23 March 2020
COVID-19 and the Global Library Field: Statement by the IFLA President and Secretary General
Libraries around the world are being affected by the emergence and spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Many have been obliged to close temporarily or reduce services to a minimum to contribute to efforts to limit the spread of the disease. Hard decisions are being made about how best to provide access to information without compromising the safety of library users and staff.
In a growing number of countries, library workers are already having to adapt to major restrictions on their movement and other activities, along with the citizens they serve. On behalf of IFLA, we wish all the best to those coping with disruption and difficulty in their lives.
Faced with this situation, libraries around the world have mobilised. They are providing valuable collections of reliable information on coronavirus in order to give people a source they can trust. They are strengthening the capacity of digital libraries and extending opportunities for eLending and accessing online resources.
Special libraries, in particular those working with public health agencies and research centres, and in the broader health sector, are very active, helping to manage information and support efforts to strengthen understanding of developments.
Library associations too have stepped up, providing resources for their members to plan and respond, providing online training and collating the latest information in order to support decision making by their members.
IFLA itself is active. In addition to our FAQs webpage about our own response, we are regularly answering questions from members. From today we are also sharing a page – regularly updated – with information we have about nationwide library closures, as well as a range of ideas drawn from experience of libraries in different settings. We encourage further contributions.
We are confident that our industry partners– publishers, vendors, suppliers – will work with us to provide the necessary assurances to allow libraries to continue to provide access to information and culture, while recognising that they are also coping with pressures and stresses linked to the situation we are all facing.
In particular we welcome special arrangements that enable virtual storytimes to take place, provide open access to articles related to COVID-19, and facilitate remote access to academic publications and articles to help learning and research continue even as university libraries are forced to close. We encourage library partners to generalise these measures. In the current circumstances it is vital that we all come together to allow reading, learning and research to continue, and to ensure that we can minimise the long-term effects of the outbreak on our cultures, societies and economies.
Faced with an uncertain future, we are very proud of the way the library field is responding and know that we have the resilience, creativity and sense of service to continue to do the best possible for the communities that rely on us in these difficult times.
Does your association or national library have a key resource that could be helpful for others, or other relevant information? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
IFLA President 2019-2021
IFLA Secretary General
23 March 2020