COLUMBUS, Ohio — Representatives from national libraries around the world convened at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress in Columbus, Ohio, on August 5, 2016.
The gathering focused on outlining the ways in which library programs are implementing Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the U.N. as part of its 2030 Agenda.
According to IFLA, the relationship between libraries and Sustainable Development Goals stems from the unique position libraries hold in the information sector. Because public libraries afford people in both developed and developing nations access to vital information, they often serve as social, educational and developmental equalizers.
As explained in a recent IFLA report, “Increased access to information and knowledge, underpinned by universal literacy, is an essential pillar of sustainable development.” For that reason, strong connections between libraries and Sustainable Development Goals are of the utmost importance.
From the United States to Namibia, public libraries are working to reach development goals regarding equal education, gender equality, healthcare and economic growth.
Having a positive impact in these areas will likely help nations reach additional Sustainable Development Goals down the line, like poverty reduction and the creation of clean energy.
In England, public libraries put forth immense efforts to provide women with free access to information about sexual health, nutrition and family planning. Approximately 81 percent of England’s government libraries provide free access to health and wellness education.
Technological literacy is also essential in reaching Sustainable Development Goals, and in developing nations, public libraries provide citizens with access to electricity and the Internet.
Sri Lanka’s e-Library Nenasala Programme, for example, helps people in rural areas gain technological skills while improving overall literacy in the process. Likewise in Namibia, the Katatura Public Library trains people to use cell phones.
Such training helps people study and apply for jobs. Every year, 250,000 people find work through public library services in the European Union (EU). When thousands of people reach personal goals, nations take important steps toward reaching professional and educational goals on a larger scale.
Libraries and Sustainable Development Goals will likely affect how nations deal with the refugee crisis as well. One issue that will be discussed during the 2016 U.N. Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants is that of acclimation.
In an effort to reduce tensions for all parties involved, libraries have developed programs to help people adjust to their recipient countries after migration or forced displacement.
The New Americans Program at the Queens Library in New York offers English language classes and workshops on daily life to help people settle into their new homes. In Canada, the Toronto Public Library gives immigrants information about legal support, childcare, healthcare, housing and citizenship applications.
In a global context, the relationship between libraries and SDGs is an important one. Unlike private institutions, libraries are in a position to fill gaps that often leave the world’s poor without access to education.
When libraries make concerted efforts to uphold the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda, they make investments in the development of nations.
– Madeline Distasio