Affirmation and opportunity: working with libraries for the SDGs

Globally, librarians are looking at innovative ways of strengthening library services using technology, connecting the dots and building a niche network, making libraries more relevant in the space of social development. Librarians are creating associations with local stakeholders and in partnerships are strengthening these services, and are making it more relevant to meet the needs of local communities.

Transforming the world through public libraries and librarians is now seen as an essential focal point for enhancing access to information and knowledge to one and all. The IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto, 1994, and in alignment with Agenda 2030, public libraries as seen as essential knowledge power house, having diverse possibilities of co-creating inclusive spaces for everyone, “leaving no one behind”.

In this context, “Building innovative services – its relevance to UN-SDGs” a two-day workshop, was held on November 9 and 10, 2020, through the Special Library programme of MSSRF, in association with the International Federation of Library Association (IFLA), Netherlands and American Library Association (ALA), Illinois, USA. Stephen Wyber, Manager, Policy and Advocacy of IFLA and Loida Garcia-Febo International Library Consultant are the trainers.

Loida Garcia-Febo said “Libraries create cascading effect, and have advocating with the UN in the thematic areas of Culture, Education, ICT and access to information. Libraries are accessed by Women, youth, children, local authorities, workers and trade unions, scientific –academic researchers, farmers, entrepreneurs". Concerted efforts were made by librarians advocating with the UN to include libraries for strengthening access to information, culture, education and ICTs for local communities and social change. The current pandemic and its after shots would require libraries to focus more on services related to Good Health and Well-being, zero hunger, gender equality, reduced inequalities, decent economic growth, and partnerships.  

Stephen Wyber from IFLA, emphasized the importance of access to information, cross-cutting drivers of development, across UNSDGs must be integrated and indivisible. The heart of SDG 16, the goal 16.10 is a cross cutting target ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms in accordance with national legislation and international agreement. It is an individual’s human right to have access to information, as it is an enabler for the communities to make better decision, fund opportunities, allows individuals to become responsible and become a change agent in their own life. Without information, we cannot make better decisions. Hence, access to information is the development accelerator very important.

Some key points during the workshop included emphasis on libraries as development accelerators. Libraries co-create and evolve for their communities. Librarians work together in partnership with relevant stakeholders, bring inclusivity and neutrality to ensure that libraries transform societies. By doing so, communities receive lifelong education, learn more about services and strengthening systems including farming, enable and increase access to timely and relevant information, manage ways of producing energy, improving quality of life and improving scope for learning opportunities for all. Library efforts have a cascading effect, and dominating effect across region. Everyone is all together in this.  

In the workshop, 26 innovators from INELI South Asia project participated on 9th and 10th Nov 2020.

IFLA and ALA have been advocating for inclusion of access to information, safeguarding of cultural heritage, universal literacy, and access to information and communication technologies (ICT) in the framework. MSSRF has held a series of trainings on building capacities of INELI innovators on UN-SDGs and its relevance to National Priorities, since 2017. As part of this series, this online workshop is being held for the public librarians from the South Asian libraries, who are currently part of the INELI programme, Cohort 3. This virtual workshop objectives are to build understanding of the UN SDGs and the wider 2030 Agenda, enable participants to apply the SDGs as a tool for reflecting on, and planning for, library services, and to draw on SDGs in their advocacy for libraries.

For over three decades, MSSRF has worked with using ‘hub and spokes’, as a model for empowering rural communities using ICTs, to improve access to relevant and timely information, as per Goal 16 of Agenda 2030. (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels: "Target 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements." (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development). The same approach is now being demonstrated through 74 libraries in 7 South Asian countries since 2015, through the Special Library Programme – INELI, funded by the Gates Foundation.

More information about IFLA can be found here:

Written by: Priyanka Mohan

Edited by: Jayashree B