 13th International Congress of Medical Librarianship in March 2022, to be held on the African continent for the first time!

The first ICML was held in London by leaders of medical libraries in 1953 and now takes place every 4 – 5 years, with the IFLA Health and Biosciences Libraries Section (IFLA – HBS) managing the bids for the hosting of the next Congress. There is always an effort to combine international and regional conferences, providing an important platform to hear about the latest research, share learning and discuss best practice.

The Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa (AHILA) are the perfect partners as an active African network of health librarians with over 250 regional members, 15 Country Chapters and 45+ partners from around the globe.

This will be a blended event, open to participants and sponsors both in person and online. It will be held in Pretoria, South Africa from 15th to 19th March 2022. The Local Organising Committee and International Planning Committee have been working on the plans for the event for the past three years led by the Information Training and Outreach Centre for Africa (ITOCA).

A call for action: Engaging to save lives: Our joint theme recognises that the conference takes place seven years after the 2015 historic adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. With less than ten years to achieve them, the UN has declared the need for a Decade of Action.

We will explore the contributions that medical librarians and other information professionals are making to achieve global health goals by connecting, engaging, and ultimately improving health and saving lives.

Subthemes include: Science- and Evidence-based Practice, with examples of incorporating data and information to improve outcomes; Epidemics and Pandemics: anticipating and responding to health crises; Collaboration and Partnerships, to enable successful implementation; and Sustainability, to include building capacity for the future.

These will be covered in a mix of presentations, lightning talks and poster presentations, as well as continual professional development /workshops.

Invited speakers include Ylann Schemm who will be sharing lessons learned from the Elsevier Foundation, in a talk about partnering for impact, with IFLA President Barbara Lison and AHILA President Grace A Ajuwon intervening as keynotes.

Registration is open, and wider speakers and presentation information are available on the ICML website.

We look forward to seeing you there!