Libraries and the UN 2030 Agenda
The agenda is a framework of 17 Sustainable Development Goals which span economic, environmental and social development. Libraries are key institutions to help achieve the goals.
Public access to information enables people to make informed decisions that can improve their lives. Access to information has been recognised in the SDGs under Goal 16. The target is 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
Libraries provide information and ICT infrastructure, helping people develop the capacity to use information effectively and preserve information to ensure ongoing access for future generations. They provide an established, trusted network that can reach out to the population.
Libraries and access to information contribute to improved outcomes in the SDGs by: promoting literacy, including digital literacy; closing gaps in information needs, providing delivery sites for Government programs and services, advancing digital inclusion by providing ICT; serving the research and academic community; and preserving culture and heritage.
While the SDGs are universal goals, each country will be responsible for developing and implementing national strategies to achieve them and will be expected to track and report progress. As these national plans are developed, libraries stand ready to serve as partners to help meet the goals.
ALIA resources for libraries
What is ALIA doing?
ALIA is already in discussions with the Federal Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) about libraries:
- supporting the freedom of access to information outcomes;
- providing examples of success, which can be used as part of Australia’s reporting; and
- helping to communicate the 2030 agenda to the general population.
ALIA has also has signed an international advocacy agreement with IFLA. By signing the agreement with IFLA, ALIA has committed to carry on advocacy work on how libraries are helping Australia, and the rest of the UN Member States, achieve the SDGs.
On 9 June 2020 former ALIA President, Vicki McDonald FALIA spoke as part of the free webinar Libraries Contributing to Meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Vicki gave a clear overview of how Australian libraries, and ALIA, have been working on the Sustainable Development Goals.
On 23 September 2019, some 20 library leaders, with other guests, gathered at ALIA House in Canberra to debate stretch targets for the sector as part of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This roundtable was the next step in libraries’ commitment to be an active force in the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.
Following the meeting, we have produced this draft set of stretch targets as the foundation for discussion across the LIS sector in Australia. The targets have been developed through the lens of the people who attended the roundtable, but we want to make sure they encompass other sector perspectives.
The survey closes 3 January 2020.
On 23 September, Chair of the ALIA International Relations Advisory Committee Vicki McDonald FALIA chaired an SDG Roundtable, bringing together a number of library leaders from the different sectors to review the results of an SDG ALIA Member survey, discuss the opportunities for libraries in the context of the SDGs, and agree stretch targets for 2030.
On 2 May, ALIA Fellow Janine Schmidt AM represented ALIA at a roundtable held at QUT, in Brisbane, organised by EAROPH Australia, which is part of the Eastern Regional Organisation for Planning and Human Settlements. The roundtable focused on the SDG and featured Senator Clare Moore, who stepped down from her role as Senator for Queensland at the last election. Senator Moore provided valuable insights from her perspective as Shadow Minister International Development & the Pacific and Vice Chair of the Senate Inquiry into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which reported in February 2019. As well as ALIA, the panel members included academics from Griffith University and QUT and a wide-ranging array of professional associations and organisations – the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, CPA Australia, the Australian Water Association, the Commonwealth Institute of Planners, the Australasian Association of Road Safety and the Urban Design Alliance.
ALIA published a new report on Improving library services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, with a link to the SDG. Indigenous peoples are specifically mentioned in the 2030 Agenda, in the narrative around putting human rights at the centre, leaving no one behind and combatting inequalities, and in SDG 4 ‘ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for Indigenous peoples.’
December 10, 2018 was the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To celebrate this day libraries across Australia held events. The National Library of Australia held a public forum featuring speakers from the ACT Human Rights Commission, the UN Information Office, Amnesty International and Australian Lawyers for Human Rights.
LIASA, the library association of South Africa, invited ALIA past-President and Chair of the International Relations Advisory Committee Vicki McDonald to be a keynote speaker at its conference in Cape Town on 11 October. Her talk, entitled 'Inspiring possibilities through knowledge, stories and creativity' covered ALIA's and the State Library of Queensland's strategies related to the Sustainable Development Goals. Vicki is pictured with Ellen Tise, past President of IFLA and LIASA, and current LIASA President Mandla Ntombela.
On 30 October, Newcastle Regional Library, NSW, ran an SDG Summit, with some 40 participants and speakers representing IFLA, the UN and local government.
IFLA World Library and Information Congress
ALIA past-President and Chair of the International Relations Advisory Committee Vicki McDonald gave a presentation to the Danish Library Association's guests about Australia's activities in relation to the SDGs and spoke to IFLA delegates at the main Congress.
Pictured: Vicki McDonald presenting at the Congress and with Steen Bording Andersen of the Danish Library Association.
ALIA has put together a five step guide to how libraries can kickstart their involvement in the SDGs.
ALIA Asia-Pacific Sustainable Development Goals Summit
Sunday 29 July, 2018: More than 50 library leaders from Australia and the Asia-Pacific gathered at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre for the ALIA Asia-Pacific Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit. Nearly a third of the audience came from overseas, from as far away as Fiji, India, Indonesia, NZ, PNG, Samoa, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste. For many, their attendance was made possible by grants from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).
The full day meeting involved eight presentations and two workshops. It resulted in the development of a shared understanding of what lies ahead for libraries, and a list of 34 actions ranging from including a Sustainable Development Goal in one's email signature block through to signage for university buildings referencing the SDGs most relevant to the faculty.
Keynote speaker Christopher Woodthorpe, Director of the United Nations Information Centre for the region, inspired delegates with his sweeping overview of the SDGs, while making the point that 65% of SDG delivery relies on local initiatives. Pamela McGowan, Team Leader, Townsville Libraries, and Nina Nakaora, Library Assistant, Suva City Carnegie Library, shared the outcomes of the INELi Oceania Pacific Library Summit, held in Fiji in May 2018, while Opeta Alefaio, Director of the National Archives of Fiji, and Paula Eskett, President of LIANZA, outlined the challenges and opportunities of the SDGs for libraries in their jurisdictions. ALIA CEO Sue McKerracher talked about the Association's report Australian libraries support the Sustainable Development Goals and libraries' inclusion in the Australian Government's Voluntary National Review.
ALIA immediate past-President, CEO and State Librarian of Queensland Vicki McDonald topped and tailed the day with an energetic welcome at the start and an insight into the international advocacy taking place through IFLA at the end of the day. IFLA President-elect Christine Mackenzie gave her perspective on how the SDGs fitted with IFLA's strategic priorities, including the IFLA Map of the World and IFLA Global Vision. She also previewed her presidential theme 'Let's work together'.
Feedback from delegates confirmed the success of the event, which kicked off the Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference, taking place at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre from 30 July to 2 August.
Australia's National Voluntary Review
Libraries were mentioned several times in the first Australian National Voluntary Review, and reference was made to the inclusion of the SDGs in ALIA's Constitution. The review was delivered at the UN’s 2018 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which took place in New York from 9-18 July.
Pictured are Gerald Leitner (Secretary-General IFLA), Nicholas Graham, Deputy Director National Library Jamaica, Vicki McDonald (State Librarian and CEO, State Library of Queensland) and Irena Zubcevic, Chief, Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development – United Nations
United Nations Under-Secretary General for Public Information, Alison Smale, shared her priorities with the audience. She highlighted the role of public information and libraries in empowering societies and stated: “Libraries have been champions of inclusion for centuries”.
In the panel session, Celebrating successes in engaging in national policy planning, Vicki highlighted the work of ALIA and Australian libraries to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
ALIA produced a template SDG report for public libraries.
Closing date for contributions to the Australian Government Senate Inquiry into the UN Sustainable Development Goals - ALIA provided the Australian libraries support the Sustainable Development Goals report together with a submission ending:
We recommend that the importance of libraries in delivering the SDG be acknowledged within the committee’s report, opening the way for further partnerships with government, academia and civil society, to progress the 2030 Agenda.
We also ask the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee to consider and comment on the potential for libraries to be SDG awareness and information hubs, promoting the global goals to people of all ages, in communities across the nation.
Australia has more than 1500 public library branches and mobile libraries, with 9.3 million registered members and more than 113 million customer visits each year. In addition, we have some 9,000 school libraries, 450 university and TAFE libraries, 2100 special libraries, and flagship National, State and Territory Libraries. The National Library of Australia’s Trove platform is the fourth most visited Australian Government website.
This level of engagement with people living in Australia gives us tremendous reach as a trusted information source, and is an excellent fit with the aims of the SDG.
ALIA also drafted Blue Shield Australia's submission to the Senate Inquiry asking:
That the Inquiry committee recommend that the Australian Government actively pursue the legislation which would allow it to adopt the 1954 Hague Convention Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict First and Second Protocols, as a symbol of the nation’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to target 11.4 in particular.
ALIA's CEO represented the Association at the second, invitation-only Australian Sustainable Development Goals Summit, on 13 March, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Some 250 leaders from governments, academia, businesses and civil society gathered to discuss the nation's ambitions in relation to the SDGs and to discuss strategies for addressing the challenges facing Australia. A news report about libraries and the SDGs was published after the event.
ALIA published a report Australian libraries support the Sustainable Development Goals, containing case studies from every state and territory. The report was provided to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for consideration and possible inclusion of some of the content in Australia's first Voluntary National Review, to be launched in New York, in July 2018.
ALIA CEO presented on the topic to delegates at the SWITCH conference in Penrith, NSW, and the APO Forum in Melbourne, VIC.
ALIA announced that it would be hosting a Sustainable Development Goals Summit alongside the Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference, at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, on Sunday 29 July 2018. Read the announcement release here.
ALIA supported a team from Victorian public libraries with their project Share your stories with the world. The report showcases examples of how public libraries around Victoria are delivering programs that connect with the Sustainable Development Goals. Download and view the document here.
ALIA Members approved an addition to the Constitution at the AGM in May, 2017. A new Object related to the Sustainable Development Goals was added. Read more
Australia is featured in the international update for libraries. This compilation includes activities reported to IFLA by participants from the four regions (Africa, Asia Oceania, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean) before the end of May 2017.
How public libraries contribute to the STEM agenda
This document relates to Goal 5 Target B: Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.
The STEAM into Sydney conference took place on 16 and 17 March, 2017, alongside the IFLA Public Libraries Section mid-term meeting. Organised by Section Chair, Marian Morgan-Bindon, and Secretary/Information Coordinator, Jan Richards, the event was booked out within a couple of hours, demonstrating the strength of interest in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics agenda across the globe. Determined to make the most of the stories generated through the conference presentations, Jan and Marian worked with ALIA to produce a summary, How public libraries contribute to the STEM agenda.
The report is the first Australian publication specifically designed to show the impact of libraries in contributing to the UN 2030 Agenda. The report has been shared with the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of the Arts.
We were pleased to host a presentation about the Sustainable Development Goals at ALIA House on 23 March, for members of Professions Australia. Speakers were Jennefer Nicholson, former IFLA Secretary General, and Sean Batten, Director, Global Development Policy, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. There were representatives from the Australian Medical Council, Engineers Australia, Speech Patholog Australia, Australasian Veterinary Boards Council, Australian Property Institute, Australian Computer Society, Surveying and Spacial Sciences Institute, Universities Australia, National Archives of Australia, and senior library leaders.
Pictured left to right: ALIA President Patricia Genat, Professions Australia CEO Liz Lang, Jennefer Nicholson, Sean Batten and Gail Mulcair, Board Member, Professions Australia, CEO, Speech Pathology Australia.
IFLA published the first report of the International Advocacy Programme, featuring ALIA activities in Australia. Download and view the report here.