The world is a collection of disparate faiths, origins, identities, backgrounds, and beliefs. While every country and region may have those which are culturally dominant, it is in the largest cities that you often encounter the broadest spectrum of humanity. As the IFLA section that explores the role of libraries within these urban areas, the Metropolitan Libraries (METLIB) Section focuses on how libraries can be agents of urban development and catalysts of civic engagement. In line with IFLA’s work furthering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we have looked especially to SDG 11 and SDG 4 to guide our efforts. Intrinsic to this is an understanding of the diverse nature of the populations we serve, the role equity plays in determining a library’s (and a city’s) program of service, and the often-unique status of libraries as spaces of true inclusion and multicultural representation.

This has also meant that, like IFLA, we need to reach beyond a membership that skews European and North American. Last October, METLIB held its first conference in South America in forty years. In conjunction with ABGRA, the Argentinean Library Association, and with the support of the IFLA Latin American Regional Conference, this bilingual conference offered a chance for librarians throughout Latin America to attend a METLIB event, and their perspectives and experiences were a welcome and needed addition to the discussions. It is our hope that this engagement will continue into our next conference in Barcelona in October of this year, held in conjunction with the Public Libraries, Rare Books, and Library Buildings and Equipment Sections. This conference will include programs from participants in our MetLib Learning Circle, a cohort of 18 early- to mid-career librarians from nine countries that meet monthly to discuss and explore broad issues related to libraries and urban development. This is the second Learning Circle that has been offered, and the relationships formed will provide lasting access to a network of international librarians from a variety of regions.

While many celebrate diversity, though, libraries and librarians are often on the frontlines of cultural battles regarding representation of historically marginalized communities, such as racial minorities or members of the LGBTQ+ communities. Libraries are increasingly finding themselves in the position of defending their collections and programming against attacks on intellectual freedom. This is one aspect of METLIB’s ongoing discussion of the role of libraries and librarians in promoting democratic values and community engagement, a topic that METLIB has offered session on at WLIC and that will be explored further at the joint conference in Barcelona.

Whether looking at our own membership or at the role of libraries in multicultural cities, the concepts of equity, diversity, and inclusion guide the work of our section. We recognize that we still have work to do, but we stand by our belief that true strength, whether of our section or of the cities we serve, lies in the creation of an inclusive environment that celebrates our diversity.