Library Diplomacy with Randolf Mariano and Emilia Bell

At a recent ALIA Research Review Seminar, Emilia Bell and Randolf Mariano shared their doctoral research findings on library diplomacy and open knowledge diplomacy. You can watch the recording, or download the presentation slides.

Photos below (L to R): Emilia Bell, Randolf Mariano.


The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of library diplomacy

Libraries have long been involved in international relations, including cultural diplomacy and soft power practices. Yet, as Emilia described, most research has focused on non-library GLAMR institutions, addressing concepts such as ‘museum diplomacy.’ This is despite the ways that information and knowledge can contribute to strengthening cultural understanding and relationships.


Library diplomacy is not a new concept, though it provides new perspectives and ways to frame the relationships, influence, and impact we achieve in libraries. This includes providing a way to frame the role of libraries in international relations, sustainable development, and collaboration and partnership.

Randolf defines library diplomacy as:

‘the role of library actors at individual, institutional, national and international levels in establishing international relations, influencing global policy decisions, and bridging understanding between and among various institutions and countries.’

Library diplomacy positions libraries in global policy processes and enables libraries to address 21st-century challenges in partnership. Additionally, it advances the core values of libraries.

Mapping library diplomacy - a framework

Randolf shared three dimensions of library diplomacy that can help conceptualise and map library activities and scenarios in this space.

  • Libraries in diplomacy

Libraries and librarians participate and are involved in global policies and international processes. Librarians provide advice on the core values of librarianship to inform decision-making in foreign and global policies.

  • Libraries for diplomacy

Libraries serve as instruments and platforms for international diplomacy to create people-to-people relationships and reinforce cultural understanding.

  • Diplomacy for libraries

Libraries and other stakeholders cooperate and work together to advance libraries and librarianship.

Within library diplomacy practices, we see libraries take on either implicit or explicit roles in achieving shared goals internationally, such as sustainability, creativity and innovation, and equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (EDIA).

The role of libraries in open knowledge diplomacy

Knowledge diplomacy is ‘the process of strengthening relations between and among countries through international higher education, research and innovation.’ It is characterised by cooperation, reciprocity, collaboration, and mutual benefit and focuses on addressing shared global challenges.

Emilia’s research explores the role of libraries in knowledge diplomacy. Further, their research considers how open scholarly practices can support greater collaboration and more inclusive and equitable knowledge processes.

Emilia proposes ‘open knowledge diplomacy’ as a concept that bridges library diplomacy, open scholarship, and knowledge diplomacy. They shared a working definition of open knowledge diplomacy, defining it as “a collaborative process that sees the intersection of international relations with the production of open knowledge through its scholarly manifestations and practices” (Bell, 2024).

Libraries can play diverse roles in open knowledge diplomacy. They may contribute to:

  • Open scholarship services, infrastructure, or advocacy;
  • Knowledge access, translation, or exchange; or
  • Knowledge brokering for diplomacy, bridging exchanges between practice, research, and policy communities.

Bringing it all together

As libraries and other GLAMR sites are often associated with cultural memory, identity, and community partnership, they are well-positioned to facilitate international cooperation and exchange. Yet, to be at our most impactful and inclusive in diplomacy practices, we need to have a clear understanding of the role and influence libraries have internationally.

Library diplomacy recognises the role libraries have in fostering international dialogue and collaboration. They are part of global processes, strengthening collaboration, cooperation, and knowledge sharing and contributing to policy and governance.



Bell, E. C. (2022). Understanding soft power discourse in the National Library of Australia. Journal of Documentation, 78(6), 1457-1475. 

Bell, E. C., & Kennan, M. A. (2021). The library as soft-power actor: A review. IFLA Journal, 48(4), 706-716. 

Bell, E. C. (2024, February 27). Research Review Seminar Series: Library Diplomacy [Webinar]. Australian Library and Information Association.

Knight, J. (2023). Knowledge diplomacy can play key role in this troubled era. University World News. 

Mariano, R. (2022). Mapping and searching for a theory and concept of library diplomacy. Information Research, 27(special issue). 

Mariano, R. (2023). Understanding US library diplomacy practices in the 21st century. IFLA Journal.