For the first time since the agreement of the SDGs in 2015, IFLA will be represented at the United Nations’ High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) by a delegation including librarians from every world region. To help you get to know team libraries at HLPF 2023, we asked them about their experience and ambitions.

Thanks to the support of Stichting IFLA Global Libraries, IFLA is able to show the diversity and strength of the library field as partners for development by bringing colleagues from around the world to New York.

Their participation not only means that we can ensure that as many delegates – from governments, UN agencies and beyond – hear about how libraries can make the difference, but also that they can spend time with senior decision-makers, helping national advocacy efforts.

To help you get to know our team in New York, we asked them a short series of questions. In the first of three posts, here’s what they said when we asked how they had engaged around the SDGs so far in their own countries:

Athra Al Alawi (Bahrain): In line with the “Information Accessibility” principle, the SDGs are achieved in its various libraries through close cooperation between multiple libraries and cultural institutions, through activities between the Bahrain Library Association, Isa Cultural Center, and the Ministry of Education in the field of providing appropriate information for children, the elderly, the learner and illiterate too. In addition to providing training courses and seminars for librarians on how to deal in the new era of digital information.

Damilare Oyedele (Nigeria): My active engagement around the SDGs in my country and sub-Saharan African countries aligns with my work at Library Aid Africa .Through the Young African Library Leaders Fellowship, we are building the capacity of young library leaders between the ages of 18 to 35 with the skills and knowledge needed to contribute meaningfully and actively to sustainable development plans in Africa. Thereby driving advocacy, projects, and policy reforms for libraries in African communities. In the past 3 years, YALLF2020, YALLF2021, and YALLF2022 have produced 56 emerging library leaders across 14 African countries.

Magda Gomulka (Poland): I discovered the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Goals at the IFLA International Advocacy Program workshop in 2016. The period between 2017 and 2023 is one of the most meaningful stages in my library job; a great number of presentations and meetings with librarians as well as stakeholders. Results are promising. Polish libraries have started implementing the Agenda 2030 and play a more and more important role in public awareness.

Nina Nakaora (Fiji): From a school library standpoint, we carefully curate collections aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (eg. SDG 2 and SDG 14) and design displays to promote awareness and understanding of these goals. Meanwhile, the Library Association of Fiji hosted an Sustainable Development Goals event on 6 July 2023, with speakers from the UN Resident Coordinator’s office and an author, plus a presentation on work with IFLA’s Library Map of the World. When we heard about the upcoming Voluntary National Review, we held a consultation between the library sector and the VNR coordinator, where library colleagues and staff were invited to share their success stories with the team and contribute to their data collection, and have initiated more work in this area. meanwhile, Fiji’s National Library has been instrumental in preserving collective memory and cultural heritage for future generations. Their unique and authentic records should highlight to research funders the potential of libraries. 

Stuart Hamilton (Ireland): In Ireland we have built relationships with key staffers in the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) to share examples of what libraries are already doing across the country in the areas of sustainability and climate action. Whenever possible, we volunteer to speak at an event, write for a publication, or share information. When it was time for the latest two year plan for SDG development to be prepared we share background papers on libraries’ contributions so far, along with ideas about how we can work with DECC and other government departments in the next two years. This led to libraries being included in the implementation plan. We have also ensured that our new five year national strategy is mapped to the SDGs so we can show to policymakers immediately how our actions are going to help the government achieve its SDG obligations.

Paula Larrain Larrain (Chile): In Chile, there are several public libraries that work with the SDGs. For example, the Doñihue Library has have developed the “Garden for Readings” project as a bibliotherapeutic space. Meanwhile, the Santiago Library – a public library – has established strategic guidelines for the coming years, considering the 2030 agenda in the construction of its annual plans. Elsewhere, the Digital Public Library of Chile offers free access to a wide variety of cultural and educational resources. Through its content and actions, it promotes quality education, inclusion, innovation, and sustainability, contributing to various SDGs.

Christina de Castell (Canada): As part of Canada’s National Voluntary Review this year, Canadian libraries provided a submission on how we are contributing to the SDGs, particularly SDGs 1 and 4. We focused on the themes of inclusion, literacy and early learning, identifying that libraries support equitable access to information, reduce inequality and bridge the digital divide. We shared that public libraries deliver more than 245,000 programs annually related to learning and literacy for all ages, with a particular emphasis on programs that build early literacy skills. We encouraged our federal government to consider how strong investment in public libraries can support the 2030 agenda, and areas where federal investment could increase Canada’s capacity to meet the SDGs.

Loida Gardia Febo (United States): In the USA, the American Library Association established the UN 2030 SDGs Task Force (2020-2021) to develop a multi-year strategic plan to promote and support work with the SDGs. This year, the ALA established the ALA IRC UN SDG Subcommittee to collaborate with ALA divisions, round tables, committees and membership, and US library associations in the implementation of the multi-year strategic plan to increase participation by libraries in efforts to achieve the Goals. Through the Subcommittee we have collaborated with IFLA providing stories about how libraries are furthering digital connectivity in communities. During this HLPF, ALA and IFLA are collaborating to present two events, on July 11 featuring library services to indigenous populations and on July 18 about libraries supporting women empowerment.

See Part 2 and Part 3 of this series!