On Sunday 29th July, 2018 I joined more than 50 library leaders from Australia and the Asia-Pacific for the ALIA Asia-Pacific Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit on the Gold Coast. It was truly an international summit with nearly a third of the audience from as far away as Fiji, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste. Thanks must go to the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) for the grants that were awarded to support their attendance. Australian representatives came from leading academic, public, State and National Libraries.
The Summit kicked off with a very special Welcome to Country from the Yugambeh people, the traditional owners of the land on which we met. The Yugambeh Youth Choir also sang the Australian National Anthem in the Yugambeh language which was so special to see and hear.
The full day meeting involved eight presentations and two workshops. Keynote Speaker Christopher Woodthorpe, Director of the United Nations Information Centre for the region gave a stirring presentation of the need for the SDGs and the important aims to achieve for the world. Opening his presentation with this video Leave No One Behind emphasised what is at stake for the world and the importance of local summits taking place to communicate the aims of the SDGs.
Christopher Woodthorpe’s point that 65% of SDG delivery relies on local initiatives and libraries are ideally placed to deliver at the local level really challenged me to think about the SDGs in a very different way. Now I see them as actions my library and I, as a library leader, can actually influence and achieve. His call to action to local leaders from all walks of life was a powerful message for libraries — to communicate the SDGs in their communities, to gather the narratives of how local actions and library programs are delivering on the SDGs, and to include the SDGs in library strategies.
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. This was another important summit that demonstrates that libraries across the world are stronger working together. The Summit produced a document The Statement of Intent which has eight goals. The context of the agreement recognises the diversity of the Pacific region, that all have an equal voice and that libraries are recognised for their contribution to achieving the SDGs. Sixty two people signed the Statement and committed to help achieve the goals together.
Nina also shared with us the importance of Climate Change action for the Pacific told through the stories of the people. The video is well worth watching here. The full stories can also be found on this website
Opeta Alefai, Director of the National Archives of Fiji, was another inspiring speaker who outlined the important role that access to information and access to cultural history is so essential in Fiji. Giving back the stories of Fiji to the people of Fiji resulted in powerful emotions, revived memories and connection to the national narrative.
Then we heard from Paula Eskett, President of LIANZA, who demonstrated the case studies from libraries in New Zealand and how they are taking action on the SDGs. The opportunity exists for NZ Libraries to report using the SDGs and to show how they are contributing to the global agenda as well as having a powerful impact at the local level.
Australian Library and Information Association CEO Sue McKerracher presented The Association’s report Australian libraries support the Sustainable Development Goals and libraries’ inclusion in the Australian Government’s Voluntary National Review. This was great advocacy work from ALIA and Sue noted that they were happy to share the format with other National Associations so that this impactful storytelling can be strengthened globally.
ALIA immediate past-President, CEO and State Librarian of Queensland Vicki McDonald ended the day by detailing the international advocacy being undertaken by IFLA and what actions libraries can take at the local level to aid IFLA in their global advocacy efforts.
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’.
For me the Summit resulted in a stronger understanding of the SDGs and how libraries can act to literally change the world. If we are focused. If we tell the right story, to the right people. The joint workshop resulted in a list of 34 actions that ranged from a personal action, write this blog post, or add a Sustainable Development Goal to your email signature, to industry wide actions from the ALIA Australian Public Library Alliance who will map the Standards Guidelines and Outcome Measures for Public Libraries to the SDGs.
Calling all librarians to action — familiarise yourself with the SDGs.