- Department International Cooperation and PR Team
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IFLA Releases Statement on Open Library Data
(This article has been taken from the IFLA website.)
IFLA’s new Statement on Open Library Data calls on governments to ensure, either directly or through supporting others, the collection and open publication of data about libraries and their use.
Accurate and timely data is key for any sort of policy decision-making, including of course around libraries. It makes it possible to plan effectively for the future, as well as to evaluate impacts and track changes over time.
IFLA’s Library Map of the World has brought together library data from around the world, allowing for cross-country comparisons and to start to give a true picture of the strength of the global library field and its activities.
The data on which the Map is based can be downloaded, and used by anyone interested in libraries to carry out analysis and research.
Yet too often, data is either not collected or only collected rarely, meaning that governments and libraries alike lack a basic tool for their work. Sometimes, even when it is collected, it is not available openly, meaning that only those with the resources to buy it are able to access it.
In response, IFLA’s Statement on Open Library Data calls on all governments to collect – or support the collection of – data about libraries and their use, and its open publication.
It highlights that any such collection should not lead to a reduction of library budgets, and that it should be collected in a way that allows for disaggregation. The Statement also calls for questions about libraries to be integrated into household surveys, in order to build a better understanding of how individuals use them.
The statement is available on IFLA’s repository.
IFLA Statement on Open Library Data
Approved by the IFLA Governing Board, 15 December 2021
Data on levels of library provision and use can play an important role in supporting understanding, evaluation and planning at all levels. Without it, it is far harder to identify successes and needs, and to develop effective strategies for library development. It is also less easy to identify the contribution that libraries can make to the fulfilment of other policy goals.
IFLA’s Library Map of the World already provides a single portal on global library data, covering in particular data about numbers of libraries, library workers, libraries offering internet access, volunteers, loans (physical and electronic), and registered users and physical visits, broken down by library type.
Submitting data to the Library Map of the World not only increases the profile of libraries in a country, but allows for international analysis. However, library data collection and publication remains uneven from country to country. As well as limiting the ability of libraries in countries with lower library availability to benefit from the insights this information can bring, this also prevents cross-border comparisons that can provide a foundation for learning and exchange.
Data collection may be carried out by a variety of different actors, from national statistics authorities or ministries to library agencies and associations. Even where it does not collect such data directly, it is important that governments make resources available, where needed, to ensure the comprehensiveness of the data collected.
Such data, once collected and organized, should not be restricted to governments or other limited groups. Making data open and re-usable can help bring a wider range of actors into discussions about libraries, as well as encouraging research. Publishing data through the Library Map of the World allows for simple international comparisons.
In addition to aggregated numbers, disaggregation – for example by type of user, activities pursued at the library, local area – can offer important additional insights.
IFLA therefore recommends that governments or other relevant public bodies:
- Ensure the comprehensive collection of data about libraries and their use. This should cover at least the datasets included in IFLA’s Library Map of the World.
- Ensure that funding for such data collection, where required, is additional to existing library budgets and support
- Ensure that such data is published in a timely manner, according to FAIR (free, accessible, interoperable, reusable) principles
- Ensure that library data is submitted to the IFLA Library Map of the World
- Where possible, disaggregate data by service, local area, library type (main libraries, branches, mobile libraries, external service points), and type of user and use in order to allow for more meaningful analysis.
- Incorporate relevant library-related questions into household surveys in order to build understanding of how individuals use libraries
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