Uncrossing wires: advocacy to overcome misperceptions of libraries and the ambiguity of ‘information’

ROBERTS, Winston (2019) Uncrossing wires: advocacy to overcome misperceptions of libraries and the ambiguity of ‘information’. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2019 - Athens, Greece - Libraries: dialogue for change in Session S13 - Division V (Regions) with Management of Library Associations and LIS Education in Developing Countries. In: Leadership roles in international librarianship: how can information professionals from Africa, Asia & Oceania, Latin America & Caribbean be part of it?, 20-21 August 2019, Alexandria, Egypt.

Bookmark or cite this item: https://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/2817
Language: English (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.


Uncrossing wires: advocacy to overcome misperceptions of libraries and the ambiguity of ‘information’

The term ‘Information Society’ is no longer used much, we now speak of the ‘digital era’. The old Millennium Development Goals have given way to a new set of development goals which are to be ‘sustainable’. In these goals, at first glance, it might seem that libraries do not occupy a distinct place as resources of information, data and ideas, that their role is not as clear as it was last century in the days of the ‘Information Society’. In fact, with some of the world-wide regressive trends that we see at present, the role of libraries as providers of trusted information is more important than ever. IFLA’s advocacy tools, strategies and policies in many areas are used at international level, and its members are encouraged to use them at national level. But if ‘libraries’ are not profiled specifically in the SDGs, should we be concerned? Are there mistaken ideas about libraries circulating? If they do not loom large in countries’ planning, then neither will their budgets. How can IFLA clarify the economic value of ‘libraries’ and ‘information’ to countries, governments, policy agencies, so that the potential for libraries to support sustainable development can be fully understood beyond our professional sector? Should we not make stronger efforts to quantify the return on investment in library services? IFLA members in all countries are concerned with development, but it is particularly important for members in Division V. The IFLA ‘regions’ include some of the least-developed countries, and have the lowest levels of membership in IFLA. How can national library associations help their national communities benefit from better and more extensive library services? There are some actions that IFLA members in Division V might take to boost the status of library services, to change perceptions and attract funding. These actions include advocating for integrated national planning for information services, developing links with many sectors other than libraries, education and culture, for example: vocational/trade training, business, cybersecurity, broadcasting/media organisations, R&D organisations, telecoms, development aid agencies, Internet Societies in each country, along with government regulators. The public perception of ‘libraries’ and ‘information’ needs to become more inclusive and less confined to bricks-and-mortar libraries, or to the bits and bytes of digital infrastructure. Library associations in Division V should increase their capacity for policy development and advocacy to organisations working in all those areas – to cross boundaries, in the interests of sustainable national development. IFLA members in Division V could help each other with advocacy which respects the cultural specificities of regions and sub-regions, while still maintaining strong professional bonds across the whole organisation. They would then be able to respond flexibly to any future changes in the structure and governance of IFLA.

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