Facing global challenges: libraries as community hubs for the empowerment of the most vulnerable populations

LACHAL, Jérémy and PEICH, Muy-Cheng (2019) Facing global challenges: libraries as community hubs for the empowerment of the most vulnerable populations. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2019 - Athens, Greece - Libraries: dialogue for change in Session 154 - Asia and Oceania.

Bookmark or cite this item: http://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/2541
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Language: English (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.

Abstract

Facing global challenges: libraries as community hubs for the empowerment of the most vulnerable populations

More than 68.5 million people are displaced due to conflicts or natural disasters in the world today. 4 million refugee children are out of school. And beyond the refugee scope, 203 million above the age of 15 are illiterate in Subsaharan Africa. One may wonder how and even whether libraries can tackle such challenges. Access to information is, more than ever, at the root of profound inequalities in today’s world. Nobel Prize Amartya Sen theorized a model of development that privileges freedom and the capacity to act as the conditions to be in position to make decisions that correspond to individuals’ aspirations. Access to information, and therefore libraries, are central in this approach to empower populations to face today’s challenges. While some question the relevance of libraries in industrialised countries, libraries are often perceived in the most challenging as a key community asset: a safe and trusted space that belong to the community and where one can find the resources to build their own solution. In this paper, we offer to explore the role of libraries in community dialogue and the collaborative design of tools, resources, and methodologies to solve the community’s challenges. We will study two examples of such libraries. z In Bangladesh, Libraries Without Borders (LWB) has set up library spaces in the refugee camp set up in Cox’s Bazar, which hosts more than 900.000 people. These spaces have become a rallying point for the Rohingya community, where they can find reliable information, discuss key issues of the community and create content to share their stories, as well essential information for others. In Nepal, the Australian National University has set up a library - both physical and digital - in Batase, a small village whose community suffers from intense human trafficking. LWB supported the installation of this library through the curation of digital content disseminated through offline internet. Launched in December 2018, this library not only serves the local community, but also surrounding villages. It has become where children, youth and adults can learn, access information and discuss even sensitive issues and experiences such as human trafficking. These spaces are recognized by the community as hubs for community participation, dialogue, and first and foremost, safe and trusted spaces. The feedbacks from the facilitators of these spaces, the testimonies of the users and the data collected throughout the project highlight key components for the success of such an approach: the participation of the local community in the design of the space and its activities, the involvement of members of the community in the management of the space, the ability to adjust the programming to a changing environment, etc. Our research investigated these components, assessed the impacts of such spaces on the empowerment of the local community and tried to identify key lessons to replicate such initiatives.

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