Meet Team Libraries at the UN High-Level Political Forum on the SDGs 2023 (Part 2)
18 July 2023
To help you get to know the experience and perspectives of the librarians attending this year’s High-Level Political Forum, we’re sharing their answers to a short set of questions. In this article – the second of three – we find out what their message is to the wider development community around how libraries can contribute to achieving the SDGs.
The key reason for bringing colleagues from around the world to the United Nations is that the practical experience of librarians working to deliver on the SDGs every day represents a powerful case for the stronger integration of libraries policy planning and implementation.
This applies to stakeholders at all levels, from the global to the local. So what message are our representatives bringing to the people they meet?
Athra Al Alawi (Bahrain): Libraries around the world play an important role in supporting the achievement of sustainable development goals, through their diverse range of products and services, which positively affects individuals and societies. Libraries are safe, welcoming spaces that act as community centers. They enhance a sense of belonging and provide opportunities for social interaction, cultural exchange, and lifelong learning.
Christina de Castell: Libraries are existing public infrastructure in countries around the world, and we focus on information, literacy and learning, which have impact across the SDGs. Our presence in nearly every community is capacity that can be built upon to achieve the SDGs, so that investments go farther and reach more people. Libraries are here to meet our communities’ needs as a place for resources and to facilitate the connections that enable action.
Damilare Oyedele (Nigeria): My message to the broader development community is to LeaveNoLibraryBehind for the Global Goals. To achieve the SDGs, we need informed, literate citizens; for us to have informed literate citizens, we need access to information, and libraries, as custodians of knowledge, are positioned as the knowledge and information hub of the community.
Magda Gomulka (Poland): From my point of view, libraries can start to advocate the role of culture in sustainable development and join the Culture 2030 Goal Campaign. There has always been culture in libraries and symbolised human journey, preserving collective experience and expressions in every area in every corner of the world. But culture is also a strong determinant on how to preserve, understand and achieve goals.
Loida Garcia Febo (United States): We can all contribute from where we are! We must be informed about the SDGs, share the information and train librarians, analyze how best connect with stakeholders, and advocate for libraries. My main point is always sharing how libraries have been contributing to development forever, helping people to learn to read, providing access to digital connectivity and internet, information about local services and much more! I speak from experience, I’ve been advocating on behalf of IFLA at the UN since 2014 together with a global library team which resulted on inclusion of access to information in Target 16.10 – this has been a really important step both in ensuring that governments recognise how crucial our work is, and that everyone can see the value of libraries! I’ve also worked over many years to raise awareness of the SDGs and why we should engage, both within the US as Chair of the American Library Association UN 2030 SDGs Task Force and now Chair of the ALA IRC UN SDG Subcommittee, and through the work I do together with colleagues and friends around the world.
Nina Nakaora (Fiji): Libraries have a unique reach. According to IFLA’s Library Map of the World, there are over 2.8million libraries. Libraries play such an important role in promoting and supporting literacy, intellectual freedom, and lifelong learning. The economic advantages from investing in libraries that cater to wellbeing, education and workforce development will help accelerate the 2030 Agenda.
Paula Larrain Larrain (Chile): Public libraries play an essential role in the development of the SDGs by providing access to information, education, social inclusion, and community empowerment. Their transformative power lies in their ability to generate positive changes in communities, promoting equality, knowledge, sustainability, and well-being. By leveraging these resources and services, public libraries become key allies in the implementation of the SDGs and in building a sustainable future for all.
Stuart Hamilton (Ireland): Use your existing infrastructure. Don’t try to develop new mechanisms of local delivery if you already have an existing public library network. Partner with that instead, build capacity in the staff to be able to share information about the SDGs with their users so that libraries begin to be community hubs of sustainable development info and activities, working in partnership with your organisations. Identify the library leadership groups in your country – the association, if one exists, the national library, special interest groups on sustainability and climate action – and invite them to pitch to you about what a partnership might look like in the area of the SDGs. Develop projects together – the reach that local libraries can give you will surprise you!