The Guardian has published a column by Stuart Hamilton, IFLA’s (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) director of policy and advocacy where he discusses how public libraries can help support development by meeting the information needs of people in developing countries.
There are over 320,000 public libraries worldwide, 230,000 of which are in developing countries. The potential of these institutions to support development goals is being underused. Public libraries, if properly supported, offer their users access to resources which can help improve their economic and social wellbeing.
Worldwide only 35% of the global population are online, and public access will play a huge role in giving the remainder of the population access to the internet. A major forthcoming study on the benefits of public access makes this point effectively.
Public libraries also offer expertise. Dedicated staff provide advice which can be the difference between users simply accessing information or being able to use it. Staff are able to help farmers and fisherman use the Internet to better promote their products, or students improve their exam results. Public libraries can offer something for everyone in the community – the children and youth, women and girls, the vulnerableand marginalised, the entrepreneur and established businessman, theinventor or the health worker.
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