In our day-to-day work, it can sometimes be difficult to look outside of our own communities to see what libraries are doing at a national or even a state level. It can be even harder to consider how libraries operate internationally, especially if we haven’t worked in or visited libraries in other countries. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) serves as the voice of libraries in the international community and can give you a broader scope of the issues and interests of libraries globally.
At the end of 2015, IFLA released its Annual Report 2014, a good tool to get a look at the organization’s accomplishments, alliances, and strategies. It also provides an overview of global libraries’ most pressing issues and how other governing organizations view libraries. IFLA’s 2010-15 strategic plan “focused strengthening the library and information field and positioning libraries as a force for change.” The report presents IFLA’s four Key Initiatives for 2013-2014 and describes how the organization worked on them over the past year.
Key Initiative 1: Driving Access to Content and Digital Resources
This initiative probably has the most relevance for the work you do in your library. IFLA’s Trend Report, also a fascinating read, states that new technologies will both limit and expand access to information. After the launch of the Trend Report, IFLA hosted workshops, discussions, and virtual meet-ups pertaining information access and digitization.
One interesting piece of this initiative is IFLA’s involvement in the copyright and intellectual property (IP) fields. IFLA advocated on behalf of libraries and archives at the World International Property Organization (WIPO). IFLA, however, was frustrated by the stance the EU took on IP issues, so it issued a joint letter signed by more than one hundred library, archive, and research institutions.
Another hot issue IFLA tackled was communications surveillance. At the regional Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul, IFLA represented the library community by advocating for clear guidelines on government surveillance and human rights.
Key Initiative 2: International Librarian Leadership Development
One of IFLA’s major focuses is to raise awareness for the library profession and elevate voices in the field on a regional, national, and international level. Key Initiative 2 was focused on the International Leaders’ program and the Building Strong Library Associations (BSLA) programs, which focused on developing individuals within the programs’ skills in advocacy, planning, and collaboration skills.
Key Initiative 3: Advocacy and Advancement of the Librarian and Information Sector
The new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which succeed the UN’S Millennium Development Goals, include Quality Education, Reduced Inequalities, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and much more. It seems logical that libraries should play a big role in helping the UN meet these goals along with other philanthropic and charitable organizations. IFLA’s made it a priority to “ensure that the new UN Sustainable Goals recognize the importance of access to information for development, and that libraries are able to play a key role in implementing the goals.”
Throughout 2014, IFLA was active in the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and released a call for action, the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development, urging UN Member States to commit to information access.
Key Initiative 4: Cultural Heritage
“Culture is a basic need. A community thrives through its cultural heritage; it dies without it,” states the fourth and final Key Initiative. IFLA has worked with UNESCO in several areas including solutions for long-term sustainable digital preservation, action plans for preserving cultural heritage in area of conflict or natural disaster, and the preservation of documentaries.
Why International Librarianship Matters
Getting a global perspective on library and information services can help us better understand how other international organizations, such as the United Nations and WIPO, inform policies and access. Additionally, having a better understanding on global library issues like surveillance, cultural preservation, and digital resources can help you prioritize and target your own library‘s goals.
 “International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Annual Report 2014.” December 1, 2015. Accessed January 13, 2016. http://www.ifla.org/files/assets/hq/annual-reports/2014.pdf.
 “Trend Report.” IFLA Trend Report. Accessed January 13, 2016. http://trends.ifla.org/.