Making the Work of Public Libraries Known

Zola Maddison /

This week, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan. If you don’t know about the IGF, don’t worry. Honestly? I didn’t either until about six months ago. But now that I do know, it feels a little crazy that we don’t all know; that we’re not all talking about it. In library-land, we often talk about needing to get the word out about what libraries do to a broader audience. Well, the IGF is just the place to do that.

The IGF was established by the UN World Summit on the Information Society in 2005. It brings together representatives from various stakeholder groups—governments, business, civil society—to discuss public policy issues relating to the Internet. And that is really, in a nutshell, what the IGF is. It’s a place to have discussions that help all these stakeholder groups understand how to maximize opportunities, identify emerging trends and address risks and challenges in the Internet environment. Through these discussions, the IGF informs and inspires those with policy-making power in both the public and private sectors. Ultimately, the involvement of all stakeholders is necessary for the future development of and access to the Internet.

Does your library provide public access to the Internet? Yes, I thought so. So libraries need to be part of this discussion, as well. The IGF is an opportunity to create a dialogue between library representatives, policy makers and other stakeholders on the potential—and success—of public libraries in major policy areas related to Internet and community development such as access to information, education, security, openness and privacy.  It is an opportunity to make the work of libraries known and advocate for favorable policies towards libraries.

Thanks to the work of the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries, public libraries are on the agenda of the IGF as a cross-cutting issue on a number of IGF key themes (e.g. Internet Governance and Development; Access and Diversity; Security, Openness and Privacy, Youth). This means that there are a number of ways to get involved:
Remote participation: The IGF has been working to become a fully accessible online event through live streaming of all its sessions, including approximately 200 workshops, opening and closing ceremonies, and the thematic main sessions. Remote participation provides an opportunity to actively participate at the sessions, from intervening with questions to remote moderation of the workshops.
Remote Hubs: Libraries can also participate as remote “hubs” where a live stream of the IGF is offered to all interested people unable attend the IGF. Hub participants can watch the webcast together and send questions (via text or video) that will be answered by panellists in IGF. In addition, hub organizers can hold debates to discuss the themes introduced at the IGF from their local perspective.
Regional IGF participation: Regional and national IGF meetings are held throughout the year, and throughout the world. Keep an eye on IGF-USA to see when the next meeting will be held.

“Don't be put off if the remote participation seems complex; it's worth persevering,” says Stuart Hamilton, Director of Policy and Advocacy at IFLA. “Past IGFs have been notable for the numbers of people who have remotely participated in the library-organized workshops, and we hope that you will join us this year.”

Below are some of the workshops where library representatives from IFLA will be participating:

If you have questions about participating in the IGF, please contact Zola Maddison, maddisoz(at)oclc(dot)org.

[Photos: Internet Access Here; courtesy of Steve Rhode on Flickr. IGF All Area Pass; courtesy of Kim Davies on Flickr]