The digital age is changing the way libraries work – transforming their collections, facilitating sharing of works, allowing them to offer completely new types of services, and more. That is why the way the internet and digital technology are governed concerns libraries – the current and emerging rules and practices will affect their everyday work.

In 2018, the UN Secretary-General launched a High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation – the first UN digital governance initiative of this scale. Following extensive multistakeholder consultations, the Panel issued a report in June 2019 outlining key issues and setting out recommendations on how to leverage global cooperation towards a more inclusive digital future.

Several messages and recommendations the report puts forward are directly relevant for libraries:

  • Meaningful access to digital infrastructure for marginalized populations is paramount. Many libraries offer internet access services to their users, often in areas with low internet penetration or high costs of connectivity. This function is especially important in light of the report’s recommendation. Each library can reflect on whether there are any further initiatives it could take to help marginalised communities in its area get online.
  • An idea of pooling together digital public goods – digital technologies and content freely available for people to use or adapt – is proposed. In the multistakeholder discussions that will follow, libraries can lend their expertise in information organisation and access, in order to ensure that tools are usable.
  • Education systems will need to adapt to prepare people for living and working in the digital age. These changes include teaching information literacy and soft skills, wider use of informal instruction and enabling lifelong learning. Libraries can take a proactive role and expand their educational initiatives to include these recommendations. This would help them position themselves as major partners in the changing education systems.
  • All participants of multistakeholder consultations on internet governance are invited to define their guiding values to develop a shared vision. This offers libraries an opportunity to get involved and promote the values they stand for – public access, intellectual freedom, equality and lifelong learning.


See the full summary of the report and its recommendations, highlighting points of particular interest for libraries:

[English – PDF]

You can read the IFLA contribution to the UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation. You can also view the submission made by the Partnership for Public Access, to which IFLA contributed.