After 21 years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Programme has closed its doors. IFLA, on behalf of the entire global library field, would like to give thanks not only for its contributions to date, but for the immense impact it will continue to have into the future.

Deborah Jacobs, Director of the Global Libraries Programme

We believe that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s 1997 decision to establish a dedicated programme for libraries will be seen by future historians of our field as a major moment.

At a time of political, economic and technological change, it represented a clear statement of the enduring place of libraries in society. It affirmed their role as accelerators of progress, community anchors and guarantors of equity, and challenged other stakeholders to do the same.

After implementation across the United States, the Global Libraries programme took this message around the world, with immense success. They have given librarians the tools and inspiration they needed to realise their potential. They have shown the difference that effective libraries with engaging services can make to their communities.

Thanks to its visionary leadership and dedicated staff, Global Libraries has done so much to deliver on its mission to improve lives and strengthen libraries. IFLA acknowledges Deborah Jacobs as the driving force, not only of the Global Libraries team, but for change across the library field. IFLA itself was a beneficiary of funding that allowed it to develop the Building Strong Library Associations programme and pursue advocacy at the highest levels.

Now, we are at another major moment. With the closure of the Global Libraries programme, we say goodbye to one of the greatest allies our sector has ever known.  IFLA President, Glòria Pérez-Salmerón said, "While the closing of the Programme marks the end of an amazing phase in the development of libraries, I am confident that its missions, vision and energy will live on, and make a lasting difference to our institutions and the people they serve."

With the energy and example they have provided, and the most generous grant in IFLA’s history, IFLA has never been in a better position to work towards a globally strong and united library field.

IFLA will seek to transform the global library field, with a transformed IFLA at its heart. Our federation is better able to listen to the voices of our members around the world, and join together in advocating for library services that improve lives. 

IFLA is already enabling a qualitative change in the way the library field collects data and measures its impact through the Library Map of the World. With our International Advocacy Programme, we have placed libraries at the heart of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda.

With IFLA’s Global Vision, we are firmly on the way to a truly united global library field. Across the global culture, science and education sector, there has never been such an ambitious and inclusive initiative. 

These successes have only been possible due to our outstanding partnership with Global Libraries, and to the inspiration Deborah Jacobs and her team have provided. The legacy of their work has given IFLA and its legacy partners an unparalleled opportunity and an unparalleled responsibility.

IFLA believes that, together, we are up to the task, and we can help stronger libraries build better lives the world over.

Gerald Leitner
IFLA Secretary General